Most of us had heard of the Golden Rule. The concept being that we should “do unto others as we would like to have done unto ourselves.” This rule takes for granted that we already treat ourselves with kindness, love and respect, and that is not always the case. It may feel natural to comfort our friends and family when they experience disappointment or negative emotions, yet when we find ourselves in similar situations, we too often criticize ourselves rather than turning our kindness inward.
While self compassion is sometimes a moving target for me, I have discovered many practices that have helped me in my journey toward self love. Kristen Neff, who is considered the foremost authority of Self Compassion (she literally “wrote the book”) offers free practices on her website: https://self-compassion.org/category/exercises/
Below are two of my favorite practices giving me a boost of “loving kindness”.
LOVING MEMORY “VISIT”
My grandmother was the most loving person I have ever met. She didn’t speak English, and I didn’t speak Danish, but whenever I was with her, I felt special, seen, and unconditionally loved. She was funny, selfless and loved to cuddle… She loved to wrap me up in her big squishy arms when I was a teenager because she knew it made me feel silly, but I let her do it because I loved her completely and I knew she loved me. I call forward her memory whenever I do the following exercise. I feel her essence in those moments. Her love is timeless and without limits. Who is that person or animal for you?
- Close your eyes, and think of someone from your life whether living or passed who you loved, and you know loved you. This can even a pet. Call up a memory of being in their presence that made you feel loved and supported. Think of as many details as you can about this experience.
- Sit with that feeling. Bathe in it. Experience their presence as though they are with you now.
- Imagine what kind words or actions they would extend toward you if they were with you right now. (Resist the temptation to edit or push back with your own thoughts or actions towards yourself.)
This practice may feel seem a little strange to some, but it’s a great way to trigger the compassion response in our bodies. Physical touch releases feel-good hormones that help us feel safe and comforted. The idea is to find a way to use touch to help you feel loved and supported.
Sit or stand in a private space where you can feel comfortable. Close your eyes, take a few slow deep breaths, and try one or a few of the following. (If you practice yoga, you may be familiar with some of these “mudras”.)
- One hand on your heart and the other on your belly
- One hand on your heart and the other over the top of that hand
- Both hands on your belly
- Wrap your arms around yourself like you are giving yourself a hug
- Gently stroke your arm or face
- Holding your hands on your lap
Continue until you find a comforting gesture. Sit with it, and notice how you feel in your body. Feel free to experiment with different gestures to find one that works for you.
We are all deserving of love. I think that Dr Wayne Dyer said it perfectly when he said, “ The more you extend kindness to yourself, the more it will become your automatic response to others.”