Moving towards resilience.
How can I best take care of myself?
“For someone to develop genuine compassion towards others,
first he or she must have a basis upon which to cultivate compassion,
and that basis is the ability to connect to one’s own feelings and to care for one’s own welfare…
Caring for others requires caring for oneself.“
– Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama –
“ We are the sky… Everything else is just the weather” Pema Chodron
This cold winter has definitely thrown us Southern Ontarians off kilter. It may even be preventing us from doing the things we usually do to keep ourselves happy and healthy (getting outside, going for walks, or socializing). Recognizing the effects of the cold on each of us, we set our intention for this week to be on of self-kindness in the midst of this suffering, and we reflected on taking care of ourselves. Recognizing that as much as we are suffering now, we do not have any control over the weather, that it is not permanent, and it too shall pass. May we be accepting of waht is now, adn be kind to ourselves to "weather this storm."
Cold weather causes a lot of constriction on our body. With this in mind, our practice was built around gentle stretching. Noticing our edges, we gently breathed in, with the intention of nourishing our body. Upon exhalation, released and let go.
We then brought our attention to our breath, noticing how we the air enters our nostrils on inhalation and exhalation – whether it entered both sides the same, or maybe one side more then the other. We then practiced Nadi Shodana – a yogic breathing technique intended to balance the breath and our energy. In some forms yoga practice describe a central energy channel, the Sushumana Nadi, into which all the peripheral energy channels called “Nadis” flowed. Some make a correlation between the spinal cord with all the nerves extending outward and back inward to the spinal cord. However, the concept is more subtle, relating to the flow of energy within us.
Regardless, the idea is that we have a cooling “lunar” energy found along the Ida, which rises up from our roots on the left. The Pingala, the opposing warming or “solar” energy, rises up on our right. Metaphorically, the Ida and Pingala energies are depicted as two snakes climbing up the central column of the Sushumna Nadi, crossing back and forth at the chakras or 7 energy centres, The depiction resembles the caduceus, which is ironically the symbol of medicine. The Ida and Pingala end at the rleft and right nostrils, respectively. Much like the Yin and Yang described in Chinese Philosophy, our opposing energies can become unbalanced, leading us to be unbalanced. The practice of Nadi Shodhana was used to help us centre our two types of energy in order to restore the feeling of being centered.
In this practice we gently closed the right nostril wiht our thumb as we inhaled through the left nostril. Then we gently closed the left nostril with our ring finger as we exhaled out of our right nostril. We repeated the cycle, alternating between inhaling on the left exhaling on the right, then inhaling on the right, and exhaling on the left 12 times.
Next, we practiced a quite sitting meditation, where we focused on taking nourishing breaths in, and allowing our exhale to take with it all that did not serve us. Noticing how we felt when we added a smile, and offering loving kindness (Metta or Maitri) to ourselves first, to those of our community, and to all beings.
We then moved on to two reflective exercises. The first was reviewing your typical day and the second was Self-Compassion in Daily Life.
In reviewing our list, we asked ourselves:
What nourishes me? What increases my sense of actually feeling alive and energized?
What drains me? What decreases my energy and makes me feel worse?
What are the neutral activities?
We then asked:
Are there changes we can make to improve our daily experience?
Accepting that there are things we cannot change, can we add/ increase time given to nourishing activities, or decrease the time spent on draining activities to improve the experience?
If there is no time to add another experience, is there an attitudinal change we can bring to the experience that may help us cope? Is there a practice we can do that may help soothe us, be kind to ourselves, to get us through the tough times?
What other actions can we take?
I offer the Self-Compassion Break in the moment – recognizing the situation as a moment of suffering, remembering that we all inadvertently suffer, and giving ourselves the compassionate that we may need in the moment.
Recognizing again, that when we become angry over things we cannot control or change (a natural, often automatic response), that it only makes the experience worse for ourselves. In naming and acknowledging these moments of suffering, and offering ourselves loving-kindness (May I be safe, peaceful, free from suffering, and at ease), can actually change how we experience the moment, and guide us through it.
Exercise 2: Self-Compassion in Daily Life.
In becoming more mindful and self-compassionate, we begin to notice:
When we are under stress or suffering? What are the symptoms and signs?
How can we respond to ourselves with care and self-kindness.
As mentioned in the handout, the simplest approach is to discover how you already take care of yourself, and then remind yourself to do those things when life becomes difficult.
For homework, I have asked that you reflect on the various categories in which we can treat ouslves kindly – physically, mentally, emotionally, relationally, and spiritually.
1. Continue with the tension relaxation practice from Session 1
2. Continue to practice a self-compassion based meditation - Safe Place Meditation or Self compassion break. You may also want to listen to the guided mediataion from the Mindful Self-Compassion program.
I would suggest: Mindfulness of Emotions in the Body, Soften-Soothe-Allow, and Giving and Recieving Compassion
Alternatively - set a timer for 10-15 minutes and then focus on your breath, breathing in a nourishing breath, or your intention for yourself, and exhaling out all that does not serve you.
3. Complete the Self Compassion in Daily Life and see if you can add one thing to treat yourself with love and respect.