Session 6 - Common Humanity and Dealing with Difficulty.
This week we continued to explore the topic of self-compassion and loving kindness, and introduced compassion for others.
Dr. Kristen Neff, Co-founder of the mindful-Self Compassion Program describes self-compassion as having three components:
Mindfulness – awareness without judgement
Self-kindness - treating ourselves they way we would treat a good friend
Common Humanity – recognizing that we are human, and what we share with all of humanity is that we are imperfect and we suffer.
Dr. Chris Germer, Co-founder of the Mindful-Self Compassion program states:
The common healing element of in both Mindfulness and Self-Compassion is a gradual shift toward friendship with emotional pain. Mindfulness says “feel the pain” and self-compassion says, “Cherish yourself in the midst of the pain”; two ways of embracing our lives more wholeheartedly. (pg 89, The Mindful Path to Self-Compassion, Freeing Yourself from Destructive Thoughts and Emotions. 2009, The Guildford Press).
This week we set our intention for practice to be one of self–kindness: to treat ourselves kindly, they way we would treat a dear friend.
We started with a Tension Relaxation practice - again to be mindful of the emotions we hold in our bodies. They are called feelings because we feel them, though sometimes we learn to ignore them or numb them. This practice helps us turn towards and notice what is actually there. It helps learn to be kind to ourselves, and incline towards ourselves to soothe ourselves as we would someone we cared about.
We then turned to a sitting meditation practice.
We started by envisioning ourselves in our safe place and offering ourselves – loving kindness - May I be safe, May I be peaceful, May I be free from Suffering, May I be at ease. We repeated this three times as is the tradition.
We then invited the image of someone around whom we feel joy, and envisioning them beside us, we recognized them as a human, as imperfect, as an individual who also suffers. We then again offered them loving kindness and compassion for their suffering.
Then we moved into deeper waters. We called into our minds someone around whom we have experienced some difficulty. Not a completely difficult person, but a slightly difficult person (a 10 lbs weight vs a 100lbs weight).
We then turned inward to our own selves, and called to mind a time where we ourselves, may have hurt somebody. With this, we started to bring the idea of forgiveness for the self.
No doubt this was a difficult session for many of us, with many thoughts arising. We discussed those we have hurt us. To be clear, offering compassion to someone does not excuse them for their behaviour, rather it means we no longer want to be bound by their behaviour – through the anger and pain we experience in our own minds and body.
Recognizing the changes that happen in our mind and body when we bring them to mind, replay the story, we can feel the negative effects on our own selves. In acknowledging these feelings, we can offer ourselves compassion – this is hard, this is suffering, may I soothe my self, may I be free from suffering.
Towards the difficult person it is essential that we place a boundary. Yet we can recognize that they too are imperfect, human beings who act out their suffering. In acknowledging this, we come to realize that we are not the cause of their suffering, nor do we need to accept the blame or the shame they project onto us. It does not mean we have to be their friend, or even subject ourselves to them. We can and may need to have a strict boundary between them and ourselves. It is accepting the situation for what is and not harbouring it within our own being, that we can halt the cycle of blame and shame.
For homework, it was advised to continue with the safe place meditation, practicing self-compassion as well as practicing the short self-compassion break as needed during the day.