Compassion Course: week 3

Hey guys! This is post number 2 in a weekly svadjaja (self study) series I’m doing to share my thoughts during a one year online Non-Violent Communication (NVC) course with NYCNVC. I’ll be publishing every Friday my thoughts on the previous week.  Click here for weeks 1&2!

Feelings. What are they good for? Absolutely nothing?

This week was about feelings and what they do, exactly. From the NVC perspective, feelings tell us what our needs are. They could be “good” feelings, meaning needs are being met, or “bad” feelings, meaning those needs are not met. In short, feelings connect us with our needs.

Whoa.

I wish I had known that growing up. I was raised in the US by Taiwanese parents, and traditionally, Taiwanese people don’t talk about feelings. Opening up or sharing the vulnerability and tenderness of feelings was unheard of, and greatly discouraged when I tested the waters as a kid. Though feelings of anger, disappointment, accomplishment or satisfaction were ok, things like being scared (and why) or feeling affectionate were not. I spent a lot of my childhood trying to understand why that was, and why the “American” kids were more able to express their feelings.

A few years ago, about two years into my practice of yoga, I really began to look at what was going on inside. I recognized points where I would feel extremely frustrated with myself or others, yet unable to find the words to express it, much less move forward from it. These uncomfortable feelings were trying to tell me about my unmet needs for things like autonomy, connection, acceptance, and understanding. But no one had taught me that.

So, I started with guided meditation to let myself feel my feelings. I’d spent over two decades pushing them away! This was an intense experience, but so worth it. I began to open up to myself, and as a result I felt more connected to my internal weather and climate (and more grounded too). I saw my relationships with family and friends improve because I was more aware of who I was and more accepting of where I was in my journey to understand myself.

Most importantly, I was honoring who I was. I continued to meditate and joined a meditation group when I moved to Champaign, IL last year. I also met with a counselor for a few months to get clarity on things I felt stuck on. And my yoga practice gives me a chance to check in regularly to see where I am and how I’m feeling that day.

Thats not to say there aren’t days where I do not feel accepting of where I am or how I’m feeling. But being aware of that goes a long way, and my interactions with myself and those around me are that vastly more authentic and fulfilling because of the work I’ve done. But good days or bad, each one is an opportunity to change old, stale patterns (samskaras) of thinking and create something new. It’s all part of the yoga practice 🙂

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how self-compassion changed my life

I’m on my fifth year of my yoga practice. My first class was at 6 am, at my gym before work. As I was laying down for my first savasana, I felt an enormous release, a relief and relaxation I hadn’t felt before.  I was hooked.

Although I didn’t know it at the time, I had practiced self-compassion for the first time. Sounds crazy, right?

In the last year of my practice, I’ve noticed that we as a society value self esteem and compassion towards others. But it was discovering self-compassion that unlocked the lustrous gem of my True Self and led to feeling content and happy and connected with the world. So what is self compassion?

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image credit: compassioninspiredhealth.com
  1. Using positive self-talk. Talking to yourself as you would someone you love.
  2. Noticing similarities in your experiences and others’ experiences. The “hey, we’re not so different, you and I” feeling.
  3. Recognizing your thoughts and emotions do not define you. Just because you messed up doesn’t make You (your True Self) a failure, nor does having angry thoughts make You an angry person.

How is that different from self-esteem? This Atlantic article explains it well. Basically, self-esteem depends on your own success (or opinion of yourself) in comparison to others, while self-compassion is the unconditional loving kindness and friendliness towards yourself. There’s even a Buddhist term for this: maitri.

How did yoga help transition my perspective from self-esteem to self-compassion? By learning to meet me where I am today. Each yoga practice is different: my body, mind, and emotions can change a lot from one day to the next! Sometimes I feel like I’m a different person! But by noticing that these changes are like the weather: unpredictable and ever changing and out of my control, I let go of trying to control it. And I realized that those things don’t define who I am. They’re just part of my experience.

I’ll leave you with a loving-kindness meditation that I tried recently. It helped me really focus on and experience self-compassion.

May I be well.

May I be filled with loving kindness.

May I be peaceFULL and at ease.

May I be happy.

Simply repeat these phrases to yourself during your meditation practice, or even on the go — while you’re commuting to or from work! Happy Friday!


image credit: Elisha Goldstein