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Photo credit Terry Hepburn

Self-kindness goes a long way

If you want others to be happy, practice compassion.
If you want to be happy, practice compassion. ~ Dalai Lama
The gift that keeps giving is my bike accident. In 22 days, it will be its one-year anniversary.

We all have lessons to learn, and sometimes those life lessons present themselves in various ways. In order to understand the challenges we experience, we might ask ourselves: Why does this keep happening to me? What is the uncovered trying to tell me? What do I need? What can I do? What will it take for me to live and let live? These are the questions that will help you realize what is limiting you from overcoming the obstacles.

As a consultant and coach, is it not only my role but also my natural tendency to be compassionate, kind and to be a catalyst for creating one-on-one relationships and then taking them to the next level. I work with my clients to help them make the changes they need to achieve success and to positively reinforce their achievements—this I could not do without a heart. Witnessing the fruitful outcomes from the efforts of others, and their resulting happiness, brings me great joy. Compassion builds trust and encourages my clients to be open to new possibility and ways of learning, and supports them in conquering hurdles and overcoming resistance. Coaching with compassion can enhance their adaptability, and that of their organization, by creating norms and relationships of caring and development.

Perhaps one of my most significant challenges is to help my clients be gentle and kind with themselves as they move onto a new mind-set, creating new patterns for success and mitigating a host of issues that could take them off course. When you are doing something new, it takes time to establish new habits and ways of being, and sometimes it just takes sticking power to push through to the other side. Easy to say, not always so easy to do. We are naturally hard on ourselves, we are our worst critics, and this can take a toll on our bodies and minds. This negative self-talk can spiral into awful self-criticism and can even lead people to become preoccupied with failure. Basically, beating yourself up for finishing only three of the five items on your to-do list is going to make you less likely to complete those last two items—and yet we’re programmed to fall into that pattern.
One word that keeps resurfacing as I go through yet another phase of my healing journey is compassion. Compassion refers to feeling empathy in the face of suffering. I wonder why one of the kindest, sweetest, most nurturing words is so difficult for us to practice on ourselves and for others to show. Compassion involves noticing other needs, empathizing, and acting to enhance their well-being. Sometimes, we are disappointed by others when they are unable to give us the encouragement and love we want and are unable to guide us with their words or actions. Often we are left disappointed by others inability to respond to our pain. We must learn to comfort ourselves and nurture ourselves from within.
It isn’t so easy to give ourselves a break—I don’t mean making an excuse, but fully understanding that circumstances and situations may be out of our control. We can choose our attitude but often not our circumstances. We can get lost in negative thoughts, which decreases our motivation and productivity. But having self-compassion can guide us through the distress rather than into a ride on a downward spiral. I find that self-compassion pushes me beyond disappointments, driving me toward desired change, higher achievement, and enhanced health and well-being. This is no surprise. Recently, neuroscientists found that a powerful hormone, oxytocin, acts as a neurotransmitter in the brain and that when activated produces feelings of comfort and stability, and is associated with enduring improvements in mood and well-being. It is important to cultivate compassion for others, but most importantly, for yourself. When we soothe our pain, we release oxytocin, actively increasing our feelings of trust compassion, safety, generosity, and kind-heartedness toward ourselves. Self-compassion is associated with lower rates of depression, self-criticism, physical ailments, and addiction, and also improves immune-system functioning.
What my accident gifted me is a reminder of how easy it could be to fall into destructive patterns of fear, negativity, and isolation. Practicing self-compassion involves treating yourself with the same kindness, concern, and support you would give to a friend, partner, or family member. By exercising self-compassion when negative emotions occur, we are more resilient against internalizing life struggles and more open to confronting personal mistakes, failures, and inadequacies. With self-compassion, you are accessing the oxytocin system, the part of the brain where all the positive emotions—like feeling calm, safe, warm, and connected—come to life.
So next time when you are feeling a little blue, lonely, sad, or disconnected:
1. Practice self-kindness and talk positively to yourself. This is a great time to pull out a piece of paper to list all the things you are grateful for and care about, writing these down puts things into perspective.
2. Be in the moment. Stop what you are doing and take a few breaths to slow your thoughts, emotions, and actions down. Mindfully breathing allows you to take a step back, regather, and respond rather than react.
3. Accept that everything is temporary, and do something you care about. Whatever mistake you made or has been made, you don’t have to obsess about it and relive it to know and feel its impact. Take a step forward toward a more productive place.
4. Embrace a beginner’s mind. In the beginner’s mind, there is no right, and there is no wrong, it just is. We are learning and, therefore, a lot less concerned about achieving. It is at this moment that we are boundless, as the beginner’s mind is the mind of compassion.


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