“Wholeness does not mean perfection, it means embracing brokenness as an integral part of life. Being human means being broken and yet whole.” – Parker J. Palmer
The only way to become whole is to put our arms lovingly around everything we know ourselves to be: self-serving and generous, spiteful and compassionate, cowardly and courageous, treacherous and trustworthy. Coming to terms with our own complex mix of darkness and light will require us to tame our ego and exercise self-compassion.
“Self-compassion is the idea that even with all of our flaws, we can still care about ourselves, that we can make mistakes, that we can screw up, that we can have problems, but we’re still fundamentally a good human being.” – Diana Winston
One place to start is to meet any self-criticism with kindness. In a May 2018 New York Times article Charlotte Lieberman tells us to, “Practice what it feels like to treat yourself as you might treat a friend. If you said, ‘I’m feeling fat and lazy and I’m not succeeding at my job,’ and your friend said, ‘Yeah, you’re a loser. Just give up now. You’re disgusting,’ how motivating would that be? So the next time you’re on the verge of falling into a shame spiral, think of how you’d pull your friend back from falling in, and turn that effort inward.”
Here’s a meditation designed to help you practice directing kindness towards yourself and others …
Adapted from articles by Diana Winston, Sharon Salzberg, and Steven Smith
As you do this, please keep a quality of kindness towards yourself. Be curious. Notice how interesting your mind is without judging yourself. Invite self-compassion.
Let’s begin by settling into a very comfortable posture, with your body upright and relaxed. Put your feet on the floor, hands resting on your lap. Your eyes can be closed (or open with a soft downward gaze).
Begin to focus around your solar plexus, your chest area, your “heart center.” Breathe in and out from that area. Begin with a few deep breaths, letting you relax a little bit more and invite the possibility of relaxation with each breath.
Notice how you’re feeling, stay curious, and see if you can also bring to mind someone you love, someone who makes you happy. It could be a dear friend, a child, or a pet.
Say the following phrases to yourself, and repeat them in your mind:
May you be happy and healthy. May you ride the waves of your life with grace. May you be at peace with whatever is happening. May you accept yourself, just as you are.
Send these words and heartfelt feeling out to this loved one. (repeat phrases) Notice how it feels inside to make those wishes for them.
Now, imagine that they send the same wishes back to you. (repeat phrases)
Imagine receiving this kindness from your loved one. Imagine it entering your “heart center” and moving through your body. Say to yourself:
May I be happy and healthy. May I ride the waves of my life with grace. May I be at peace with whatever is happening. May I accept myself, just as I am.
Can you bring kindness and compassion to yourself exactly where you are, with whatever is happening right now? Ask yourself, “May I hold myself with compassion.” Take a breath and notice if this is possible, to bring kindness to the best of your abilities wherever you are, however it makes sense to you. Ask, “May I be with myself exactly as I am.”
When you’re ready you can open your eyes, but take your time.