On being compassionate (with yourself)
The quote I chose for my mom’s funeral service program when she passed in 2000, was “The fruit of love is service, which is compassion in action.” Mother Teresa
My mom’s ability to feel empathy, acceptance and deep compassion for those who suffered–particularly her patients–was deeply moving. I remember once driving with her on a Saturday morning for over an hour out to the country (we shared peanut butter cheese crackers and an iced tea in the car) to visit an elderly man who was dying. She was “off the clock” but wanted to see if there was anything she could do to make him or his elderly wife more comfortable.
Yet, for all the compassion my sweet mom was able to find for her patients, her cupboard was bare when it came to finding compassion for herself. (More on this in my new book Nurturing the Soul of Your Family and how my mom’s journey impacted my work today.)
I teach, speak and write books for men/women, groups and organizations about how to find balance, whether that be around balancing work/life, doing/being, feeling/thinking, inner life/outer life, activity/stillness or our masculine/feminine strengths. Yet, I find one of the greatest areas many of us struggle around, is how to experience equilibrium around nurturing others vs. nurturing self. Read more about my journey.
This past weekend, my husband and I stayed up late Saturday night while my son was at a sleepover and were inspired to write out some “Life Guidelines” for our 11 year-old as he moves into his first year of middle school. We both agreed we would have loved to have had our parents take time to share what was really important to them in life–what values, life lessons and guiding principles mattered most–particularly key when you’re at an age when you’re exposed to so many new ways of being.
At the top of our list: kindness and compassion–to self and others. (We kept the list to 5 “pearls”–man, was that hard; we figure we can update it year to year!) It felt really powerful to have taken the time to co-create this; we can’t wait to share it with our son.
At the last retreat I led at Kripalu Center for Yoga & Wellness in the Berkshire Mountains, a mom from CT shared with our women’s circle, that her three year-old daughter calls herself “Little sweetie.” The mom remarked, “I often hear her my daughter roaming around the house saying …it’s ok little sweetie, you’re tired …it’s ok, little sweetie, you need a snack and a drink.” Her young daughter simply knows no other way than to treat herself with loving kindness; she hasn’t been taught there was any reason she shouldn’t. (We all decided we’d have her come lead our next self-renewal retreat!)
It made me wonder what our collective culture might be like if we taught self-compassion as a sought after skill to be developed, honed–as equally valued as hard work. Can you imagine hearing teachers and other influential people regularly share with their students and peers, “Be gentle with yourself.”
Sometimes when I find myself being triggered, I will place my hands over the center of my chest and breathe a long, slow breath, inviting in self-compassion. Interestingly, when I can remember to soften and open my heart first, it helps me see others in a whole new light.
P.S. Curious about how your relationships and life might expand if you cultivated self-compassion? Busy and seeking inspiration and daily support from like-minded women? I’d love for you to join me and an international circle of mothers Sept. 16-Oct. 25 for The Mother’s Guide to Self-Renewal Online Experience as together we create deep and lasting self-care ripples that affect generations to come. Just joined our community? Read a personal message from my dear friend/class co-host Jen Lemen on what it was like to spend a week with me and how she now leverages the power of self-care.
*FREE* GIVEAWAY: Want to win a free registration to The Mother’s Guide to Self-Renewal Online Experience (a $247 value) for you or a friend? Share what self-care means to you in the comment section of the post on self-care— we’ll draw a name and announce the winner on Sept. 4.