That Little Pause May Be Telling You Something

Mindfulness practice, which is the little pause to consider a variety of different views and opinions, can help you acknowledge all humans are in a state of conflict or ambivalence. This conflict is how to balance knowledge with compassion.  Knowledge without compassion can make you a know-it-all and compassion without knowledge can allow others to take advantage of you!  Finding the balance right for you is what establishing a “practice” is all about. Unfortunately, many of us, myself included, struggle with the idea of having a “practice” of self-kindness. Here is my story!

My experience for years no matter what I read or who I talked to culminated with every time someone said, “self-kindness,” I heard “selfish” or “self-indulgent.” It was this little quirk in my head which motivated me to deepen my meditation practice. The instructor I had was wonderful. But again, every time the word “self-kindness” was spoken, I heard “selfish.” I’m certain my reaction was so obvious my face contracted into something of a prune, with pursed lips, as if I had tasted something sour. My childhood upbringing told me “selfish” was the ultimate insult with which you might describe someone! There I was, chatting with this lovely man, when the conversation turned to self-kindness. He was very experienced in meditation and happened to be a psychologist as well. Seeing my pursed lips and pained expression at the mere mention of “self-kindness” was his first clue something was a bit off for me. When I expressed my idea that engaging in self-kindness was selfish, all doubt in his mind was removed. He listened, then offered me the following activity, which helped me understand self-kindness very quickly. I loved the activity, and since then I have done it hundreds of times in my office with clients.

Self-kindness = Equal Activity

Excerpted from The Core Concepts of Mindful Eating

To begin the activity, make your hands into two fists and hold them in front of you, about chest high. Your fists represent you and another person. They are equal. Now, imagine self-kindness – doing for yourself as you would do for another person. Self-kindness means equal or the same.

Now raise the fist representing you, placing it above the other person. This is selfishness. Selfishness and self-indulgence occur when you regard yourself above another person.

Now move the fist representing you below the other person. This is when you let other people take advantage of your good nature, and you feel more empty and depleted than refreshed.

Now, place your fists so they are level again, and remind yourself, “I am not selfish when I care for myself. I am simply expressing self- kindness.” When you let your kindness be expressed to all things equally, it becomes a way to see and evaluate self-compassion, “Would I do this for others and not myself?”

When you decide to eat mindfully, you create a practice of asking a question, “Would I do this for others?” For example: “Would I encourage others to eat a balanced breakfast?” Now consider, am I doing this for myself? Maybe you might consider, “Do I encourage other people to eat past fullness, to the point of discomfort?” Now consider, am I doing this with myself? This inquiry is an act of self-kindness, to explore and uncover the unbalanced relationship that many of us have with food, eating and self-care. This step is actually two steps. The first is pausing to ask a question. The pause, is an opportunity to bring inquiry, or curiosity, into your life. And, the practice of having a pause in your life, offers you access to valuable information about you, your thoughts, desires, needs and choices. That little pause is telling you something about your current experience that is worth listening too.

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