Self-Compassion and Loving Kindness in Tough Times
Anubha Doshi, Founder- Director: Artsphere and Soulsphere
Student of Mindfulness at the Just Being Centre, Pune
As I tossed and turned unable to sleep last night, images of me being isolated in quarantine haunted me. With the thought of every simple cough taking me closer to the dreaded corona virus, I was gripped with anxiety, rising nausea and a hollowness in my stomach. A kind of restlessness permeated my whole body and I felt the beginnings of a panic attack.
In the throes of these overwhelming sensations I heard a faint voice saying, “it will be ok”. A gentle soothing nurturing voice, that grew stronger as I allowed it to penetrate my conscience, “it’s ok to feel this, you are not alone, the whole world is gripped by this panic and anxiety.”
This was not my mother, or my friend or my beloved. This voice was the voice of my self-compassion, my own caring, nurturing self. As a student of mindfulness, this concept of Buddhism was what touched me the most, where we show compassion to ourselves and befriend our difficult emotions. I softly, gently, befriended this anxiety, not fully maybe, but enough to soothe myself in this distress. This was a new voice for me. I had never shown this tenderness to myself. I always considered myself to be a superwoman, never allowing my vulnerability to show even to myself, let alone to the world.
“Self - compassion involves treating yourself the way you would treat a friend who is having a hard time. Through self- compassion we become an inner ally instead of an inner enemy.” - ‘The Mindful Self–Compassion Workbook’ by Christopher Germer and Kristen Neff, founders of the Mindfulness Self-compassion program. The authors state, “It involves three elements: self-kindness, common humanity, and mindfulness”.
As I practiced self- compassion for myself in this moment of fear, I met my fear with kindness rather than self-judgement. I allowed the emotion to be felt in the body rather than suppress it. Since the last few days, I had been trying not to panic, suppressing this fear even as my worst fears seemed to come alive. We contemplate on death in Buddhism but for death to come alive through basic human contact is a nightmare for humans who are primarily extremely social beings. As I sat with this fear, I realized that even more than the fear of dying, it was the fear of isolation and being left alone that was creeping up on me. Always surrounded by friends and family, I wondered how I will survive alone without my loved ones. I enveloped myself in a tight hug and spoke to myself like a mother would console a scared child. It made me realise that we are never lonely if we can be there for ourselves. We do not like to feel unpleasant emotions and fears, but self-compassion can help ease this extreme discomfort and help us be there for ourselves. Just like a dear friend to our own selves and like a mother who holds you in pain and accepts unconditionally all the parts that we want to hide from the world.
This is not taught to us in schools, and neither is it a part of our basic conditioning. Most of us struggle with our critical voices pushing us to be stronger and not allowing our vulnerabilities to be revealed. Now, as things slow down and we are in our self-quarantines, socially distanced from each other, and the world is at a pause, can we befriend our various parts, fears and vulnerabilities? YES!
Mindfulness allowed me a space to be vulnerable and befriend this with loving kindness towards my own self. Before I could be there for anybody else, I was there for myself!
When in distress chant these beautiful loving kindness statements called ‘Metta’ for yourself and your loved ones. All you have to do is take one hand to your heart and really feel these lines:
May I be happy, May I be peaceful, May I be safe.
May you be happy, may you be peaceful, may you be safe.
May all be happy, may all be peaceful, may all be safe.