Happy Teacher Appreciation Day! Thanks for all that you do to teach and love the young citizens of our community.
It seems to me that our practice last week (naming emotions) was our first really challenging practice. Those of you who were willing to share your experience shared some of the challenges you had experienced and I thank you for your honesty. It is hard to recognize emotions and hard name emotions. You should be proud of your efforts and know that we will continue going deeper into similar self-exploration throughout the coming year. And it will always be hard! The practice itself is the goal, "expertise" is not!
We worked toward creating our own definitions of mindfulness in small groups. Interestingly, many of you included aspects of compassion, kindness, or other forms of "heartfulness" in your definition. The most cited definition, from the wonderful author Jon Kabat-Zinn, has occasionally been critiqued for lacking this element. A thought experiment--what level of kindness is required to count as mindful? Must you be kind toward yourself? Others? Both?
In our conversations this week I also tried to situate our weekly goals back in the bigger picture of our five week structure...three weeks spiraling inward through the "big three" approaches to mindfulness practice (breath, body, mind), and then the following weeks spiraling back outward towards the ways our mindfulness can inform our interactions with the community.
Since our exploration in Week 4 will be about "Mindfulness and the Heart" we talked about self-compassion, an intuitively beneficial practice that also has a robust body of research behind it. Here you can read more from the preeminent researcher on this topic, Kristin Neff at her self-compassion website.
We tried to enact a perspective of self-compassion towards ourselves as we did some balancing yoga poses. I tried to have you hold them for a LONG time so it could get uncomfortable and you might be faced with some negative emotions that gave you a challenging emotion to be self-compassionate about :)
For your daily 5 minute meditation, I invite you to call to mind a challenging situation in your life right now. I suggest not focusing on the HARDEST thing you have going on in your life right now, as it might make you resist the daily practice or bring up emotions that are hard to process in a five minute period! For example, I said that I would be thinking about a specific behavior challenge with my four year old that I find myself getting irrationally upset about. As you hold that person or situation in mind, mentally talk yourself through each of the three components of self-compassion:
mindfulness (pay attention to what you feel in your breath, body, mind, and heart)
recognize common humanity (tell yourself "everyone feels like this sometimes!" or "being a human is HARD!")
send yourself self-kindness (say a nice phrase to yourself "you're doing your best", for example. Or if you're less verbally oriented in meditation, make space for a deep healing breath that carries the compassion you deserve).
You might try just saying one word (mindfulness, common humanity, self-kindness) for each breath.
Also, read at this inspiring article! https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-empowerment-diary/201702/how-develop-self-compassion
With the goal of self-compassion in mind, and an attitude of curiosity toward the heart, have a great week!