The final piece in the Practical Spirituality toolkit is Compassionate Self Evaluation and Self Care. It may well be the most important piece of this puzzle. The truth is that very often, the BIGGEST WORK happens AFTER we’ve behaved in alignment with our old, self-protective, less than healthy values. When we mess up, get it wrong, step in our own crap, bleed all over our loved ones, and otherwise fall on our faces, we get a beautiful opportunity to practice our new positive values on the most important human in our hula hoop – our Self.
Sometimes, despite all the work we’ve done, all the minutes we’ve logged in meditation, and all the breaths that we’ve dutifully counted, we end up stepping on other people’s toes, isolating or withdrawing and shutting ourselves down, lying, or otherwise behaving in a way that doesn’t fit with our positive values. We’re abundantly human. In those moments, it can be oh-so-easy and tempting to shame ourselves, beat ourselves up, lie to ourselves, and withdraw (among other things). Actually, doing those things can feel like riding a bike. It’s so easy. And we owe it to ourselves to do something different. We owe it to our Selves to honor the work we’ve been doing by applying our healthy values to the way we talk to and treat our Selves after a mis-step.
I strongly recommend taking time at the end of each day to reflect on your actions- the good, the bad and the ugly. Remember how, when we were identifying our values, we had to look at our actions with courage and compassion? That’s this step right here. We practice, with an unflinching eye, compassionate self-evaluation. If you are working the 12-steps of Alcoholics Anonymous, you will recognize this as a part of the 4th and 10th steps. We need to learn to face ourselves honestly, and with great compassion and acceptance so that we can then make the changes we want to see in our lives.
Without compassion, it can be easy to fall into shame when we don’t get it right. And what does shame do? Shame is one of the biggest triggers that most of us have, and it has a tendency to lead to more value-less behavior – like hiding, denying, lying, avoiding, and acting out. Avoid SHAMING YOURSELF AT ALL COSTS! In fact, I’ll take that one step further… Treat yourself with immense kindness when you see yourself falling short of where you’d like to be. Remember that, when we engage in our old self-protective behaviors, we’re not doing it because we feel good. We usually fall into old behavior because we DON’T feel good AND once we’ve started moving in a positive value-based way, it can hurt really badly when we don’t behave the way we want to. Rather than shaming ourselves, we need to practice self-care. We need to recognize our hurt and work to care for ourselves.
Does that mean that we ignore our mis-step? No. Not at all.
We sit down, identify the value we acted from in the first place, re-identify the new, positive value that we want to move from, and then watch breath for a little while consciously and non-judgmentally. Eat some good food, call a friend, take a rest. Get up and start again.
And here’s a short meditation you can use if you’d like. It is adapted from the Loving Kindness meditation found in Buddhist traditions. I find it’s especially lovely when I feel like I’ve messed up, but it’s also a great daily reminder that you can add to your mindfulness practice.
Picture yourself. You might do well to see yourself as a young child to begin.
As you picture yourself, say these words:
May I know compassion, may my pain and sorrow be eased, may I know peace.
And now say:
May all beings know compassion, may all beings’ pain and sorrow be eased, may all beings know peace.
Keep going. You’re doing great!
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