Kindness + Compassion for Yourself in Tough Moments

Self compassion through meditation – my personal experience

As a meditator for over 15 years I find myself gravitating more and more toward compassion practices.  It may well likely be the state of the world, at this time.  It is also very likely due to being a caregiver to a toddler under five. I used to work as an elementary educator and would have an average of 22 kids in my charge.  Though my days were long and rewarding–helping foster curiosity in children–my life as a mama has brought me to my knees.  It is the toughest job I have ever held.

Parenting demands my constant attention; and for me to be ready, and not just ready to pack a backpack or find a toy, but to be both calm and present.  Yeah, right!  One would think with mediating, for as long as I have, that I’d be able to be calm, present in a tough moment. AND be kind to myself. However, this isn’t the case.  I am not always able to be with the present moment.

You may also find it difficult to be in the present when it’s particularly difficult (where you feel you’re in a power struggle).  Or my top two favorites: you’re running late trying to get out of the house or trying to leave a playdate.  What can we do to keep our sanity and to give ourselves the kindness, ease, and grounding we need in the moments we need it most?

The Practice and How to Use It

I’d like to share a tiered practice. It is a combination of three techniques I use to be open to what is happening in the present moment.  You can use the first two parts or all three parts together as one practice.  Experiment and see what works best for you.

  1. First, find a few quiet moments to listen and practice with the audio (especially the phrases portion).  When you practice while in a relaxed state you are putting this new information into your prefrontal cortex, at the front of your brain, thus you’ll be able to easily retrieve the tools you learn in the practice, when that tough moment arises and before the body and mind reacts in fight, flight or freeze.
  2. The phrases I offer are suggestions, you are welcome to be flexible with these phrases by either choosing just one or two (or more, but not more than four as it’s too much to remember).  You can also change the wording to make a phrase shorter or use different words that resonate more with you.
  3. I highly recommend writing down the phrase(s) you want to use. You can post them on the fridge, keep them in your meditation place or put them in your pocket to carry with you, etc.  I find it is easier to have my phrases accessible when I’m working with them.
  4. Repeat the phrases to yourself until they come naturally to you without much effort.
  5. Don’t worry about finding the “right” phrases. The intention behind the phrases is more important than the words themselves

Feel free to connect with me to let me know how the practice went or if you have any more questions.

The practice

Practice (Transcript of the Audio):

You recognize this is a tough moment. Give yourself some spaciousness and pause, just pause where you are, try to be with what is, in this moment, without wishing it different than what the reality of this moment is.

Take a long, full breath in and exhale slowly feel the breath as it arises and falls away.
Do this once or twice more (or as many times as you need). Connect with your body feel the ground, the floor beneath your feet.

Next, place one or both hands at your heart center or a place where you need a tender touch or compassion. If you are in a public place and don’t feel comfortable adding the “soothing touch,” send the breath to this space or spaces. Feel the light pressure of your hand offering you both comfort and keeping you present in this moment.

Feel the breath, send it to where you are feeling any tension. You may feel like you want to scream, yell, or react briskly to make things different.

Instead, try being with this moment. Let’s face it, how we react, will shape our child’s future behavior
and raising your voice may escalate the situation.

You can continue in this way feeling the breath along with the soothing touch.

You can also add a phrase or phrases to the practice…

Your hand can remain where it is or you can release it. Shift your awareness from feeling the breath to silently reciting the phrases to extend kindness and compassion to yourself (and to your child/children).

You can repeat just one phrase or try two…

You might like one of these phrases.

(Repeat a few times to yourself)

May I accept things just as they are.
May I accept myself just as I am.

May I be kind to myself in this moment.

May I remain peaceful, and let go of expectations.

Feel the meaning behind each phrase

This can create even more spaciousness

You may find that with connecting to the breath, adding the soothing touch
and silently repeating one or more phrases that you may be able to be steady and ready in this moment
instead of pushing it away.

Allowing ease and groundedness to arise.

Thank you for your practice

Phrase Suggestions:

May I accept things just as they are.
May I accept myself just as I am.

May I be undisturbed by the changes of life
(or… May I be undisturbed by my present predicament.)

May I be kind to myself in this moment.
May I give myself the compassion I need.
(or… May I give myself the kindness I need.)

May I remain peaceful, and let go of expectations.
May I see my limits compassionately.

SOURCES:  Real Happiness: The Power of Meditation by Sharon Salzberg; Soothing Touch Meditation Practice © Christopher Germer & Kristin Neff.  Mindful Self-Compassion. June 2017; Meditation: Be Kind to Yourself from Lion’s Roar Magazine by Kristin Neff (2016), Equanimity practice from Course – Difficult People: Practicing Lovingkindness in Challenging Relationships with Kimberly Brown, Interdependence Project, NYC (Spring 2016).

About Jess

Jess Ergener is an experienced meditator and yoga instructor.  She has sat 8-weeklong silent retreats at Insight Meditation Society. Jess furthered her understanding of buddhist studies and mindfulness (meditation) through additional courses and classes. She is Meditation Consultant for BusyBee Organics in Jersey City as well as a Guest Presenter on Mindfulness and Yogic Meditation, for the Stone Center for Yoga’s 200 hr YTT the past four years.

Jess recently completed a Lovingkindness and Compassion Meditation Teacher Training through the Interdependence Project in NYC; lovingkindness has been an integral part of her personal meditation practice to development kindness and compassion.