I’m just back from 10 days of yoga training and retreat at Kripalu Health and Yoga center. It is truly an amazing place. Kripalu means compassion in sanskrit …. and the center and people reflect the message in everything they do. It is a place where seekers come to find their Middle Ground. How cool it is to be in community with 57 classmates all on the same path.
I’m looking forward to sharing some of the insights and learnings here and in my yoga classes, as the stirred up mud settles in the water.
When you find yourself riding the waves of life or swinging on life’s pendulum and its hard to bring yourself to your middle ground, do you notice that you are more critical of yourself and judging of others…..?
Our inner critic keeps us on this roller coaster of emotions and struggle! Its when we start being kinder to ourselves that we can find our middle ground.
Dr Kristen Neff has done some great research into self compassion and its impact on our mental well being. She wrote in a recent article in Psychology Today:
“When our inner voice continually criticizes and berates us we end up feeling worthless, incompetent and insecure, and we often end up in negative cycles of self sabotage and self harm. However, when our inner voice plays the role of a supportive friend we can – when we notice some personal failing – feel safe and accepted enough to both see ourselves clearly and make the changes needed for us to be healthier and happier.”
“But what is self-compassion exactly? Drawing on the writings of various Buddhist scholars, I have defined self-compassion as having 3 main components:
(b) a sense of common humanity
Self-kindness refers to the tendency to be caring and understanding with oneself rather than being harshly critical or judgmental. Instead of taking a cold ‘stiff-upper-lip’ approach in times of suffering, self-kindness offers soothing and comfort to the self.
Common humanity involves recognizing that all humans are imperfect, fail and make mistakes. It connects one’s own flawed condition to the shared human condition so that one can take greater perspective towards one’s personal shortcomings and difficulties.
Mindfulness involves being aware of one’s painful feelings in a clear and balanced manner so that one neither ignores nor obsesses about disliked aspects of oneself or one’s life.
The three together combine to create a self-compassionate frame of mind: a compassion that can be extended toward the self when suffering occurs through no fault of one’s own – when the external circumstances of life are simply too painful or difficult to bear – or else when our suffering stems from one’s own mistakes, failures or personal inadequacies.
Much of the research conducted on self-compassion has used the Self-Compassion Scale I created.”
If you want to test your own self-compassion level and find out if you need to start being kinder to yourself click here!“
Love this work!!
Where do you find direction towards that place of contentment, peace of mind and connection? Your Middle Ground?
The first step is all about self discovery – really getting to know yourself.
Often we think of ourselves in terms of the roles we have in this life – in our families as parent, sister or spouse, or at work as an employee or professional, or in communities as a neighbor or volunteer etc. We’re so bound up with others that we miss getting to understand ourselves. We think we know ourselves, but we often only see ourselves in relation to other people.
Ask yourself, “Who am I … without my children, my grandchildren, my spouse, my career?”….
Take time to get to know yourself and become aware of who you really are – your natural talents, core beliefs, values, needs, passions, triggers and fears. Much of what you will discover has come from those around you … yet there is so much more that is uniquely you! So freeing!
When we start to explore who we are, and see all aspects of ourselves, we can become authentic in the world. No longer trying to live up to others’ expectations or playing a role. Our mask can be set aside and we become free to let our true nature shine through.
You become more grounded and confident, courageous and compassionate.
In my experience there are 2 ways to get to know yourself in this way:
The first way to self discovery can come from yoga and the practice of mindfulness. Noticing without judgment what is going on in your mind and your body, and acknowledging it is incredibly powerful. I recall times on my yoga mat, when my left hip flexor tightens for no apparent reason. In the beginning I wanted the discomfort to go away and so I worked to stretch it out even more. Taking it to its limits in order to bring it into my idea of what it should be. Of course, I came across more resistance and more contraction instead. When I realized it needed some tender loving care and I backed off, the pain dissipated. I swear that hip of mine hears my thoughts!
Once you see and feel more clearly, you can choose to respond more skillfully and appropriately. My biggest lesson about myself in yoga is letting go of needing to control and accepting the way my body is….. and not to trust my thinking as being the truth.
The second way to self discovery is by taking a coach approach and getting curious. Start to ask yourself and answer these questions:
What are the best moments of my week?
What brings me happiness and joy?
What do I do at an excellent level?
What am I afraid of?
What beliefs, values and needs are important to me?
(Tip – Notice what makes you angry, because it is usually a belief or value that has been transgressed or an unmet need)
What do I want that I don’t have?
…. What else comes to mind about who you are and what you want?
In this place of questions and discovery, you may find it hard to access this inner part of yourself, or lots of judgments come up……. and that’s okay. It shows that there is room to grow into your true self!
This is just the beginning.
I’m so excited to be going to the Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health in the Berkshires – Western Massachussets!
I’ll be beginning my Level 500 hours of yoga teacher training tomorrow evening.
I wanted to let you know that I’ve scheduled posts but will not be actively engaged in the blog for a week or so.
I’m so looking forward to bringing back new wisdom and insights to share!!
This is a Philosophers Note from Brian Johnson that resonated for me, especially as we head towards the Holidays. When we become aware of our emotions, we can change our thinking into a positive frame of mind. When we change our thinking we allow our heart to open.
“The basic observation that positive emotions are somehow incompatible with negative emotions is not a new idea ….. One simply cannot be relaxed and stressed at the same time. Try it. You can’t. Relaxation drives out anxiety and vice versa. The Buddha said that “Hatred cannot coexist with loving-kindness, and dissipates if supplanted with thoughts based on loving-kindness.” You cannot be grateful and resentful at the same time, or forgiving and vengeful. When we are savoring the moment we cannot be regretting the past.” ~ Robert Emmons from Thanks!
Quite simply, we cannot experience both positive emotions and negative emotions at the same time. Try to hold both at the same time right now. As Emmons tells us, you can’t!
When we are in the present moment we can’t be in the past or the future.
So, the next time you’re feeling anxious, see if you can deliberately relax by breathing deeply, releasing the tension in your body and smiling.
And, when you’re feeling resentment toward life or someone in it, see if you can let that emotion go by focusing on something you are truly grateful for!
Come into the present moment, notice without judgment your thoughts and feelings, then choose from your heart.
William Penn found his middle ground with God in the moments of stillness.
When we want to accomplish great things or make a difference in the world, finding this place matters.
We may have different ways to connect with our personal middle ground, but the feeling of coming “home” and finding stillness and inspiration is there for all of us.
p.s. climbing Philadelphia City Hall is not required
This is great perspective on being mindful … from someone with mental health issues. Welcome to your Middle Ground 🙂
What does mindful mean to you?
I’ll be gathering insights from others and sharing what I find.