Skillful Practice: Mindful Self-Compassion

This week, I’m sharing a tool that I work with more than any other when it comes to supporting clients in building skillfulness in mindful awareness and self-compassion. Mindful self-compassion is a practice that lands at the intersection of Eastern and Western psychology, blending the wisdom of the former with the scientific rigour of the latter. The Western world’s scientific study of the Eastern teachings of mindfulness paired with self-compassion have revealed the impact of these practices for benefit in mental well-being across categories of motivation, resiliency, positive affect, and lowered anxiety and depression, to name a few. But my personal favourite rewards and riches of this practice are those that are immeasurable- the sense of occupying our days more open-heartedly and existing within our lives more fully. The practice of mindful self-compassion is particularly powerful given how universally applicable and invariably relevant it is as a practice for finding refuge in the midst of suffering. 

In Western culture, there is a strange hesitancy to be kind with ourselves, and therefore also, with the notion of self-compassion. It’s as though we fear that if we’re too gentle with ourselves we’ll become unaccountable or fall only shorter of our ideals. Neither Eastern wisdom nor Western study provide anecdotal or scientific evidence of this, which is only a misunderstanding of what it means to be kind with ourselves. Self-kindness is not synonymous with self-delusion about our current state of affairs. Certainly, retraining the cruel internal voice that we know all too well can lead to a sense of our inner world imploding, but perhaps we need for it to in order to create the space of mind that’s required to build a new and more benevolent inner landscape. One that’s hospitable for allies that have our best interests at heart, rather than self-constructed adversaries who know how to cut us more deeply than any external critic. Through mindful self-compassion, quite simply, we learn to disengage from the ongoing cruelty within, and to be kinder with ourselves instead. 

Mindful self-compassion is composed of three components which can be engaged with as a step-wise process, or as three separate skills that each offer benefit and wisdom on their own: 

(1) Mindfulness:
The first component of mindful self-compassion is developing a greater moment-to-moment awareness of our experience. This component of mindful self-compassion asks us to recognize when we are experiencing a moment of suffering without over-identifying with it. For example, we can notice the content of our thoughts, an inventory of emotions, and how emotional tone arises in the physical body, all the while knowing that these components of experience are fluid and intangible, and not a reflection of who we are.
(2) Common humanity:
The second component of mindful self-compassion asks us to connect with the universality of suffering as a human experience. While our set of circumstances and personal story are unique, human consciousness shares in pain and suffering. In other words, by connecting with our common humanity, we can integrate the notion of non-isolation with whatever it is that we are currently experiencing. 

(3) Self-kindness:
And finally, perhaps the hardest of all for us Westerners, the third component of mindfulness asks that we relate to ourselves with an unconditional kindness rather than with the harshness of self-judgement. We can be honest with ourselves about our current predicament and sources of pain, while genuinely self-regulating with nurturance for ourselves in whichever creative ways can meet our present needs across mind, body, heart and soul.

And so, in the spirit of skillful practice of mindful self-compassion, may you be free from suffering, may you love yourself as you are, and may you sense your worthiness for well-being.

I’m now publishing on Substack. Click here to subscribe and never miss a post.