The Self-Compassion Break
In partnership with Emerging Women, here is a sample of their guided “Power Practices” from Kristin Neff. You can listen to the audio version of this Power Practice on Emerging Women’s website.
The Self-Compassion Break is one of the most effective exercises that we teach in our mindful self-compassion program because it is very portable and can easily be used whenever you encounter difficult moments in daily life.
When you notice something about yourself that you don’t like, when you make a big mistake or when you’re going through a very difficult or emotionally troubling experience, it’s crucial to learn how to respond to yourself compassionately.
The most important step is to soothe yourself with a physical gesture of compassion. Self-compassion actually taps into the body’s mammalian care-giving system and releases oxytocin and other opiates. So just like a newborn baby lion would feel comforted by his mother’s soothing touch and gentle purring warmth, so can we feel comforted by our own touch.
Take a moment to find a physical gesture that’s soothing to you. For many people, putting both hands over the center of your chest or your heart center works the best. Feeling the warmth of your hands, feeling the gentle pressure of your hands on your chest, or perhaps noticing the beating of your heart and the warmth can be very comforting.
Feel free to experiment a little bit. Some people respond more to putting their hands on belly, or cradling their cheeks very tenderly in their hands. Go ahead and take a moment can find a physical gesture of soothing and comfort that feels good, calming and reassuring to you.
The idea behind the Self-Compassion Break is that throughout the day, when you find yourself emotionally struggling, you can use this physical gesture of comfort along with a series of words that are designed to evoke the feeling of self-compassion. Let’s try it now.
I’d like you to think of something in your life that’s troubling you, something that’s causing you to judge yourself, something that’s scary, sad or stressful. Usually there are several candidates interviewing for the job, so choose one that feels right to work with right now. Call the situation to mind by remembering what you did, what you said and how you felt.
As you think about this situation, use your physical gesture of affection. Feel the physical touch as a kind and caring response to the situation. Then silently repeat in your mind the following phrases:
This is a moment of suffering.
The first phrase reminds you that what you’re going through is hard. Suffering is part of life, an inextricable part of the shared human experience. We aren’t alone, we aren’t isolated, we aren’t abnormal - suffering is part of life.
May I be kind to myself in this moment.
Get in touch with that intention to respond to your suffering with kindness and care. Feel the warmth of your hands and give yourself the compassion you need. Give yourself full permission to give yourself what you need.
Each situation is going to be unique, so ask yourself if there is there anything you need to hear. Are there any words or phrases that come to you that are just what you need to hear as you are facing this struggle?
It’s good to come up with a set of phrases, the ones I gave or maybe your own, that you can say almost automatically. Use your gesture and say “This is a moment of suffering. Suffering is part of life, so may I be kind to myself in this moment and may I give myself the compassion I need.”
That’s the Self-Compassion Break. You can do it slowly as a mini-meditation, or you can use it in the heat of the moment when the situation’s happening in real time.
The Self-Compassion Break is a little portable friend, a reminder of self-compassion that you can carry with you throughout the day. The people who take our workshop find that it’s one of the most powerful and easy ways to help them integrate self-compassion into their daily life.