A few members mentioned the self-compassion meditations are confusing — they don’t know what to do during the meditations.

This is totally understandable. So I’m going to walk through a couple examples:

Example 1: Feeling Sick

Today I woke up feeling feverish, with chills and a sore throat. I noticed that I was feeling bad about it, not liking my condition. So this is suffering (or “negative emotions” if “suffering” sounds too drastic).

Here’s what I did:

  1. I watched my suffering. I noticed that I didn’t want to feel sick, that I wished I didn’t. I felt sorry for myself. I stressed out about whether I could get things done today (like this article) while feeling so crappy. In this meditation, I started with just observing my suffering, feeling it.
  2. Next I accepted my suffering. I accepted that this is part of my condition at this moment, this wishing and stressing and not wanting to feel crappy. I could wish that I wasn’t suffering, but that would just be adding suffering to suffering. So I accepted that I have it, instead of wanting to ignore it or avoid.
  3. Then I wished myself happiness. I genuinely want myself to be happy, despite the feverishness. As I can’t just get rid of the fever, I can either be miserable, or accept my fever and be happy. But I have to first wish myself happiness.
  4. Then I saw the cause of my suffering: the wishing that I wasn’t sick. The wishing, not the sickness, was what was making me unhappy. The sickness itself is actually just a feeling in my body, and when I noticed this feeling as it really is, it’s not that bad. It’s wanting to not be sick that’s causing the unhappiness.
  5. Then, out of compassion for myself, I tried letting go of that wish. I said, “It’s OK that I’m sick. I don’t need life to meet an ideal — I can accept life for what it is.” And in letting go of this wish, I felt better.

Then I became grateful to be alive. To feel anything at all, even a fever. To have a home, a family, a career I love. And understanding readers and Sea Change members who would wait for me if I got sick.

Example 2: Stress About Everything I Have to Do

Another thing I experienced this morning is a lot of stress about a laundry list of tasks that I need to get done. Many of them were things I wanted to do today (again, this article being one of them). Stress levels rose, my mind was racing.

This was suffering. So I did this:

  1. Again, started by seeing my suffering. Just watching the stress levels, watching myself wanting to rush around and do a bunch of things really quickly. Just observed this.
  2. I accepted this suffering, as part of my condition this morning. It’s my reality right now, part of who I am, and rejecting it or not wanting it only makes it worse. Accepting it is a softening, a feeling that it’s OK to be like this.
  3. Again, I wished myself happiness.
  4. Then I saw the cause of my suffering: wanting to get everything done asap, wanting to do a great job for my readers and members. It wasn’t the task list that was making me stressed, but my wishing I could do everything and the fear that I wouldn’t be able to. The wishing was the cause.
  5. Then I let go of the wishing. I said, “It’s OK if I don’t get everything done right away. I can only do one thing at a time, and can only do as much as I can do. That’s reality, and I have to accept it instead of wishing it were different.” And by letting go of this wishing, I felt less stress.

Finally, I became grateful for the reality of the moment: that I was in bed with my beautiful wife, that I had a lot of great things to do that I wanted to share with people, that anyone cared about my writing at all.

Example 3: Not Knowing How to Do Self-Compassion Meditations

Lastly, you can do the same process with your worry or confusion about these self-compassion meditations. Don’t know if you’re doing it right, confused about what to do, stressed about doing it wrong? These are forms of suffering. Meditate on these, seeing and accepting the suffering and wishing yourself happiness. See that the cause is wishing that you knew what you were doing, and see that you can let it go and be OK with not knowing, be OK with uncertainty and confusion and making mistakes.

You can do the same process of self-compassion for being mad at someone, feeling bad about yourself, feeling bad about missing your habits, feeling stressed about your kids, feeling like you don’t have discipline or time or energy.