You’ve read the Self-Compassion Overview, and you know how important the habit is … but how do you develop something like this?
Well, the obstacles to developing this habit are twofold:
- It’s hard to remember throughout your day; and
- It’s hard to practice in the middle of anger or other intense suffering.
So I recommend remembering just once a day at first, and doing it when you’ve calmed down. Then expand the practice by trying to remember more often in different situations.
That’s a two-phase plan, so let’s take a look at both phases.
Phase 1: The Daily Self-Compassion Session
We’ll start with two weeks of meditation … if you took the daily meditation challenge right before this, this will be a great expansion of that habit. If you didn’t form the meditation habit, this is a great place to start.
Here’s the plan:
1.Meditate on your suffering for 2 minutes a day. Sit still for 2 minutes, and turn inward: think of a time recently when you suffered, and try to see the suffering, feel how it felt, and accept the suffering instead of trying to ignore or avoid it. Then wish yourself happiness, wish for an end to your suffering. Give yourself a mental hug, comfort yourself. Try to see what’s causing the suffering — what ideal/expectation are you holding onto that is causing you pain? Try to let go of this for a bit, and instead appreciate things as they are, without ideals. Be grateful for what actually is.
2. Set aside a time. This habit won’t happen if you don’t set aside the time, and have a set time each day. It’s best to follow a trigger that you already have in your daily routine, like waking up or eating breakfast … do the habit right afterward. If you’re already meditating daily, just do it during this time.
3. Set reminders. This is really important — a lot of people simply forget to do the habit in the beginning. Set phone and calendar reminders, put a sticky note somewhere you won’t forget it, have something visual in the place where your trigger happens so you’ll remember when the trigger occurs.
4. Make a commitment & be accountable. Commit to someone else — one person, two, or a group — to your daily practice. Check in with them daily or every other day or weekly at the least, but tell them how often you’ll check in and how you’ll check in. Give yourself a big consequence for missing two straight days.
5. Review weekly. After 7 days of the habit, do a review — how did you do, what got in the way, what are you going to do to improve the process so you overcome the obstacles you faced? Write down the process improvements, so you’ll have a plan that is evolving and improving over time.
So that’s the plan. I’ll go more deeply into the self-compassion sessions soon, but the instructions above are enough to get you started.
Phase 2: Expanding the Practice
The daily self-compassion meditation session is something you should do all month, because it’s the basic practice. But it’s most useful if you can practice outside this daily session, and expand into other areas of your life.
Here’s the plan for the second half of the challenge:
- Continue your sitting practice. This part remains unchanged — it’s the anchor practice for the month.
- Use phrases. Pick a phrase to remember during the day, such as “May I be happy” or “May I be free from suffering” or “May I be happy just as I am” or “May I be peaceful with whatever is happening”. Say the phrase to yourself during the day whenever you find yourself suffering.
- Have reminders. Put physical reminders to say your slogan in different places. An example is putting a note on your computer desktop picture, putting sticky notes in different places, wearing a bracelet, or using things in your life as a mindfulness bell, like traffic lights or your children’s faces. When you see the reminder, say the phrase to yourself.
- Practice the self-compassion method in the moment. As you notice your suffering, and say your phrase to yourself, go through the same self-compassion method you’ve been practicing while sitting, but in the moment of your suffering. You won’t be very good at this at first, but you’ll get better with practice.
Slowly try to remember your phrase and practice more often during the day, as you procrastinate and get angry and feel resentful and feel physical pain and so on.
That’s the plan … practice for the first two weeks while sitting each day, then expand into other parts of your life using reminders and phrases. Fairly simple, but effective.