Has anyone noticed that "mindfulness" seems to be the buzz word at the moment? But what is mindfulness exactly? Mindfulness is defined as:
Compared to traditional meditation, mindfulness is less formal and can be practised throughout the day. Personally, I like to think of mindfulness as a way of life and a way of thinking. I try to be mindful throughout my day and one example I like to share is making my morning coffee. I bring my attention to the process of making the coffee and will gently guide my mind back to the process when I inevitably become distracted. The key word here is gently, mindfulness should be non-judging, your mind thinks and wanders - after all it is it's job. You can practise mindfulness anywhere and anytime - may it be going for a short walk and noticing your surroundings, chopping up the carrots for dinner or even patting your pet.
Mindful Self-Compassion (MSC)
Now that we've covered mindfulness I want to share my recent experience doing the 8-week Mindful Self-Compassion course. MSC was developed by Christopher K. Germer PhD and Kristin Neff, PhD who I highly recommend Googling. I was lucky enough that this course was run by my amazing Naturopath, Jad Patrick at Merge Health. I decided to give it a go to help manage my anxiety and give me some new tools. Jad is wealth of knowledge and I have found seeing him as a nautropathy client and as a the teacher for MSC so beneficial. You can follow Jad on Instagram here and on his Facebook Page here.
So what is Mindful Self-Compassion: Mindful Self-Compassion combines the skills of mindfulness and self-compassion as the name suggests. Mindfulness is the practise of recognising and acknowledging the sometimes difficult and uncomfortable emotions we experience as humans. Self-compassion is the practise of responding to these emotions with gentleness, kindness and understanding so that we can comfort ourselves when there is suffering.
Back to the 8-week course, once a week for a few hours, I would grab my course book, have a quick bite to eat at my grandparents and head to the course. There we would learn about the theories behind different exercises before being given the opportunity to practise them with the support and guidance of Jad. There was even delicious food involved so I was sold!
What did I learn: One thing that I had assumed going into the 8-week course was that I would walk out in 8 weeks feeling completely happy and all my negative thoughts would be gone. How wrong was I! Very quickly I learnt through Jad and my practice that self-compassion was not about just all the good feelings, but rather recognising the challenging emotions and responding to these in a caring and kind way. This revelation was a game-changer for me. Sure at the time, I was a bit disheartened- what do mean this isn't going to fix my emotions and mean I don't ever experience negative emotions again?! But as I continued into the 8 weeks I very quickly realised that difficult thoughts and emotions are normal - everyone has them and it is a part of being a human. It was such a light bulb moment for me when I realised that I had the ability to sit with my emotions and respond to them myself. I actually do have the skills to soothe myself and be compassionate to me and this was so empowering. I was, and still am learning to be self compassionate not always self-critical. I still have days where I am self-critical and always will because I am human. Some of these days I don't respond to this with compassion, but on the days I do it is so empowering and positive. I have learnt to be a slow leaner. Jad would say "be a slow learner" throughout the course and being a perfectionist I still struggle with this concept, but I am slowly improving and understanding that you cannot rush the mindful self-compassion process.
Backdraft: This was not a term I expected to hear in a course on mindfulness and self-compassion. Backdraft is a term typically use by firefighters to describe when a door opens in fire causing the flames to burst out. In MSC, it is used to describe the old emotions, feelings and experiences which may arise when you start showing yourself self-compassion. Given I initially expected this course to rid myself of all negative feelings, I was not expecting this. But I did experience it, it wasn't any big, grand past event or emotion that surfaced, just small emotions that I thought I had dealt with. The best thing was that through the strategies we had been learning I was able to mindfully be aware of these feelings, acknowledge them and show myself compassion through the plethora of practises Jad had taught us. I was able to deal with my emotions in a completely new way using self compassion.
After the 8 weeks: Continuing to practise the strategies I learnt during the course once it was over has not been easy. Despite my best intentions and plans, life gets busy and it often gets pushed to the side. Because of this, I have had to make a conscious effort to insert little snippets of practise into my day, as well as responding to myself with compassion when I don't manage to get practise in. I treat my practise as an opportunity to unwind and if it is feeling like a chore then I won't do it. I want my practise to be a positive time to reflect on how I am feeling and if it is becoming just another thing on my to-do list then, personally I feel it's lost the purpose.
So how does mindful self-compassion look to me? Remember this is how I do it, so it may not be right for everyone - one thing to remember is there is no "right" or "wrong" way of doing mindfulness, meditation or self compassion.
- I try to take 5 minutes out of the day to breath whether this be at morning tea or just between task
- I try to mindfully make dinner and take my time
- When I remember I will take the time to slowly drink my nightly cup of tea without distractions
- I have found setting up a meditation space in my room so beneficial. I just use a cushion from Kmart, a salt lamp and my diffuser to create a calm vibe
I have also been using apps to help me including:
1. Smiling Minds
2. Insight Timer
Final thoughts on MSC: If, like me, you hadn't heard of the Mindful Self-Compassion course before now, then I highly recommend you look in to it. Book in an appointment with Jad and have a chat to him about it. Personally, I am so glad I took the plunge and did it because it has helped me so much. I have learnt to be a slow leaner and also realise that we all experience difficult or uncomfortable emotions - we are human after all!
Here are some helpful links to read up more on Mindful Self-Compassion and also Jad's pages:
Centre for Mindful Self-Compassion
Jad Patrick Naturopathy
Jad Patrick Natural Therapies
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Sending Good Vibes,