Mindfulness is sometimes referred to as “Kindfulness” – and for good reason. When we begin to practice mindfulness we firstly learn techniques – both formal and informal. The formal part of mindfulness is the sitting meditation that we do. This meditation helps develop and strengthen our practice so that we can access it when we really need it out in our daily lives. We also learn informal practices such as mindful walking, mindful eating and the 3 minute breathing space technique to name but a few.
However, it is fine to learn and practice these techniques, but what is really important is the attitude that we bring to our mindfulness practice. We are encouraged to nurture an attitude of kindness and compassion towards ourselves and others. This attitude of kindness, together with the techniques, form the two wings of a bird, meaning that our practice is balanced and in harmony. If we don’t begin to nurture an attitude of kindness towards ourselves then we can quickly begin to see mindfulness as something that we “should” be doing – just like the gym membership you pay for but hardly ever use. That can then become another stick we can use to beat ourselves up with which is not helpful and will only make us feel worse.
We all have different feelings about being kind to ourselves. Perhaps even reading that sentence makes you feel uncomfortable? What does being kind to yourself actually mean and how does it differ from self-indulgence? The great news is that when we begin to practice kindness we start from where we are, and we will all be at different places. Kindness is something we can nurture, in the same way that we water seeds which grow into flourishing plants. We begin to become aware of our inner critic and to try to cultivate an open friendliness towards ourselves – we become our own best friend. In doing so we notice that there may be resistance towards exploring kindness and we go gently. Kindness is the basis for allowing us to accept who we are – including the parts of us we don’t like. We explore the feelings and emotions held within our bodies and see what it feels like when we connect with memories of kindness, towards ourselves and others.
My invitation to you today is to do something kind for yourself – it doesn’t need to be anything big. Perhaps taking yourself for a nice walk, meeting a friend or simply sitting down with a coffee and catching up with your favourite TV programme. Afterwards, be curious about how it felt to be kind to yourself. If it feels difficult, just go gently to begin with. The more you work with kindness the easier it becomes and soon you will begin to notice that it is all around you every day.
by Ashley Watson
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