Compassionate curiosity

Yesterday was Valentines day, as I’m sure you’re all aware. I saw a handful of guys scooting around town clutching roses, and have to say I found the selection of pink, love heart shaped items in the bakery quite cute.

Being a single pringle I didn’t expect to participate in the festivities, but when I got to my yoga class last night I found the theme was self compassion. “Oh no” I thought inside. One thing I suck at is any form of self love.

As a nurse, compassion is at the heart of all that I do. But what is compassion? What does it mean to be compassionate? Well, if I have a quick mind-dump of what compassion means to me I’d say it involved:

  • respect
  • kindness
  • empathy
  • dignity
  • acceptance
  • listening

In my professional and personal life I aspire to provide all of these to the people around me. But I am really poor at applying them to myself. My head believes that I am undeserving, that the things I’ve done wrong exclude me from being kind towards myself. I was having a wee think about all the things that I used to do that I enjoyed, but now I don’t; the reason is that they feel indulgent, and what have I done to deserve such niceties? Things like lighting candles, putting ice in my drinks, using scented moisturiser, grabbing an extra blanket when I’m cold, getting my eyelashes tinted, listening to my country music CD…. small but pleasurable actions that I’ve found myself not doing.

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Can I truly claim to be compassionate if I refuse to show myself compassion?

At the end of our compassionate heart meditation we said “May be calm, may be peaceful, may be happy.” Just saying these words made me feed a tad uncomfortable, that pesky negative voice hissing in my ear. But my wonderful yoga teacher invited us to be curious last night, curious about these feelings and why we might have them. Self love is definitely something I need to work on over time, but being aware of the negative feelings is a good first step towards change. We are who we are, we only get one body and one mind and one shot at living with them – life is short, too short to be at war with ourselves. I am fighting a silent battle for no reason; what if I just said “I am not going to hate myself any longer. I am going to accept that hating myself gets me nowhere, and I don’t want to go through life unhappy.”

No one knows or cares that I am internally punishing myself. And no one will know or care if I don’t punish myself any longer. So if it makes no difference, why don’t I try the second option for a while? Because maybe it will actually make me happier, more able to effectively practice compassion towards those around me, and that is a good thing for people to notice. So today I bought myself a hair mask. And tonight I will light some candles. I didn’t get a bunch of roses or a box of heart shaped chocolates yesterday, but I did take a step towards giving myself a break.

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