The gift of compassion
Bluebells. Lots of beautiful, deep blue bluebells, swaying gently in the cool breeze in this wood just outside Exeter. The sights, sounds and sensations of a short walk through the woods today, under an unexpectedly beautiful clear blue sky, help rejuvenate me, soothing me and bringing me back to myself. I gave myself this gift, remembering in the midst of a very busy week to attend to my own needs, to offer myself compassion.
Over the last few years, compassion for myself and for others has increasingly become the touchstone of my life. It is a work in progress to be compassionate to myself. After all, we are our own hardest critics, right?
During my training to be a counsellor, I was offered compassion again and again and again, from my tutors, fellow students and friends. At first, I couldn’t let it in. I couldn’t believe that it was genuinely being offered without the expectation of something in return. And surely there were others more deserving of this than me? Yet I needed it. And like a balm, it worked its magic, slowly, over time… making it safer to dare to be compassionate with myself, to occasionally let myself off the hook.
So here’s a tiny exercise to give you a flavour of what self-compassion can do. When safe and in a quiet, comfortable, space, close your eyes. Breathe deeply. Imagine the wisest, most caring and loving person possible. Give them a name. Draw or write a little about them if it helps. Spend some time imagining what it feels like to be with them, knowing that they will always find the most compassionate explanation for your actions, for your ‘mistakes’, and the most compassionate response to your questions.
Put their name or an image that represents them on a post-it or drawing somewhere where you will see it every day. When you remember them, imagine asking them for their view on whatever you are going through. No matter what your response is… listen. Write it down if possible.
I hope you can experience a little of the magic that compassion towards yourself can bring.
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