Exploring Compassionate Curiosity
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I wanted to share with you today one of the most important practices that I engage in (personally or professionally) and it's the art and practice of self-compassion.
Now, when I talk about exploring the inner networks, the inner patterns, the inner processes of ourselves, or when we dive into shadow work and get curious about the inner dynamics of our own psyche, of our own body, mind, heart, and spirit… it's really important to do so with a compassionate lens.
So often I feel that we can get insight into our patterns, but then that new insight simply ends up being another weapon that we use against ourselves for self-flagellation. It's just more fuel for that inner critic and those inner shame tapes to beat us down.
Which is why when I explore the art and practice of self-compassion… I'm using it as this tool for compassionate curiosity… for if we are engaging in self-work, we are engaging in curiosity, but are we doing so compassionately?
what is curiosity?
When we are getting curious, we are opening ourselves up to the possibility of observing new perspectives about something. But, how do we open ourselves up to the possibility of new perspectives without judging ourselves or others?
That's where compassion comes in, specifically self-compassion… based on the work of Kristin Neff and Christopher Germer.
Self-compassion has three components:
1. Mindfulness... according to Jon Kabat-Zinn, "mindfulness is paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgmentally". This is where you become aware when that inner critic is coming up or your mind has wandered to various thoughts or distractions that are creating suffering in your life.
2. Self-Kindness… once you recognize that your mind has wandered to a thought or belief that isn't serving you… you can then ask yourself - how can I be kind to myself in this moment?
3. Common Humanity… this piece reminds us that we are not alone in our suffering. That we may have very specific experiences, however all humans suffer and struggle. We are not alone in that. This common humanity piece isn't about minimizing or invalidating our lived experience, rather it's about feeling connected in our experience of suffering. How can we move through those feelings that we are isolated or that no one understands our unique situation? It's important to honor that thread of connection between us all - that we are all humans navigating this world messily and imperfectly, but that's what makes us human.
Based upon these three components, engaging in a self-compassion practice is a three step process.
Mindfulness: Notice that this is a moment of suffering. And suffering can be any dysregulation of your nervous system. This can be tension in your body, tears behind your eyes, feelings of heartbreak in the depth of your heart. Suffering isn't a one size fits all experience.
When you notice that you're experiencing suffering, you can repeat to yourself (silently or aloud):
"This is a moment of suffering".
Common Humanity: The next step is to acknowledge that suffering is a part of life. It's not that life is only suffering but it's about acknowledging that suffering, struggle, and heartache, are all part of life.
You can repeat to yourself (silently or aloud): "Suffering is a part of life".
Self-Kindness: Then the last part is the self-kindness piece.
You can repeat to yourself (silently or aloud): "May I be kind to myself".
Feel free to fill in the blank with the word that resonates most truly for you: kind, generous, compassionate, gentle, gracious, loving, forgiving, accepting. Find a word that feels most authentic and genuine for you so that it feels like a practice that you can turn to at any moment when you're noticing the struggle.
I hope that this practice today of a self-compassion break and compassionate curiosity serves you on your journey to wholehearted exploration.
I wonder, what stands out to you most about this post? I'd love to hear from you!