An Undefended Heart
Kindness towards ourselves, and a willingness for reflection and letting in truth, help us make friends with our own mind. What makes being kind with ourselves difficult?
Perfectionism informs our ideas of how we should be. Pushing and shaming ourselves makes positive change harder. It is a relief to become aware of “shoulds” and release the pressure of impossible standards.
It can be quite a practice to let go of our past. Forgiving ourselves does not mean we condone actions we did that caused harm to ourselves or others. It does mean that we stop retroactively judging and shaming ourselves based on what we know now, but that we were not aware of at the time. Acceptance is more useful than forgiveness, which is such a loaded concept.
We understand why we have behaved as we have. We accept that we are human. We make amends as best we can.
We bring compassion to our younger self who was struggling and reached out for comfort and support, sometimes in unhealthy ways and to inappropriate people. Condemning and being cruel to ourselves does not help anyone.
People can feel entitled to judge and shun us. The most important thing is to be on our own side and not jump on the train of denigrating and ridiculing ourselves. We can’t change others. We can stop adding to our own suffering.
Healing ourselves is the very best contribution we can make to the lives of those we love. We then become available to them in ways that are not possible when we are stuck in a shame spiral about our past.
When we practice kindness and compassion for ourselves and each other, this inspires people around us to know healing is a possibility for them too. The kindness and compassion that is in our true nature shines through.
It is helpful to acknowledge we are suffering and to offer solace to ourselves. This can be as simple as putting a hand on our heart and feeling the warmth. This is a good basis for deepening friendship.
The following statements are a Kiloby Reverse Inquiry, not an affirmation. When we say something we know isn’t true, our unconscious mind will throw up a rebuttal, sometimes revealing core deficiency beliefs, like a sinking feeling that we are fundamentally not worthy of kindness.
Get settled and regulated with your breathing before you begin, then keep an eye on sensations and energy in your body as you inquire.
I am willing to cultivate kindness with myself without conditions — with the mind and body I have, with my imperfections, how I’m sometimes jealous or crabby, and with my hypervigilant nervous system. Still, I offer myself kindness, compassion, unconditional love and acceptance.
I am interested in deeply knowing myself. I am worth getting to know. I like and respect myself.
If you were scolded for this as a child, valuing yourself may feel uncomfortable. “Don’t be so full of yourself.” “Who do you think you are?” “Don’t get too big of a head.” These toxic thought patterns can combine with an innate dread of feeling painful emotions and of stirring up memories. We are afraid of being hurt and feeling powerless like we did as a child.
There is so much joy and beauty in a human life and there is so much hardship. Compassion comes more naturally when we acknowledge that our personal situations can be difficult. We feel so pressured about how we should be, that there is not much room for honoring our humanity.
We can make space in our own mind and hearts for the wonderful complexity of being human. We live in mammal bodies with primitive brains. We gather evidence throughout our lives about what is safe and what’s not. We have a negativity bias and our whole system is set up to keep our body alive. On top of that, we live around and are affected by people who are not emotionally self-regulated.
Take a few minutes now to be present with yourself, and to practice kindness and compassion. Bring your attention to your heart center and notice how you feel. We all enjoy feeling open hearted, and none of us enjoy feeling shut down.
However you feel right now will not be helped by judging yourself. Tune in to your whole body from head to toes. Soften your forehead and eyebrows, mouth and jaw. Relax your neck and shoulders, and the large muscles of your upper back. Breathe out and let your stomach softly settle back towards your spine. If you habitually hold your breath, let go of shaming yourself for your breathing patterns. Tight constricted breathing is a response to chronic fear and stress.
Can you be kind to yourself in this moment? You didn’t set out to become a wreck with a tight body, dysregulated breathing and catastrophic thinking! These are trauma responses, not something wrong with you.
What would your life be like if you were consistently kind and compassionate with yourself? Visualize using all of your senses. Feel it in your body to start. It would be relaxed and you would have lots of energy. Your breath would be healthy and smooth, bringing an abundance of oxygen into your brain and body.
Your mind would be calmer. You would notice and challenge any shaming or judging thoughts, because they are not the norm now, and you know they are not true.
You are present with yourself, grounded in your body. Without tension and tightness, you move more easily and your health is better.
What would people see on your face, this face of a person who is kind with themselves?
What would your relationships be like? If you feel isolated now, and have anxiety about meeting new people, that would change. If you didn’t experience people as a threat, there would be more kindness and compassion for others as well. This naturally grows out of an undefended heart.
If you feel resistance to this exercise, see if you could have compassion for yourself that you are feeling resistance. We get to have whatever experience we have, and then we can cultivate being loving with ourselves.
Rest your attention in your heart center and allow resistance to soften just for a moment. Notice what it feels like in your heart center. Be present with yourself and feel.
With mindfulness inquiry, there is no right or wrong answer. We’re tuning in to see what is happening in our system — body, breath, and thoughts in the mind. Whatever is happening in our system has been formed by experience. Tension in the body or unhealthy thinking patterns are a response to fear and threat.
Now our practice could be to hold ourselves with kindness, to see the truth and stop shaming ourselves, and to hold space for the wonderful possibility of being kind and compassionate with ourselves. From this base of kindness and compassion, take a moment to rest and enjoy.