Times where I have experienced self criticism or reproach, I find myself caught up in my repetitive thoughts and concerns. Relaxation techniques do not always provide complete relief, or the ability to soothe my soul and bring about lasting peace. Relaxation in the form of deep breathing, exercise or meditation may assist in the process of dealing with the emotions, but I do find that at times, it is a temporary solution to disengage me from the sadness or anger that I am feeling, only to return to it once the relaxation moment has passed. The distraction, while a welcome alternative to the pain, is at times a temporary fix and not a long-term solution to my problem.
Instead, what is needed is to lean into the emotion with an open mind and open heart. Acceptance of where I am in my life at any given moment in time is more powerful and sustaining than simply substituting a moment of peace. This is not to say that there is no value in relaxation and meditation techniques, quite the contrary. But it is necessary to address our emotional baggage. Getting in touch with my emotions is scary and daunting at times, and I find myself loathe to even admit how I am feeling, avoiding writing in my journal for fear the emotions will take me over and overcome my sensibilities. Pain is not pleasant and it is the process of befriending the pain that I need to nurture and develop instead of running away from the traumatic event or emotion.
“What you resist, persists” is a popular saying these days. And I couldn’t agree more with the time honored sentiment. Acceptance is the opposite of resistance and when I open myself to the present moment with awareness of how I am feeling, I am empowered to let go of the struggle of what is. This process of choosing to experience our feelings, emotions and thoughts exactly as they are – is freeing. As such, when I practice self-acceptance, I no longer feel ashamed of angry thoughts, no longer push my body beyond its limits, no longer submit myself to all of my “shoulds”. Instead, I live in the moment and become more heart -centered. Although I struggle in maintaining acceptance as a perpetual way of life, I know deep down that it brings me to a point of self-compassion towards myself while I am in pain.
In the past, as I set out the goal of self compassion for myself, I was looking for a road map or instructional manual on “how to” be more loving towards myself in the face of self doubt, remorse, guilt and even fearful thoughts. The realization came when I naturally experienced a moment of self compassion (which with my inner critic is not easily attained) in a moment connecting to my heart. It involved bypassing the mental mind and just sitting in the emotion, acknowledging how crappy I felt and having sympathy for myself because I was suffering. I am a “do-er”, a wanna “be”-er, and I have spent a good portion of my life believing that hard work and commitment are the secret to success. Imagine my surprise to find that when I stop struggling to achieve …when I stop struggling to fix things…that they unfold naturally without my interference and things just “flow”. I let go of resistance to those uncomfortable feelings and submit to feelings of love and kindness towards myself. It’s a small shift that makes a big difference to my level of happiness – and at times a rarity when I struggle to make friends with myself and my inner critic with all its rules and constraints. It is through this mindfulness, this caring attitude towards myself, that I find myself getting in touch with my vulnerabilities, being as I am a sensitive soul always seeking answers to the universe and endlessly looking ways for improving my life and level of happiness. Sometimes just being happy with the present moment and living in gratitude affords me the luxury of letting go of striving and allowing me to get centered in myself.