Charlotte Center For Mindfulness - March 2017
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The Necessity of Self-Compassion for Healthy Relationships

Self-care is never a selfish act - it is simply good stewardship of the
only gift I have, the gift I was put on earth to offer to others.      

                                                                -Parker Palmer
         Recently, after noticing my daughter’s stress with an upcoming school transfer, I started to offer a variety of possibilities to help her ease her transition.  At least that’s what I thought I was doing!  In reality, the more I offered, the more stressed she got.  My strategies, ones that would have been just right for me dealing with this kind of transition stress, were really polar-opposite to what she needed.  There was this clear moment of suddenly seeing my effect and seeing how she needed me to back off.  It was a really helpful insight—yet instead of stopping there, I then almost immediately went to a self-incriminating, self-judgmental moment of “bad mom!”
It was a small moment, but one that reveals the freeing power of self-compassion—a power that doesn’t just apply to how we relate to ourselves, but is also directly related to freeing us for healthier relationships with all, from our closest loved ones to the world itself.  Using it here changed a potential guilt spiral into positive opening for relationship building.
So, I want to offer a short review of self-compassion and its three parts.  To start, for me mindfulness is really about mind/heartfulness or heart/mindfulness—often compared to two wings of a bird.  And, like a bird, mindfulness must have both to fly. So, these 3 parts of self-compassion involve both heart and mind, showing the importance of bringing both strong heart and clear mind to any situation if we want to find our way through with new ease.
The first part is simple kindness.  Sounds easy enough, but as anyone who has worked consciously with a moment of charged “flipped lid” knows, bringing kindness into the heat of an activated fight/flight reaction is not easy! (If you don't know the term “flipped lid,” see Dan Seigal:  That’s why I say strong heart.  This is never the sweet sentimentality of Hallmark-style, syrupy sympathy.   This is the courageous heart that can bring safety and refuge right into the fire of any moment, no matter how intense.  It is the strong kindness/compassion that can help us step out of a non-helpful reactivity and back into our wiser clearer minds that just know how to respond better.
The second step is a bit of a mix of heart and mind.  It is to recognize our shared humanity right in the midst of moments of pain.  That fight/flight reactivity naturally isolates us into a primordial directive of self-preservation.  This is great if I’m about to be eaten by a tiger!  It is what propels me to safety.  Yet, this narrow self-focus is really not so great in virtually any other situation, because the reality is, we are social beings and we just do better when we feel healthy connection to others.  Loads of research soundly demonstrates this. Getting caught in the isolated tunnel vision of survival weakens our ability to respond well because in survival mode, we only see three choices—fight, flight, or freeze—none of which are great choices for complex or long term issues.
So one deliberate way to break out of this isolated sense of self is to intentionally cultivate a recognition of our shared humanity.  For example, in the situation with my daughter, it was so helpful just to have a moment to know I wasn’t alone!  Most parents (maybe all?) have experienced some moment of realizing their good intentions were causing harm to their loved child.  None of us will ever parent perfectly.  To parent at all means to make mistakes. So, the “mind” aspect of shared humanity is simply that clear seeing—of course I make mistakes, and of course I’m not alone in the pain of seeing my mistake.  And, the “heart” aspect is to cultivate a sense of kindness and compassion that includes our own selves and all parents caught in similar moments.  We do this work for all of us.
If we don’t practice with these first two steps, simple kindness and shared humanity, we are likely to get trapped in self-judgment in a way that simply makes forward movement hard.
The third part of self-compassion is the “pure” mindfulness part, i.e. open, non-judging bare attention to whatever is present in my own body/mind/heart in this moment now.  There is an open-hearted, clear awareness that never judges, and it is always available inside each of us.  This practice bit by bit brings us closer to that natural wellspring of wisdom that just makes life easier.
So in this situation for me, by taking a moment to notice the self-judgment and practice with self-compassion, a clear and different path seemed immediately easy and obvious.  I checked in with my daughter and found that yes, my strategies were stressing her out!  And then I let her tell me what kinds of support would be helpful for her.  The situation is already better for both of us.
For more, see Kristin Neff, PhD,
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Summer 2017

Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Classes
(8 week series)

Space still available in all classes.

Free Introductory Sessions as follows:

Tuesday Evening July 18th 6:45p
Teacher: Jude Johnson, MA, LMFT
Course dates: 7/25 - 9/12

Wednesday Evening July 12th 6:30p
Advanced Therapeutics in Dilworth:
Teacher: Aaron Less, PhD
Course dates: 7/19 - 9/6

Thursday Morning July 6th 9:30A
Teacher: Lindsay Bridges, MD
Course dates:  7/13 - 9/7

Click Here For More Info or to register for the free Intro Sessions
New! Facebook Page for Charlotte Center for Mindfulness

We look forward to posting helpful teachings, poems, quotes and events to support deepening mindfulness practice for us all.  See our current post for a wonderful TED talk by Kristin Neff on the difference between self-esteem and self-compassion.

Weekly Mindfulness Community Practice Group
Wed.  9:30am - 10:30am
Myers Park Baptist Church Room 250

This is an on-going group that meets on a drop in basis.  All are welcome regardless of meditation experience.  We gladly accept donations for this practice group. If appropriate for you, consider $5-15 per meeting, but any amount, more, less or none is welcome. For more information and directions to the Church and Room, visit our website...
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A Poem...

Mud of the Moment
by Danna Faulds
Truth lives in the mud
of this moment. It exists
in the messy interplay of
emotions and relationship,
in the personality traits
I'd rather leave behind.
To experience truth 
doesn't take sainthood,
or dissolving my desires. 
It requires diving into
the muck and mire of
what's here, feeling
the anxiety or fear,
knowing the entirety
of me without hiding
from the shadows or
from light.
Choosing to be whole, 
awareness makes the 
leap to see that I am
truth - always was, 
and always will be -
the radiant singularity,
the infinite in human
form. The lotus never
blooms without 
sinking roots in mud.
No mud, no lotus. 

-Thich Nhat Hanh
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Charlotte Center for Mindfulness · P.O. Box 222012 · Charlotte, NC 28222 · USA

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