When I come home the first thing I hear is my cat. She runs up to me – sometimes stretching from her nap, sometimes poking her head around the door – and she makes squeaking sounds. It makes me feel so welcomed. It’s comforting to know I can depend on someone wanting to see me.
I think that feeling welcomed, coming home and feeling wanted and belonging, is something that most of us hope for in life. Not everyone is able or wants to have pets yet the experience is not unique to animal owners. While it’s true that not all of us will be welcomed home in such a literal sense, it’s one of my goals of my mindfulness practice to be able to cultivate these feelings within myself.
I’ve recently been inspired in my mindfulness practice by the book Radical Acceptance by Tara Brach*. She cautions that mindfulness without self-compassion can be tantamount to a longer list of reasons to be self-critical. As an example, without self-compassion, the thought “I am reacting with emotions instead of logic in this situation” becomes the thought “I practice yoga and meditation; I should know better than to identify with these feelings!” Brach suggests that we instead greet our attention to our struggles as a loving friend might. This means being forgiving and understanding of ourselves when we face difficulty, temptation or failure. Instead of “I should know better,” my response to myself becomes “It’s understandable that I feel this way. Many people feel this way. It’s part of being human. I forgive you. I’m here for you.”
Adding self-compassion to my mindfulness practice has felt like a big boost in my experience. It invites me to be my own best friend. When I am feeling self-critical, mindfulness helps me to identify that I am putting myself down, but self-compassion gives me the next step. It helps me see my strengths, to be grateful for skills I have created, and to be kinder to myself. It makes me feel seen. Just like coming home to someone (or some kitty) who is happy to see me, practicing self-compassion feels like a way of coming home to my own unconditional love.
Questions for reflection:
- What does it mean to feel welcomed?
- Think of a time when you have been critical of yourself. How might you change your response to be more compassionate to yourself?
- Take a mindful moment to notice your breath and your thoughts. Then, ask yourself how you could respond to what is arising in a way that acknowledges your experience as human.
*This book was recommended to me by my teachers at Maha: Ira Richards and Teagan Schweitzer.
This article was provided by Katie Pizziketti as part of a her monthly series, Attitude for Gratitude, in which Katie will explore using gratitude to cultivate a mindful and positive active lifestyle. Join Katie for practice on Sundays at 12:30pm.
Yoga is a treasured part of Katie’s fitness lifestyle. She uses it to build strength, flexibility, and body awareness which complement her interests in running, weight training, and interval exercise. Katie is using yoga to improve her range of motion and wellbeing in ways which were missing from her other exercise routines.
Katie developed an appreciation for accessibility – creating things that can be used by people of any ability level – after several years of working with adults living with serious mental illnesses and other limitations. Her belief is that almost anything can be achieved with the right attitude (and modifications). She loves helping people find their own doable pose that is just the right amount of difficult. Her high-energy classes focus on becoming stronger and stretchier with a smile!