By Jet Sichterman & Marie Hobbs
Holding space for ourselves can be quite a challenge in today’s world. Most of us are often rushing to take care of others or striving to meet someone else’s goals. We tend to forget to ask ourselves ‘what do I need right now?’. Yet it is vital we include ourselves in our ‘circle of goodwill’. How else can we truly take care of others unless we are prepared to meet our own needs? Self-care is not selfish!
Do you recognize this imbalance in your life? For example you suffer a headache as a direct result of spending all day running errands without stopping to drink? Or an infection results from a habit of dashing in and out of meetings for hours on end without pausing to take a toilet break? Sadly we can become very good at cutting off from basic signals in the body. Unless we train ourselves to respond with compassion for ourselves we can find ourselves always reacting to external triggers.
During our May Forum ‘An Introduction to Self-Compassion’, Marie Hobbs of Attention2Being shared that needs are from the neck down, while wants are generated by the mind. Unless we practice with mindfulness and a balanced mind-body connection, we tend to give more attention to our thoughts and therefore desires. Marie promotes mindfulness as a way to navigate getting back in touch with our own needs and therefore with self-care.
What is mindfulness actually, Marie asked us? It is almost impossible to define with words alone – mindfulness can only really be experienced in the body. Yet we had a go! Marie invited all participants to share words they associated with mindfulness and we came up with the following word cloud as our own definition.
Notice that this includes kindness or compassion – both, as Marie argues, are like two sides of the same coin. If we practice to be mindful but allow the floor to our inner critic during this time, we will quickly notice thoughts arise such as “I’m not doing this right” or “I can’t do this”. When practicing mindfulness, she suggests we can practice with a ‘beginner’s mind’, non-judgementally; gently and kindly re-directing our attention back to an anchor in the body.
Self-compassion is a form of compassion practice directed for ourselves. This can be nurtured from a practice of mindfulness. It involves a choice to use our awareness to recognise when we are triggered by stress, to choose to validate ourselves for the difficulty. Then, rather than diminishing our experience by comparing ourselves with others, or trying to fight our experience, to choose to find a small way to be kind to ourselves. This sounds simple, yet so hard to access in the moment unless we practice.
Throughout the evening, Marie asked participants to engage in a variety of exercises, which were well received by the audience.
Do you feel like you might want support in developing a mindfulness or self-compassion practice? Marie regularly offers workshops at our premises in The Hague; for professionals, parents or teens. Would you like to know more? Contact Marie directly.