Make like a tree, on self compassion
I have a head cold this week and what I’m most struck by is how something as typical and mild as a common illness, with small scale suffering, can impact my ability to offer compassion to myself and others. I spent the first day grumpy and touchy, seemingly normal on the outside but grumbling internally about a series of small imagined injustices and slights.
In the midst of aching bones and a running nose, I checked my behavior against my intention (to act with love to myself and others, to be grounded and giving) then admitted that it was unlikely that my heroic daydreams of me soldiering through great medical tragedies with an open, easy heart could be realized if I couldn’t practice acting more kindly with a sinus headache and sore throat. So I began again.
We’re on day three, I’m trying. It’s effortful. In my own compassion training, I’ve found I was my most judgmental when there was something I needed that I wasn’t getting, or giving to myself.
Rest, care, space.
It’s been coming up a lot for me lately, my own growing awareness that I am able to be most open and spacious when I begin from a state of grounded foundation. What I find most annoying about this is how much energy and kindness I apparently need for myself. Why can’t I just live off fumes for a while?
Last week my daughter changed schools, we said goodbye to a community that has been our social home for two years, and I gave a year-in-the-making clinical workshop on mindful parenting….and suddenly it doesn’t seem so silly to think I needed more self-care.
When I started my own compassion training, I used to glance over the self-compassion lesson, I would nod vaguely at it, thinking it was probably most important for other people (aka I would avoid it). I feel chagrined now, seeing how much growth I’ve made in the past 6 months, and how still this trick knee, my expectation that I will pour love from a cup I don’t fill at the same rate, gets me. Catches me short. Not as frequently maybe. But here it is.
So my guiding principle this month is grounded and giving.
This dialectic that a cycle of giving and caring must include a renewal of ourselves, a kindness that prioritizes our own love and care as we also love and care for others.
Just like a well-grounded, flourishing tree, we must enrich our roots as we share our love and effort with the world.
Here's to your own self care.
Love, Dr. Kerry