by Rosa Perez, LGSW
Spring has returned. For many of us it marks the return of the beloved cherry blossoms, warm weather, the end of the school year, and often the beginning of new opportunities. For me, this spring has re-afforded the opportunity to renew attention to my physical and emotional well-being through yoga practice.
As we flow through both simple and challenging poses each class, I hear our teachers encouraging us to bring awareness to our mind and body to extend compassion. For many of us this is a confusing consideration. In this context, self-compassion means noticing that perhaps my muscles are tired and I move into a less rigorous, restorative posture instead; it may also be a reminder to let my own body/emotions be my guide, rather than pushing a pose too far in order to keep up with the human pretzel next to me. In these moments I lend compassion to myself as an opportunity to invite and honor comfort in my own skin.
In the face of challenging events – close to home and far away – we understand the value of extending compassion towards others. In response to the pain and suffering in our city after the riots, many of us rose quickly to offer compassionate aid to our fellow Baltimore communities; we have sent donations to the earthquake victims in Nepal; we may have even lent a listening ear to a friend who has experienced heartbreak, job loss, and health concerns. Yet, how often do we extend that same compassionate care to ourselves?
But, in the fast-paced days of our week we often forget to slow down and check-in with our own heart – how am I feeling? Did I need a nap earlier, but talked myself out of it? Was I so busy planning dinner for everyone else that I forgot to eat? I am sure there are at least a few moments that you can identify today or in the last week where you forgot to care for you. Though these opportunities have past, we are guaranteed many more moments to catch and lend gentle compassion inward. So let us begin, together, to strengthen our heart-centered practices for others by first offering love to ourselves.
Here are some tips to help you reconnect with self-compassion:
• Set limits out of love: selecting fewer tasks for which you can give more attention during your week not only sets a standard for your own care, but it is also a loving gesture towards others. Your friends and family receive more of your care with that focused attention while you also model for your children the ability to balance and make healthy choices.
• Consider speaking to yourself as you would speak to a friend: if you would console a friend on their disappointing performance at work, why would you berate or self-recriminate for the same? Be your own best friend. Show a bit of love towards yourself!
• Play: don’t just find pleasure, play, laughter, and soothing moments throughout your week, but prioritize them! They are the soil in which you will grow your seeds of hard work each day.
• Self-growth: is not the same as self-improvement. When we grow, we are accepting our own personal struggles. Your struggles are not the same as another’s. We are not trying to “fix,” eliminate, or bully our frustrations away, but are seeking to grow through adapting and compassionately accepting our struggles.
A compassionate self begins with prioritizing our self-care in many small moments each day. The compassion we nurture and seed for oneself in turn grows into the abundance that we gift to our loved ones, to our community, and to all beings everywhere. In the words of Jack Kornfield, “If your compassion does not include yourself, it is incomplete.”
Each day there are many ways to gift oneself with connection and growth. In addition to the tips above, the JCC and JCS offer many opportunities to care for yourself – whether it is caring for your body through exercise or caring for your emotional well-being through therapy, workshops or discussion groups. Let us all remember that the compassion we have to heal our community and heal our world begins with the commitment to love ourselves.
By Rosa Perez, LGSW, JCS Therapist
To learn more about how JCS can help you solve life’s puzzles please visit our home page or call 410-466-9200.