Friday, January 25, 2013

Self Compassion and Mindfulness

"Self Compassion" Collage by Lani and textures from FlyPaper
I thought I "got" mindfulness and self-compassion, having practiced meditation for a few years now, until I watched Kelly McGonigal's video in the previous post. Most humbling. (I'm sure if we took a brain scan while under the influence of meditation, my brain would be lighting up in exactly the same way as the folks who had been practicing for four days.) Somewhere in my head, I've been thinking that my brain needs to quiet down, and once it does, then I will be mindful. I may even have spoken to myself in a less than kindly way about this.  When people talk about "mindfulness" or "self-compassion" I think to myself, oh yes, I know what they mean. But of course that is an assumption! So the whole idea here, as I read The Willpower Instinct, is to be aware of the thoughts that pop up and gently (in the kindest way possible, no sternness necessary) pull yourself back to paying attention to your breath or physical sensations.

Kelly describes a meditator, Andrew, who was about to give up trying to practice because he thought he was hopeless, that he wasn't able to focus perfectly on his breath, that he had to keep reminding himself to come back from his thoughts.  She suggested that he pay attention to how this practice of his, as imperfect as it was, was affecting his choices and attention in "real life."  He said he realized that he was way more focused when he had meditated vs. when he skipped it.  He also noticed that what he was doing in meditation (gently pulling himself back from his mind chatter and just being here now) was exactly what he needed to do in real life: catch himself moving away from his goals and gently guiding himself back to where he wanted to be.

Kelly suggests a five minute brain-training meditation to increase your willpower (or the strength of the elephant trainer).  This will reduce stress and teach the mind to handle both inner and outer distractions and temptations.  You can set a timer and sit comfortably, eyes open or closed, and start to focus on breathing.  As you breathe in you can say "inhale" in your mind and as you breathe out you can say "exhale."  When your mind starts to wander, gently bring it back to your breath.  You can make it a tiny daily habit and once you are comfortable with it you can increase it to 10 minutes and then more when that is comfortable.  When you get to a time that feels like too much of a burden bring it back down to a comfortable place.  Short practices every day are way better than long practices that get put off for another day.

And of course all this is true for art making as well.  A small art practice, a tiny daily habit of working in your art journal every day, is way better than putting your art making off, waiting for that perfect day or that big inspiration.  Practice is good.

1 comment:

susannais said...

Practice is what life is all about...daily doing, tiny steps, beginning again...Lovely post to remind us of this. Thanks