• Erin DiMaggio

Self-Compassion


Have you ever had one of those days when the shit hits the fan and then, when everything is said and done, you realize you were the one that threw it?

Even for the conscious, self-aware parent sometimes SHIT happens.

What do we do at the end of the day when everyone has finally gone to bed, we have cleaned up our mess and everyone else’s and all we are left with is the incessant feedback loop of memories running through our heads while our inner drill sergeant screams at us, "You Know Better!" “You should do better!”

As we lay there, attempting to get some rest so tomorrow will be better, we can’t help but to listen to the inner chatter of voices narrating the whole script from the day before and pointing out every itty-bitty-negative nuance and why all of the parenting experts would be so disappointed in us.

We wish we could replace the overload of chatter with some sweet, fluffy little sheep to count instead. But exactly how do we do that? Can we really change what we think? And how do we shift our attention to something other than the channel that is playing?

I know this scenario well and it I admit, it is easy to fall into the mind trap of, “I know better therefore I should always do better!”

The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree and when we treat ourselves with shame and blame then we plant the same seeds in people we meet especially our children.

For me, I believe deeply in parenting with connection, care, and empathy and to be a model of what I want my kids to be. After all, I am an Enlightened Momma. But very recently my ten year old suggested to me that I might want to change my website to “Cranky MOMMA!” And, I wholeheartedly agreed with him.

Most days, I think I do a pretty decent job living in alignment with my values but on those off days when I don’t, it is really hard to forgive and forget. The good news is, with attention, action and direction we can change what we focus on and influence our thoughts. I am sharing a bit of the process I have been guiding myself through for over 19 years. I borrowed Echo Parenting's Acronym OFNEEDS to help organize the process. I hope the steps can assist you in getting deeper into your seeds of love.


Intention is the fuel for everything. What we focus on and act on, becomes our reality. When we focus only on the moments of dis-ease, then we lose touch with the possibilities of peace.

As long as we replay the events from the past with shame and blame we will continue to live in the darkness of the past. Our task is not to dwell on yesterday but to enjoy the gift of the present, today.

Self-Compassion, Self-Love, Self-Awareness and Self-Forgiveness are some of the best antidotes for these kinds of days.

TEACHINGS

Over 2000 years ago the Buddha taught us:

"You can search throughout the entire Universe for someone who is more deserving of your love and your affection than you are yourself and the person is not to be found, anywhere. You, yourself, as much as anybody, in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection." "If your compassion does not include yourself, it is incomplete."


Jesus taught us: One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?”

“The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’

The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” Mark 12:28–31

Patanjali of the Yoga Sutras (Sutra 1.33) taught us to purify the mind by practicing karuna (compassion) in the face of suffering. The ethical guidelines that Patanjali gives us in the Yoga Sutras starts with the first guideline of Ahimsa. Ahimsa means to not harm. One must not harm himself or herself, through thoughts of condemnation.

Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr and Mother Theresa (to name a few) have been some of our greatest modern day teachers who have lovingly spread the messages of non-violence and compassion and now researchers from all walks of social science, brain- science and the study of human behavior are affirming these great truths.

The benefits of self-compassion are not new information; it is as old as the sun and the moon. We are simply replaying the same songs from stone tablets, to books, to vinyl, to eight-tracks, to cds, to research methods and now through wireless technology and high speed downloads.

It is long past time that we listen and all understand that shame will not make us better human beings. The question then is how do we re-wire our brains to make self-compassion the first internal program to run and to over-ride self-condemnation?

Self-Awareness is the preliminary ingredient to healing the hurts that bind us. Without self-awareness we will only stumble more deeply into darkness. We have to be aware of what is happening inside ourselves and with others in order to make the necessary improvements and live in alignment with love.

AWARENESS AND ATTITUDE

Neoropsychiatrist and author, Dr. Dan Siegel, says that to balance emotions we have to

“Name it to tame it.”

This internal game is a way to shift our perspective for the purpose of having what Carol Dweck calls a “Growth Mindset.”


My teachers, Ron and Mary Hulnick of The University Of Santa Monica, taught me that every upset is an opportunity for growth and learning.

Echo Parenting and Education uses the acronym: OFNEEDS to help process the emotional matter and chatter that sometimes leads us to a place of disconnect and disease.

Observation ~ Feelings ~ Needs ~ Empathy ~ Engage ~ Develop Solutions

You can use these little notes as entry points for building a self-awareness practice.

The vehicle of transformation that you use is entirely up to you, the best thing is to keep moving forward toward the lighter side of things.

PEACE CANNOT BE FOUND BY FINDING FAULT WITH EVERYONE ELSE'S ACTIONS. AS LONG AS WE REPLAY WHY "THEY MADE US ANGRY" WE WILL STAY IN DIS-EASE.

STEPS

1. Observe: The first step is to become self-aware. We cannot change what we do not see. We have to look honestly and objectively at our own thoughts, words and behaviors.

Self-Compassion is not self-negation. We do not pretend that all is right, perfect and rainbows in the world. We acknowledge what we are feeling, what we did and how our actions affected those around us.

2. Feel: what you are feeling and give it a name.

“I am feeling…” or “I am upset because…”

  • It is during the dark moments alone at night, when we can take the focus off of the other person and shine the light on ourselves in honor of healing our own suffering.

  • We take personal responsibility for the part we played in our own little mini-drama. We look back at the event only long enough to see what triggered our behavior so that we can learn what we need to do to assist ourselves in staying in our center of logic and reason.

3. Needs: We ask, “What is disturbing my peace?” “What steps do I need to take to remove what Rumi calls, “The barriers within yourself that you have built against it (Love).” Once we have identified the issue with “I am upset because…” Then we have the opportunity to unravel all of the layers of judgments and expectations that we have placed on ourself, our family and the world around us. We ask, "How can I respect where other people are on their journey and still support myself on my own path?" We can further ask, “What was I needing then and what can I give myself now?”

4. Empathy: Listen to your inner wisdom about the situation. Give yourself empathy, compassion, understanding and forgive yourself for the judgments you may have made about yourself or others involved.

5. Engage: Is there an area in my life where I can give myself a little extra love, compassion and understanding?” "What do I need to give myself so I can stay centered in my loving?" “What helps me to come back to center when I am feeling upset?”

6. Develop Solutions: Agree to slow down, take deep breathes and start over, tomorrow. Take care of your physical needs by ensuring you have plenty of water, rest and nourishment. See that everyone is doing the best he or she can with the tools they have available to them at the time. We are all starting at a different starting line. Promise to go back the next day and apologize for your part and resolve to try again.

Engage in Positive Self-Talk


Talk to yourself in the same loving way you would a very good friend. It might sound something like this: "I hear how hard things were for you today. I hear how angry you were feeling. I understand you were really needing space and time to yourself and you couldn't get it. I understand you were really needing help. I see that you were doing the best you can at the time. I am here for you. Let's work on ways to give you all of the love, patience and compassion you need."

Repeat the process until the negative charge of emotions has been replaced with grace and ease. Everyday is a new day!

Much Love,

Erin DiMaggio


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