In one of Tara Brach’s online talks on self-compassion, she tells a story about the work of Dian Fossey with gorilla groups in Rwanda. Ms. Fossey was asked how her research group was able to obtain much more information on the social world of the gorillas than anyone had previously.
“We didn’t bring guns” she replied.
Love and compassion
She was saying that the gorillas could sense fear, and could sense where the strange looking newcomers were coming from deep down.
Meditation practice is a lot about coming back to love and compassion — and celebrating what we are doing, and the one who is doing it: self-compassion.
Of course, self-judgment happens. It’s just a matter of noticing when it first arrives, being with it a little, and then gently coming back to the breath, or sounds, or sensations.
Self-compassion naturally arises, if only briefly.
Writing in the online magazine Elephant Journal about the ups and downs of her mindfulness journey, Amanda Johnson reminds us:
Love yourself for being bold enough to try. Being mindful isn’t always comfortable. Failure is not an indicator of a lack of ability—it is a reminder of where our current limitations are and an opportunity to grow.
unhealthy relationship with imperfection
I think a lot of the self-judgment that folks come up against when learning mindfulness is due to an unhealthy relationship with imperfection.
One of the hardest things for me to get across as a teacher to folks just getting started, is that being mindful is not about being perfect.
It’s not about tweaking yourself, or fixing anything. There’s no Mary or Robert 2.0 at the end of this path.
mindfulness is simple
Being mindful is simply hanging out in each moment as often as possible.
It is also having self-compassion.
Feeling a connection with those around me as much as I can while I am being mindful.
The only mistake in any of this, is when you forget to be mindful. But then you remember – no problem.
the only mistake is forgetting to be mindful
Of course, mistakes happen in our lives. We forget to pay the rent or the water bill, but then we remember, and it’s done. No problem.
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The founder of Soto Zen, Dogen Zenji, purportedly stated
“My life has been one continuous mistake.”
self-compassion and true humility
This is humility and self-compassion served piping hot in a sizzling bowl.
This insight makes it easier to let go of shame, guilt, and self-judgment.
This is an insight about not taking oneself seriously, or taking one self at all.
Self-judgment is not a mistake, it just happens. Just notice with supreme gentleness and come back to the breath – and celebrate.
One of my teachers, Sharon Salzberg, calls the point when you notice your mind has wandered, “the magic moment.” She says:
It’s the moment when you have a chance to do it differently; the time when you can be gentle with yourself and simply start again.
We learn over and over again that our lives are imperfect. The body ages. We say stupid things sometimes. Where are those keys, not again?
Mindful of our mind states, we see pride and self-interest front and center.
As the compulsive thinking layer of mind thins out, we begin to touch the refreshing inner springs of self-love and self-compassion.
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