DecThinking poseember 4, 2014

by:  David Kerrigan

In the holiday season, we’re reminded to remember the neediest among us.

From every spiritual tradition I know of, we’re called to compassion, mercy, loving kindness, treating others as we would want to be treated…

For therapeutic parents, that means having compassion for traumatized kids. Being patient when they’re impatient, being kind when they’re cruel, being willing to be with them in their sufferings, sufferings that can be so unspeakable, too horrifying to imagine. Remembering that those sufferings are what drive the impatience and cruelty.

Now here’s the thing about therapeutic parents: Because they care so deeply about their kids, because their compassion (literally “suffering with”) for their children is so great, they can get sucked into their children’s suffering, swallowed up in a morass of anguish and abandonment.

That’s not good for anyone. Not for you, not for your child.

To help your child learn to co-regulate, you have to be able to stay regulated (or get re-regulated), centered and balanced, to have a good day no matter what kind of day your child is having.

And that’s embedded in the great spiritual traditions. In the Judeo-Christian tradition, we’re called upon to “Love your neighbor as yourself,” which implies loving both your neighbor and yourself. In Buddhism, the saying is, “Protecting others, one protects oneself. Protecting oneself, one protects others.” And so on.

So in this spirit, I’ll offer this Self-Compassion meditation as a holiday gift.

Find a comfortable position for your body and turn your awareness to your breath.

As the breath flows in and out, in and out, let your body relax.

And as your mind stays with the breath, it lets go of everything else.

You let go of any thought of compassion for yourself as being selfish. Instead, remember this: the more compassion you can extend to yourself, better care you can take care of yourself, the better care you can give to others, the more compassion you can have for others.

And return your awareness to the breath.

Consider thoughtfully, taking the time you need, the wise, constructive, compassionate ways you can care for your well-being.

Where are you experiencing suffering and pain?

How are you responding to suffering and pain? With loving kindness and compassion? Or with self-neglect, self-condemnation, self-attack?

Time to try a little tenderness.

How can you touch those areas of suffering and pain with compassion?

What might be good for your self-care? Exercises? Foods? Water? Rest? Other healthy habits? Healthy, positive thoughts and words and deeds? Enjoyable, refreshing activities? Positive companions? A clearer sense of meaning and purpose? What might be helpful?

Learning to ask for what you need? Letting others help you? Letting go of things that don’t really need to be done?

No need to rush. Just pace yourself. Get a feel for what you need now, what will be helpful at this stage of the game. If you keep putting one foot in front of the other, you will reach your goal.

And return your awareness to the breath.

When you are done, simply wiggle your fingers and toes, and return to life refreshed.

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