It is not uncommon to feel a bit tired in the winter months. Darker days, the adrenaline rush (drama and trauma for some) of the holidays are over, and we can fall into a rut anticipating spring. For those working in helping professions; teachers, counselors, wellness professionals it is a busy time supporting and providing care for others. If you aren’t in these professions most of us can think of ways we care for, support and lead others. The key (or practice) is tuning in and knowing when we are starting to feel drained (empathy fatigue) and tapped out so we can work to recharge and renew! This is a great time of year for self-care! Okay, all times of the year are good times for self-care, but winter may be a good time to boost your practices if you are feeling lethargic, cynical, short-fused, or a bit more emotional than usual. I share below a mindful movement practice that I have taught to clients and in my mindful movement classes. I encourage you to find a quiet space to sit and reflect on the ideas presented at the beginning. Maybe have a journal nearby to write down thoughts and feelings that come up as you think about compassion, self-compassion, self-care, resilience, and loving-kindness. If you are not familiar with yoga, that is okay, you can have a practice of gentle stretching with the guided meditation or just do the reflecting and meditations. It is your practice, do what feels safe and needed as you courageously turn towards yourself and your inner experiences and practice self-care. Namaste.
The following practice is broken into the following sections; Reflection, Mindfulness Meditation, Movement, and Loving-Kindness Mediation.
Reflection – Compassion and Self-Care with Loving-Kindness (Resilience)
As Thich Nhat Hanh, the Vietnamese zen monk, points out, “Compassion is a verb.” It is not a thought or a sentimental feeling but is rather a movement of the heart. As classically defined in Pali, compassion is “the trembling or the quivering of the heart.” But how do we get our hearts to do that? How do we “do” compassion? What gets in the way of being compassionate?
Thoughts on how we do compassion and the barriers:
· Compassion is born out of lovingkindness (tenderness and consideration towards others and ourselves). It is born out of the wisdom of seeing things exactly as they are. When we are struggling and in pain confronting and accepting reality is not our instinct, it takes courage, strength, and skill! Who wants to see the reality of an illness, we fight this reality and this fight can become a barrier to compassion and show up as denial, fear, or sense of overwhelm.
· Compassion also arises from the practice of inclining the mind, of refining our intention. Is our intention to fix? We only fix things that are broken so when our intention is to fix it is as if we are saying we are broken and our feelings and thoughts are wrong. This is a barrier for compassion to flow through us. To do compassion we work to have the intention to feel our feelings and experience them, not fight it, but work with it, turn towards it. In the mindfulness world this is referred to as attend and befriend. Again We need strength, courage, and wisdom to be able to open so deeply. The state of compassion is whole and sustaining; the compassionate mind is not broken or shattered by facing states of suffering. It is spacious and resilient.
· Furthermore, compassion is nourished by the wisdom of our interconnectedness. We are all linked, and compassion is the natural response of seeing that linkage. It is caring and concern rather than a feeling of separation into us and them. When we know we are not alone it is easier to do compassion to open up in this way. Common Humanity vs. Isolation https://self-compassion.org/the-three-elements-of-self-compassion-2/
· Lastly, wisdom of our interconnectedness arises hand in hand with learning to truly love ourselves. We best do compassion when we can be self-compassionate towards ourselves. The Buddha said that if we truly loved ourselves, we would never harm another. For in harming another, we diminish who we are. When we can love ourselves, we give up the idea that we do not deserve the love and attention we are theoretically willing to give to others.
“We all have the same capacity for compassion and for peace. Our hearts are indeed wide enough to embrace the whole world of experience both pleasurable and painful and with this knowledge comes freedom and happiness.” – Sharon Salzberg
This to me leads to the idea of resilience. When we know we can handle it, when we trust that we are stronger than we know, we often can relax. We can more easily let go of fear or guilt (not enough thinking) and truly be with and present in our moments and others. We grow and learn through these experiences vs. get stuck in the pain or detached from our experience.
To nourish our resilience, wisdom, and compassion we can practice loving kindness to ourselves and mindfully keep our heart open when we want to. There is also wisdom in having boundaries. With mindfulness practice we are in charge of when our heart is open and when our heart is protected.
As you move through the practice outlined below, I invite you to bring your attention to your heart region both physically and emotionally. Which poses challenge you to open up, to lift your chest, broaden your shoulders, and lift your gaze? Which words and thoughts stir your heart? Tune in to when you are embodying compassion throughout this practice. Also, you can tune in to when you hug in or turn inward. Some poses require you to hug in to keep you safe and stable or to take a break (such as childs pose). Some ideas you may not be ready for or want to think about and that is okay. Practice self-compassion during these moments and be kind, treat yourself like you would a dear friend, child, or pet.
Check In with yourself – What are your favorite self-care practices? Complete this statement, Compassion to me is….
Let’s begin, start with choosing one of the meditations below.
Sitting Meditation – Compassion for Self and Others (15min)
Self-Compassion and Loving Kindness (20min)
● Cat Cow
● Child’s Pose
● Sitting up – wrist exercises (rotating wrists in circles)
● Mountain – 3 Big Deep Breaths with Sighs if desired….Let it out!
● Eagle arms – both sides)
Sun Salutation(s) – 2-3 rounds
● Forward Fold (option to use blocks and reminder of slight bend of the knees)
● Kneeling Lunge (Right leg back)…..Crescent Pose, Warrior II, Warrior II with side angle
● Plank (on knees as option)
● Table Top
● Downward Dog (Right leg forward)
● Kneeling lunge….(can change each round with one of these options- Crescent Pose, Warrior II, Warrior II with side angle
● Forward Fold
● Upward Mountain
● Child Pose
● Cobra – option superman and swimming
● Upward Dog
● Thigh stretch on stomach. Laying on stomach and bending one knee at a time and using strap or hand to hold foot and stretch thigh…careful with the knees.
● Downward Dog
● Seated Twists (Legs straight out front, bend right leg and plant right foot on opposite side of left leg by knee, twist to the right, left elbow on right knee….switch sides)
● Shoulder Bridge (supported – block or blanket under you on low back, sacrum, or not with legs stretch out one at a time for psoas stretch)
● Seated Forward Fold
● Single leg seated stretch
● Rest and belly breathing- hands on belly feeling hands rise and fall on your belly
● Core work
● Back Twists
● Savasana- corpse pose (rest pose) or you can return to a comfortable seat
If lying down, roll to side, pause, gently sit up, and press hands (palms) together at your heart.
I encourage you to again offer words of kindness and compassion to yourself, slowly and affectionately…
May I be safe.
May I be peaceful
May I be kind to myself
May I accept myself as I am.
“May the light in me, honor the light in you. Namaste.” – Danelle
Lesson by: Danelle Chapman Counseling & Mindful Movement LLC ©