At the heart of any genuinely mindful practice there is compassion and at the very root, self-compassion. The idea of being kind to yourself might initially sound selfish or self-indulgent, but self-compassion is the essential first stage of outward compassion, the keystone of our ability to build bridges with others.
After struggling with various auto-immune issues and a period of debilitating chronic fatigue I had to look deeply at my life and take stock of my frenetic, over-committed week that saw me racing from appointment to appointment. The always on quality of modern life discourages moments of calm but operating with compassion in the world requires a self-relationship built on nourishment and self-care.
Here are some markers to keep you on track and emotionally well this winter:
1) Is there something I am telling myself that isn’t helping me? Too often the narrative we tell ourselves gets skewed. Is what you are telling yourself the truth? Allow your thoughts to surface but not to go un-interrogated.
2) Do I leave enough time to get where I’m going and make appointments? Try arriving early and spending some time either side of the things you do to avoid rushing, this will have an accumulative effect on your nervous system and help to quiet the flight-fight response this winter.
3) Who are the people who nourish me? Practice compassion meditation with that person in mind and even better spend more time with those you love and support you.
Often we are so tired we collapse and fall into bed without giving our nervous system time to settle in to a place of deep rest that will support a good night sleep. I recommend turning your laptop off, leaving all digital devices out of your bedroom and preparing for sleep with just 20 minutes of deep breathing and restorative yoga. Find a warm, dimly lit space you can find some relative calm. Gather your props and find a comfortable seat or lay down. Breathe in for two and breathe out of the mouth or nose to the count of four. Repeat. Settle into a count and rhythm that feels comfortable and if there’s any anxiety around the breath stop and breathe normally. And remember it’s a practice not a performance so take the pressure off yourself to be anything other than what you are.