I read this in the Kindness Blog by *Vidyamala Burch. The subject of being kind to oneself intrigued me, and I wanted to share part of the post with you. She was teaching a mindfulness class, and a young woman asked her a difficult question.
The question and Vidyamala’s thoughts follow:
“How do I keep turning up with compassion and kindness, when people just throw it back in my face, or don’t appreciate it?
We can all relate to this dilemma and the feelings of anger and despair when our efforts seem so misunderstood! This young woman is trying to make her way through life by giving the best that she can, and what is she getting back in return? Only her own tormenting feelings of bitterness, resentment and confusion.
Buddhism, which the secular mindfulness field has mostly drawn from, works from a different principle. Here we are taught that kindness always needs to start at home.
You can only really be there for others if you have a strong foundation of self-love, self-kindness and confidence to tap into.
It’s obvious when you think about it — if we can’t be kind to ourselves then we can’t be genuinely kind to others — it just isn’t sustainable and will lead to feelings of hurt, bitterness, anger or plain exhaustion.
Kindness to oneself doesn’t mean we become selfish and self-absorbed though. Being aware of and kind to others is at the very heart of Buddhism and mindfulness. Loving kindness to oneself, as it’s known in Buddhism, is more about being realistic and knowing your limits, how much you can give and your boundaries. If you have the rising feeling that you are giving and giving and resentment is building up, take this as a sign that you need to spend time being kind and loving to yourself.
So what is loving kindness to oneself?
I think of it as cultivating the same attitude to yourself as you have towards someone you love – you naturally turn to that loved one with kindness and an open heart. Or perhaps, a cherished pet? Recall the feelings of loving kindness as you spend time with it and stroke it – now turn those feelings back onto yourself. Breathe in and drench each breath with loving kindness for you.
If you do practice these steps of goodwill towards yourself, then magically, in the true spirit of Christmas and giving, you will be able to care and love others much more deeply, in a much more sustainable way.”
*Vidyamala is one of the world’s leading experts on mindfulness for health, and founder and Director of Breathworks, a leading UK-based not-for-profit organisation, specialising in Mindfulness-Based Pain and Illness Management. Breathworks have recently run pilot programmes around the country, working with numerous charities, the National Probation Service, Department of Health and NHS. Breathworks also provides face-to-face and online courses for individuals living with pain, illness and stress.