Although being kind to ourselves is considered difficult in our guilt obsessed culture, learning to be kind to ourselves is fundamental to any kindness project. It was generally believed that self-judgment was necessary for self-regulation. Contemporary psychological research has found that this is a complete myth. UCLA researcher Kristen Neff, and her colleague Chris Germer, have aptly demonstrated that most of us are more likely to do the right thing if we feel good about ourselves, not when we feel overwhelmed by guilt or self-loathing.
Setting the intention to be kind to ourselves is the first step on this path.
Self-Kindness improves with practice
The Acrobat Simile
In the Sedakka discourse (SN 47.19) there is a story about a pair of acrobats who assert that the best way to perform a difficult balancing act is by each of them taking care of the other. The Buddha responds that in fact, if they first take care of themselves, they will be taking care of the other. Self-care is foundational to caring for others. Buddha goes on to say that It is by practicing mindfulness (sati) and kindness(metta) that we protect ourselves and others. Today we look at practices for self-care.
How does protecting oneself protect others? Becoming familiar with one's own mind, developing it, protecting it accordingly and attaining realization ― this is called 'protecting oneself protects others'.
How does protecting others protect oneself? By the gift of fearlessness, the gift of non-violation, the gift of harmlessness,by having a mind of benevolence and empathy for the other ― this is called 'protecting others protects oneself'. translation by Analayo
Self Care is Self Kindnes
One of the most comprehensive self-kindness articles I came across is from Ellen Bardand is published on a website called Tiny Buddha. This website hosts a community of bloggers with lots of great ideas for personal growth and support for life in the digital world. Ellen Bard is the author of a book called This is for you: a toolkit for better self-care. The article is called 45 Simple Self-Care-practices for a healthy Mind, Body and Soul and here are some of the highlights. There were 15 ideas in three categories.
Self Care Ideas for the Mind
1. Start a compliments file. Document the great things people say about you to read later.
2. Pay complete attention to something you usually do on autopilot, perhaps brushing your teeth, driving, eating, or performing your morning routine.
3. Do a mini-declutter. Recycle three things from your wardrobe that you don’t love or regularly wear.
4. Edit your social media feeds, and take out any negative people. You can just “mute” them; you don’t have to delete them.
Self Care Ideas for the Body
1. Oxygenate by taking three deep breaths. Breathe into your abdomen, and let the air puff out your stomach and chest.
2. Activate your self-soothing system. Stroke your own arm, or if that feels too weird, moisturize.
3. Be still. Sit somewhere green, and be quiet for a few minutes
Self-Care Ideas for the Soul
1. Make a small connection. Have a few sentences of conversation with someone in customer service such as a sales assistant or barista.
2. Have a self-date. Spend an hour alone doing something that nourishes you (reading, your hobby, visiting a museum or gallery, etc.)
3. Exercise a signature strength. Think about what you’re good at, and find an opportunity for it today.
Tami Forman is the founder and chief executive of Path Forward, a nonprofit organization that puts people back to work after several years of doing other things, like care-giving. Her original ideas appeared in Forbes Magazine in 2017 but this version was updated in April of 2019. Here's what she says about self-care. "It requires tough-mindedness, a deep and personal understanding of your priorities, and a respect for both yourself and the people you choose to spend your life with." Here are a couple of her suggestions.
▪Turning off the TV instead of watching another episode of “The Crown” because the alarm is going off at 5am so you can get to the gym.
▪Declining the second drink at the office holiday party. It might even be declining the first drink.
▪Maintaining financial independence.
▪Doing work that matters.
▪ Letting other people take care of themselves.
Check out the article if you want to see more and we will begin the section on kindness for others tomorrow.