The Compassion Diet, Week Fifty-Two in the New Abnormal

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Should we end this year and start the new year with resolutions?  For me, the answer is no.  I will think of what I’d like to let go of, and how I will be caring to myself and others, but there is no declaration in that.  What I have been thinking about as I view commercials and advertisements enticing us to try new weight loss pills and programs is the mixed up past I, and so many of us, have had with messaging around food, eating, and the lack of joy in caring for ourselves.  In the spirit of that, I am thinking of a diet of compassion.  Not a food diet, but nourishment, nonetheless.  

When looking up the word diet, I found the restriction in its definition.  But I also found that the origin of the word “diet” comes from the Greek word “diata” meaning “way of life.”  I like that.  We can incorporate compassion as a way of life.  It’s a wonderful concept because it addresses all aspects of our lives.  And, on this diet of compassion, we could bring compassion at any moment.  If we find we’re being hard on ourselves, we can notice that.  Then we can fold in compassion as a way of care as we go through something difficult.  

Compassion connotes respect.  It is a way of acknowledging ourselves and others that we recognize something may be difficult.  We see that we and/or they are in pain, and we take a caring stance.  It does not mean allowing a hurtful behavior to continue.  But we can appreciate that whether we are being insensitive to ourselves or others, it probably means we are hurting, and our behavior can clue us in on that.  Once we make note of that we can insert a generous dose of compassion.  It may take time and the courage of vulnerability, but we will emotionally soften with the effort.  And when others are mean, rude, disrespectful, or uncaring, we can do our best to choose to get out of harm’s way. If possible, as we exercise silent compassion for the pain they are in.  We can also, double down on compassion for ourselves for being in harm’s way.  

So, as we finish this difficult year off, and as we begin what we hope will be a gentler year, let’s all enjoy a diet of compassion.  No deprivation, just love and respect.  

Self-Care Tips:

  • Create a jar or a box or a journal in which you write down good times, happy experiences, and joyous moments.  Then, you have a record of those times at the end of 2023.  (This was taken from The New York Times’ where it was reported Martha Johnson of Maryland Heights, Mo., had the idea to create a jar labeled “Good Stuff in 2022. 
  • Keep an old-fashioned pen and pad by your bed so if you wake up and think of something, or forgot something, you can write it down, allowing you to return to sleep without any blue light.  
  • Move one thing from your to-do list to the “I’ll try to-do list.”  This way you can ease into it, and give yourself a break, rather than forcing something that only makes you feel critical of yourself.  Of course, whether you can move it or not, whether you get it done, or not, be compassionate with yourself.  That, too, will be a kindness.  

When Will This End? Coronavirus Blog 5

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We’ve hunkered down and we’ve stayed the course.  We’re tired, we’re unfocused, we’re cranky, and we’re over it.  Yet, caring for ourselves and making sure we’re all well is not a one-time deal.  I hate that.  In all things I prefer to go after something, get it done, appreciate what I’ve accomplished and then, Bam, I can go on to the next thing.  Take cleaning.  It’s been a great distraction to clean.  My office is sparkling.  My closets are in order.  Yet when I was dressing this morning, I saw that things were not exactly the way they were when I refolded and cleared out my drawers on Friday.  And when I got to my office today, I could see dust accumulating again.  Cleaning can be great, but it’s a never-ending job.  And, that’s pretty much how it feels to move on with life during the Coronavirus.

I didn’t think it would be easy to cancel all my plans, work remotely, and live in a small apartment with my family, each of us with our own style of being.  Nor did I know that who I thought I was prior to the Coronavirus needed an update during social distancing.  I am more defensive, and less productive than I imagined I’d be at the start of this.  I have to dredge up self-compassion from well below the self-criticism that has become the proverbial inner-chatter.  I need more sleep.  I’m reading less.  I’m deleting emails with recommendations on best practices now.  There’s too much to read, watch, and engage in.

My impatience, and, I imagine, the impatience of so many of us, to “get on with our lives,” is a disruptive hum as we go on with life as we’ve come to know it.  This is a process fraught with uncertainty.  Our minds like definitive answers, and there are none now.  It is challenging to stay in the moment, living for the now.  And we’ve come to understand that the only thing we are certain of is the uncertainty.

Unconsciously, to combat the uncertainty I’ve been hard on myself. It’s an old habit that comes out when things get tough.  We all have old behaviors that sneak up on us when we’re stressed.  Some of those behaviors have taken hold as we march on in quarantine.  My challenge is to name it, and to then bring compassion, patience, and loving understanding to myself, even as my thoughts veer to benign cruelty.  I don’t like that I’m mean.  So, I’m working to do better.  It is an on again off again process.

Though I’m not 100% grateful for this, one of the gifts of this prolonged social distancing is that we can work on self-care in a way we might have missed out on before.  My moods and negativity are now front and center.  Making incremental changes that will help me to live life with more consideration, more care is a priority at this time.  And, as the announcements come in prolonging social distancing, I am given more time to employ compassion moment by moment, day by day.

 

A few simple exercises in which I’ve engaged to prompt benevolence to an impatient mind.

 

Stretching – It allows me to feel my body but it’s gentle.  Sometimes I add sound, like a Sigh, a groan, or an Ahhh to it, for a more substantial release

Taking a Moment – I walk away from whatever I’m doing.  This helps to see something from another vantage point.  It allows me to look at something different, and in this new view, my mind shifts.

Breath – I know, I know, it’s so pedestrian.  And, yet, focusing on our breath, whether we choose focused breathing or some other form or discipline, gives us a pause, and creates a bridge to a calmer moment.

Drink a glass of water – Getting the water and drinking it gives us a chance to recalibrate.  Not only do we hydrate, but we take ourselves out of the negative moment into something more neutral.

Turn on a Song and Dance – Moving changes everything.  I might cry or smile so big.  It’s a mood changer like no other.

 

 

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