The effect of consistent practice of the self-compassion break exercise has been subtle but deep. In some ways, it feels like the effect snuck up on me. As I practiced it every morning, it took on the feel of being rote and I wondered if I had made a poor decision in choosing it as a daily practice, perhaps it wasn’t a juicy enough practice.
If I wasn’t experiencing some sort of strain or stress at the time of meditation, the directions of the practice asked me to recall a time of suffering, a situation requiring self-compassion. Quite a few mornings of these last two weeks I found myself needing to recall a time of distress to engage the practice as it is written. The first few times this occurred, it felt alright to recall a past experience of suffering, yet as it continued, it felt more like I was needing to stir something up and this felt counter-intuitive to a daily meditation practice of being with what is. So, I modified the exercise to the immediacy of my experience, rather than reaching for something which qualified as distress or suffering.
The poet Hafiz is attributed with saying, "I felt in need of a great journey, so I sat still for three days." Two weeks into this journey of compassion through the vehicle of compassion-based practices has had elements of both a great expedition and the quiet of sitting still.
As I detailed in my initial blog, I chose Tonglen as the first practice of this year. In the past, I have had some difficulty with Tonglen in that I have actually found it hard to connect to feelings of suffering using the practice. I think it is because of the quickness of the practice. By quickness I mean taking in suffering on the in-breath and sending out relief on the out-breath. The turnaround of suffering to relief in the span of one cycle of complete breath did not afford me the time to connect to either the feeling of suffering or of relief. I have felt with Tonglen, that I am riding on the surface of feeling, not connecting with them.
I had a similar experience this time, so I explored ways to feel connection.
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