This Election Day carries the weight of a contentious political climate fueled by the fear and uncertainty of a global pandemic.
It’s heavy. I know I feel it. I’m guessing that we all do.
We may be feeling the stress and anxiety of this moment and this whole year for various reasons but I think we can all agree that this is really hard and we are suffering. Simply acknowledging our collective experience honors our common humanity. Still… individually we feel bad and no amount of doom scrolling makes us feel better. Thankfully, “the path to emotional freedom starts with kindness toward the suffering ‘self’” (Germer, 2009). This post offers a guided self-compassion practice that blends together the work of Tara Brach, Kristin Neff and Christopher Germer and gently accompanies us through the rough waters of individual and collective suffering and across to kinder, softer banks of loving-kindness and self-compassion.
The instructions for this practice are based on the teachings of Tara Brach, which are represented in the acronym RAIN. The “R” in RAIN stands for recognizing what’s happening right now. We might be experiencing a moment of tightening or contraction related to blaming or judging ourselves or thought distortions like black and white thinking or ruminating over something that happened recently. We may even declare to ourselves things like “everyone here hates me” or “I don’t belong anywhere”. Recognizing requires some experience with mindfulness in order to be able to notice when we find ourselves in that negative pattern. The “A” stands for allowing whatever we’re experiencing to be just as it is and making space for it. When we are able to notice that what is being experienced is a moment of suffering, we have the opportunity to acknowledge it to ourselves by saying something like… “This feels hard right now” or “this is difficult” or whatever words feel comforting. This is how we can begin to weave in kindness for ourselves. The “I” invites us to investigate what we might be experiencing with a gentle attention, noticing, for example what we may be feeling in the body. This gives us to chance to remind ourselves that suffering is a part of life. We might say to ourselves “This is normal. Lots of people feel this way too in this situation… this is a part of being human”. And finally, the “N” in RAIN stands for nurture.
We want to nurture and care for what we are experiencing with kindness and compassion.
It’s important to spend time finding some soothing words or phrases to call upon when in the nurture stage. Saying something, silently or out loud, to ourselves like, “It’s ok. It’s going to be ok. I’m here for you.” Choose words that feel true for you. If that feels difficult, the following is a script might be helpful:
This is a short- guided compassion practice that offers ideas for soothing ourselves in moments of stress or suffering. To begin, find a comfortable position in whatever way feels the best to you in this moment. Once you feel settled in, go ahead and allow yourself to relax. Take a few long slow deep breaths and allow yourself to be fully present. Feel the floor or the chair beneath you, and try to relax into it. Remind yourself that, in this moment, right now, you are safe and it is okay to relax.
When you’re ready, begin to become aware of your natural breathing and keep your focus there for a few moments. Take your time. Next, when you’re ready, bring to mind a time when you’ve experienced a stressful event or a moment of suffering or even remember any negative phrases or thought patterns you may struggle with.
When you have this in mind, recognize what is happening in you and be the witness of your experience – notice how your body responds and how you feel. And now, allow however you feel about these thoughts or memories to be what it is and stop to offer yourself some care here, by saying “This is uncomfortable” or “I notice I feel tense about this”.
Now give yourself some time to investigate this discomfort, what does it mean, where do you experience it? And then, again, stop and acknowledge that you are not alone, saying something like “Suffering this way is normal. Lots of other people experience these difficulties just like I do.” Check in with yourself and breath… maybe put your hands on your face or some place on your body that might feel comforting, just like you would for a child or beloved pet or a friend who is hurting. Pause and share this kind of loving touch with yourself. Include some soothing words like “It’s okay… everything is fine. I’m here for you”.
Now, check in again and notice how you feel. Do you feel lighter? Or is there heaviness related to the situation that is lingering? If it is still there… it’s okay… remind yourself again that this feels really hard, it’s difficult and that it is also completely normal and part of being human. And again, offer soothing, kind words of care… “it’s okay, I’m right here, this too shall pass and I’ll still be here with you”. Soak in your kind words and thank yourself for them. When you are ready, go back to your mindful breathing and then bring your awareness back into the room, with an awakened sense of knowing that, in this moment, all is well.
Brach, T. (2013). The RAIN of Self-Compassion. Retrieved from https://www.tarabrach.com/selfcompassion1/
Germer, C. (2009). The Mindful Path to Self‐Compassion. New York: The Guilford Press.
Neff, K., and Germer, C. (2018). The Mindful Self-Compassion Workbook. New York: The Guilford Press\
Michelle is a mother, a partner, a friend, a spiritual seeker, a psychotherapist and someone who enjoys connecting with herself using a mindfulness meditation practice. She has a BA in Communications and Humanities from the University of Colorado and an MA in Clinical Mental Health Counseling with a concentration in Mindfulness-based Transpersonal Psychology from Naropa University. Michelle’s practice, Soul Care Counseling, offers mindfulness-based practices that support clients seeking to become less anxious, less stressed, less reactive and more grounded, present and connected with their own inner ally. As a result of their work together, clients are able to communicate with themselves and others with greater clarity, care and compassion. https://soulcaredenver.com/