Noticing, Together, With Kindness ~ Part TwoFeb 26, 2014
by Lea Seigen Shinraku
In part one of this Noticing, Together, with Kindness series, I wrote about the value of Noticing in the practice of self-compassion. Once you’ve done that ~ brought attention to what’s happening and let it register, you can shift your focus to recognizing that you’re having a human experience together with other humans.
“Many people need desperately to receive this message: ‘I feel and think much as you do, care about many of the things you care about, although most people do not care about them. You are not alone.” ~ Kurt Vonnegut
While your circumstances may be completely unique, whatever feeling, thought, belief, sensation you are experiencing is part of being human. Even if you’re by yourself right now, know that you are also surrounded by people in your town or city, your country, your continent, and this planet. We are all having a human experience that includes joy, grief, love and uncertainty. And with a world population of about 7 billion, odds are that there is at least one person, right now, who feels the same mix of emotions that you feel. And, if you extend that forward and backward in time, imagine how many people who have come before you, and who will come after you, who had or will have these feelings and sensations.
In the post on Noticing, I chose a relatively mild situation as an example: getting a third parking ticket in a month. As you begin to develop your capacity for self-compassion, it can be helpful to start with a situation that isn’t the most triggering. So, I’ll continue to use that example here; it’s actually an example from my own life. When I got that third ticket, after noticing the many judgments circulating inside of me, I reminded myself that there were probably other people who had gotten multiple parking tickets in a month. And, that there were probably lots of people in the world at that moment wishing that they had been more “on the ball” in one way or another. In doing that, I could feel into the truth that I was not alone in having that experience, and in having the thoughts, judgments, stories, sensations and feelings that arose.
Another way to let it register that you’re connected to others and not alone is to bring to mind what’s already present in your life, supporting you. This is a practice that I do at the beginning of every group or workshop I lead. I usually refer to it as “calling in your self-compassion tribe.” These might be friends, family, mentors, teachers, or pets. And they might also be people you have never met: writers, authors, activists, spiritual figures. They could be animals who remind you that you belong. Or even places (cities, landscapes, countries, specific sites or buildings) where you feel at home. They might also be trees, flowers or other plants that evoke feelings of gratitude and connection. You might also tap into the earth herself as a source of nourishment in your life.
It also feels important to note that sometimes when people work with calling in their self-compassion tribe, they struggle to identify beings and places that genuinely feel supportive. If that’s true for you, experiment with putting your hand on your heart. Your heart is with you 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. In a very biological sense, it is there for you at times when you might feel forsaken and alone.
As you recognize the beings and places that give you a sense of connection, you can also bring to mind the ways in which your presence is a support for others. You are being supportive and being supported simultaneously. Notice how you feel, as you let this all register. Perhaps it enables you to tap into a more embodied sense that you are not alone.
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