I knew I wanted to be the type of person who practiced meditation and I was very excited to drive right in, but then I had to stop and ask “Wait, how do I meditate?”
Firstly, I started meditation practice after taking a few classes at the Den Meditation Center in Los Angeles. My friend, Kathyrn Chaya Lubow, teaches an 8 week program on “Mindful Self Compassion” and she recommended The Den as a great starting place for me. But what is the difference between Mindful Self-Compassion and Meditation? Good question! Keep reading below for my Q&A with expert, Kathyrn Chaya Lubow
What is Mindful Self-Compassion?
Mindful Self-Compassion is the bringing together of mindfulness with compassion for ourselves, while remembering that we are not alone in our struggles. We cultivate an attitude of kindness that we would have for a child, friend or beloved pet, and treat ourselves in this same caring way. This term was developed by Dr. Kristen Neff who created the 8 week MSC program with Dr. Chris Germer.
Can you give us 8 quick tips that people can do regularly to achieve mindful self compassion?
- Self-care: Put the oxygen mask on yourself first and carve out time for self-care. If you put everyone and everything else first (including work), you will burn out. Treat yourself with kindness and compassion like you would a good friend, child or pet.
- Be kind to yourself: Notice if your self-talk is harsh or critical and if you tend to beat yourself up. This activates the fight/flight response in the brain and nervous system, raising stress levels. Motivating ourselves with kindness and compassion takes a different approach and helps to calm ourselves.
- Soothing touch: Place a hand on the heart or another place of the body which has tension. This can help to reduce stress, as studies indicate that soothing touch in this way can activate the caregiving hormone oxytocin, thereby leaving us feeling calmer and more at ease.
- Savor the good stuff: Take time to enjoy, for example, that morning cup of coffee. If we can, as neuroscientist Rick Hanson says, “take in the good” for even 30 seconds, it can promote change in the brain to be wired for more positive emotions.
- Offer yourself a kind wish: Give a kind intention to promote a positive quality such as love, joy or self-acceptance by telling yourself a loving kindness phrase such as “May I be happy,” or “May I learn to love myself as I am.”
- Write yourself a letter: Speak to yourself in a tone and voice that you would typically use for a good friend or loved one, with understanding, patience and care. Such as “Dear Self, I know things are tough right now, but trust yourself and know that you always get through it…”
- Notice which core negative beliefs tend to trip you up: There are only a handful of primary ones which all people experience such as “I’m not good enough”, “I’m defective”, or “I’m not lovable” to name a few. Notice when you are struggling with one of these beliefs and shift into a positive wish such as “May I learn to love myself as I am” or “May I learn to know my own goodness”.
- Be aware of common humanity: Remember that someone else on the planet is going through something similar to you. Remembering that we are not alone can take us out of isolation (which social media can serve to exaggerate) and into a sense of belonging and connectedness to other people on the planet.
What is your definition of meditation?
This could be achieved through sitting with eyes open or closed, walking, playing a sport, washing dishes, dancing or any other activity in which we are not lost in thought, but paying attention to what is happening in the present moment.
What is the easiest way for someone to start practicing meditation at home?
You can find a comfortable spot and position in which your spine is relatively straight. For a mindfulness meditation practice, you can close your eyes and bring your awareness to an anchor, such as your breath, sounds or the contact of your body with the cushion or chair. Each time you notice that the mind wanders, you gently return your focus to the object of your meditation (with kindness). You can start with as little as 5 or 10 minutes a day, and slowly add more time. The most benefits have been found with meditating for at least 20 minutes per day. There are a number of great apps out there now which offer guided meditations such as Evenflow, Headspace, Calm, or Insight Timer.
For some, it is easier to begin with an effortless mindfulness practice, with the eyes open in which you allow your focus to be panoramic and soft, like a wide angle lens, such as when viewing a beautiful scene in nature. You allow your eyes to gently soften and take in your surroundings. Some people may also need to move their body if they have a great deal of stored traumatic memories which can make it difficult to sit for traditional meditation practice at first. For these folks, I would recommend a movement or walking meditation practice to start such as yoga or tai chi.
Furthermore, Kathryn recommends UCLA MAPS classes, offered online and in person, which are 6 week classes introducing mindfulness meditation for beginners.
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Do you practice meditation? Have any tips or questions? Leave a comment below and keep your eyes peeled for our final Q&A with Kathryn about “What is EMDR with Kathryn Lubow” coming soon!