Creativity for the Rest of Us

3 Practices for Compassionate Self Care

StillnessThe past year and a half has been a healing journey for me. Last spring I was diagnosed with throat cancer. After the initial shock of the news — which despite my extensive experience of working with change and uncertainty, there is no way to prepare for — I moved into my default response. Planning.

I had plans within plans based on the proposed six-week course of treatment: how long my recovery would take, when I would be back at work, and how I would be when I returned. My body had this to say about that, “Phooey!”

Illness is an initiation, a journey into the unknown. It must be met with compassion and patience. Healing takes what it takes, in time and energy. It does not conform to your schedule. There is no predicting at the outset where it will take you physically, mentally, and spiritually. I am still processing the experience, finding language to talk about it, and integrating the change.

With every waking moment devoted to treatment and recovery, I learned some important things about compassionate self-care. They can be applied in any situation where you come face to face with the unknown.

Three Practices for Compassionate Self-Care:

1. Be still

Everything in nature moves in a rhythm that is medium to slow unless it’s in crisis. It will sprint for a short period of time to escape danger then rest. Most of us are living in a sprint. Life is not a race. Slow down.

Befriend silence and stillness. In the quiet, listen. Listen beyond the over active, achieving mind and its expectations. Listen through exhaustion, despair, fear, confusion, boredom, and impatience.

Listen to the wisdom of your body, heart, and soul. Listen for what is stirring, calling, and germinating in you. Listen for the next step — which may be more listening. Take right action from there.

Pause in the midst of chaos to be still. It is in the pause where we have the choice to react from our default mode of old behavior or choose to create something new in the moment.

Intuition rarely comes with complete instructions. It’s more like following the breadcrumbs. Let wisdom guide your steps.

2. Be aware

Be aware of your body and what it tells you.  Rest when you’re tired. Eat when you’re hungry. Stop when you’re full. Move in ways that you enjoy.

What you allow in matters. What you put in your body matters. What you give your attention to matters. What you watch, listen to, read, and surround yourself with matters. Your choice of the people you have in your life matters. You matter. All affect the harmony of your well-being.

Be aware of the words that you use, of what you choose to give your voice to. Are you communicating from your own wisdom? Are you participating in conversations that you want to be in? Are they generative or complaining?

3. Be kind

Be kind to yourself, first and foremost. Be tender with your imperfections. Enjoy your idiosyncrasies — they are what make you original.

Let go of harsh criticism about yourself. Banish should, could, and would. Retire comparison as a weapon for self-abuse. These are not the voice of wisdom.

Do the best you can in each situation. Be generous with yourself. Appreciate your progress.

Ask for help. We are interdependent beings by nature. Do not deprive others from the gift of service. Let them help you.

Be still. Be aware. Be kind.

We will be exploring compassionate self-care in my new program — Women at the Well — debuting as a New Year’s retreat Jan 2-4, 2015, in the San Francisco Bay Area. Invitation coming Friday!

3 Responses to “3 Practices for Compassionate Self Care”

  1. Kathleen Corrigan says:

    What beautiful words to start my day – every day!


  2. Mary Brady says:

    I’m looking out my window at the autumn colors beginning to break through .. . thanks for the reminder to carve out moments to be still and sink into the natural rhythms within and without … ah, change is in the air! You are a treasure Mary Corrigan 🙂 Love ya.

  3. Elvira Ramos says:

    Grateful for the three practices of compassion. Blessed to be guided to this site when i needed a reminder about being kind and tender with ones imperfections.


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