Moving forward with awareness and kindness
I recently heard someone comment that there’s less room for small talk after the year we’ve all had. We’ve been through something significant together, even while apart, and we probably have a lot to say about what happened, or what we lost, in the last year.
Still, like me, you may have noticed yourself answering the well-meaning, asked-out-of-habit “How are you?” with a one-word answer that doesn’t sum up how you’re feeling.
But how would you answer that question? Do you feel in touch with your experience? Or have the days been passing by? After a year of living in some level of survival mode, we might have become even better at living on autopilot in some areas of our lives, and that’s understandable.
In last week’s blog post, I asked: “Before rushing back to ‘normal’ again, have you had the chance to pause?” If you haven’t, can you give yourself that gift now? Life isn’t going to slow down from here unless you slow down first.
We’re all learning to re-engage with a world that’s different than it used to be—and changing all the time. The skills of mindfulness and self-compassion can help each of us re-enter “normal life” in a way that feels true to our own needs and sense of safety.
Check in with Yourself: “How Am I Really Doing?”
Perhaps you’ve had more solo time with yourself than you ever thought you’d wanted over the last year. Perhaps you found ways to fill it or distract yourself.
Or maybe your world became more full than ever out of default—balancing home, work, childcare, and relationships in new and challenging ways.
As our communities continue to shapeshift back toward some semblance of “life as we knew it”—and we also contend with the ways life will never be the same—one thing that will support us is knowing ourselves—and thereby what we want our lives, relationships, and communities to be like—more deeply. And learning to pay attention right now is key.
Mindfulness can help us acknowledge what is present for us in our mind, body, and surroundings, in any given moment.
This awareness helps us make more informed choices in response to what we’re noticing and feeling in the present (vs. thinking about the past or worrying about the future).
If you’re curious what this might be like, start by setting a timer for one minute and sitting in silence (or near silence). You don’t have to change anything; you don’t have to “stop your thoughts”; just pay attention to your breath and “be” as you are in the moment. When the timer goes off, simply notice how you feel.
We can learn a lot from our moment-to-moment experience, and all we need to do is be present with it and notice, without judging or resisting what we find. We can build this mindfulness muscle through practice.
Practice Mindful Self-Compassion
When we have mindful awareness of our experience, we’re able to take a step back and realize we’re not the only person struggling right now. It is from this place that we can offer ourselves kindness and understanding as a human being who is having a hard time. This is the basis of mindful self-compassion.
Ask yourself, “What would I say to a friend who is struggling like this?” Meeting ourselves in this way helps us become our own friend and cheerleader—something we might really appreciate as we ease our way into new or once-familiar situations this year.
Life is not “back to normal” yet, and life and decisions can still be difficult to navigate. Please be kind and understanding toward yourself, no matter what you may be feeling. I have had to keep reminding myself over the last year that I’ve been living through a global pandemic—which is lasting much longer than I anticipated, and for which I was quite unprepared.
If you’d like, use phrases like these as a guide in practicing mindful self-compassion when you need it: “This is difficult” (mindfulness), “I’m not alone in this” (common humanity), and “may I be kind to myself” (self-kindness).
And, please, be kind and understanding toward others, no matter your personal comfort level. Everyone continues to adjust at their own pace.
Moving Forward Wisely
We are all experiencing this together—but differently. No two people will “re-emerge” in the same way. Considering this, are you letting others direct your journey, getting by on autopilot, or listening for your own guidance?
Wisdom for moving forward skillfully is inside each one of us, and practicing mindfulness and self-compassion can help us access and act from that wisdom.
You are the expert on your experience and the most qualified guide for your re-entry. Listen with kindness and care.
If you would like to develop more mindfulness or self-compassion skills you can practice this summer, please join us for our upcoming classes!
For more encouragement on approaching re-entry, read these words from Oren Jay Sofer: Opening Up Wisely. (“We can each go at our own pace, and together, we’ll find our way…”)