Each August, teachers, parents, and students anxiously await the beginning of a new school year. It is a time of new beginnings; of learning new things and making new friends—as well as facing new challenges. We look forward to seeing our friends again and returning to a predictable schedule.
This year, however, we can add the fear of the unknown to this already rich stew. In times like these, I find that practicing mindfulness and mindful self-compassion is very helpful. By practicing these skills, we can see our worries more objectively, gain a better understanding of how we can take care of ourselves, and choose to focus on what is within our control during a national health crisis that’s changing day by day.
Noticing What Is Within Our Control
Most of us are triggered by the fear of the unknown, and this pandemic is bringing that to light in a big way. This fear is real, yet we do have control over some parts of our lives. We can change our relationship with our challenges; we can develop healthy coping skills; and we can acknowledge the great difficulty that we are all facing.
We do have control over parts of our daily routine. We can create positive behaviors each day; we can notice our physical, emotional, and mental states; we can make feeling “good-ish” our new mantra; and we can seek out allies who will support us. (As instructors and fellow travelers on the journey, we’re honored to support you with tools for developing mindfulness and self-compassion!)
Calling on Mindfulness and Self-Compassion In Times of Uncertainty
Mindfulness and mindful self-compassion are skills we can learn to develop to bring more balance, peace, and ease into our lives. Mindfulness is paying attention in the present moment to thoughts, feelings, and body sensations with full acceptance. Kristin Neff says Mindful Self-Compassion is “caring for ourselves as we would care for someone we truly love.” It starts with mindfulness and includes a sense of self-kindness and an understanding that we all experience challenges.
When I practice mindfulness, I can notice the difference between my relaxed self and my tightened, stressed self. Each time I bring this into my awareness, I can make choices on how best to care for myself. Sometimes I need exercise; other times I need to rest. Or maybe I just need a few deep breaths.
Mindfulness creates the conditions to become aware of the times I am struggling and also creates the conditions to notice and savor times that I feel happy and at ease. The actions I take to care for myself when I’m aware that I’m struggling are how I practice mindful self-compassion.
Find What Soothes You
My wish for us all is to notice when we are struggling and to find ways that will calm and soothe our souls. My happy, healing place is always near water. I can be soothed by the sound of the wind and the waves crashing on the beach. I can feel the sun warming me. And I can feel the softening and letting go of the stresses. These experiences rejuvenate me, even when I am visualizing the beach when I am at home.
Sending seeds of kindness to you and yours.
From “The Peace of Wild Things” by Wendell Berry:
When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things…