High self-esteem used to be regarded as a vital component to happiness. But it’s fallen out of favor in the past decade. Research — much of it led by Dr. Kristin Neff — has shown that self-compassion is a more effective way to increase optimism, happiness, curiosity, and connectedness. This episode talks you through the research and offers three very practical ways to incorporate self-compassion in your yoga practice and life.
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A lovingkindess meditation is a great way to generate compassion — or at the very least, a benign, friendly feeling — toward yourself and others. The traditional teaching is done seated, but as a personal note, I’ve found that it works well during walking meditation.
1. Sit comfortably on the floor with your legs crossed or in a chair that supports your spine.
2. Close your eyes and take a minute to focus on your breath. When you feel ready, repeat the following phrases to yourself or out loud:
May I be filled with lovingkindness.
May I be safe.
May I be peaceful and at ease.
May I be happy.
3. After repeating the above phrases to yourself for about 5 minutes, pause. Think of someone you love and conjure an image of that person. Then repeat the phrases above, focusing on that person. Instead of “May I be filled…” you can change the pronoun appropriately or use their name.
4. After about five minutes, you can try to extend lovingkindess to all beings — regardless of how you feel about them personally and regardless of whether or not you know them. The idea is to extend this kind, open-hearted practice to everyone.
5. When you’ve finished your meditation, notice how difficult or easy it was to offer lovingkindness to yourself vs. the person you love vs. extending it out to all beings. Everyone is different and every day is different. Remember that you don’t have to get meditation “right;” it’s simply a practice to commit to on a regular basis and concentration gets easier with time.
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