Photo Credit : Oluremi Adubayo.
Recently, I had the pleasure of joining an online retreat through the Insight Meditation Society. I’d like to share one teaching from meditation teacher Sharon Salzberg that I particularly thought was useful and beneficial. That concept was the idea of beginning again. When meditators are taught to concentrate on the breath the instruction given if their mind wanders (and it will wander) is to simply notice the wandering and come back to the breath, then – begin again. What Sharon highlighted and what I would also like to stress is that within that act of beginning again is a built-in act of self-compassion. We’re not beating ourselves up, we’re not engaged in self-criticism. We just notice the tendency of the mind to wander, acknowledge it, and come back to what we were doing and start over. Each time we do this we get a little self-compassion training and practice built in to our meditation.
Now I would like to extend Sharon’s teaching. Whenever we sit on the cushion (or chair or what have you) in meditation we’re not simply doing it for the sake of sitting. We’re cultivating mental skills that are intended to carry over into our daily life. So this type of self-compassionate way of working with ourselves is meant to be brought into our daily working and living lives beyond the cushion.
For instance, whenever we’re noticing we’ve slipped up in some way, practice being gentle with yourself and simply begin again. As Sharon Salzberg once said upon dropping a coffee mug, “Sharon you’re a klutz, but I love you anyway.” There’s little to be gained from beating ourselves up over perceived mistakes. If we can learn something for the future or correct a mistake that’s one thing, but constant internal self-criticism is rarely if ever helpful. For more on this topic along with scientific research supporting this way of working with ourselves, I recommend that my clients look at the self-compassion work from Dr. Kristin Neff.
This concept of “beginning again” is a very forgiving attitude. I hope you can give it a try!