It’s raining outside. I’m sitting inside listening to the rain and pondering the essence of Nature as I watch the raindrops and leaves falling. Nature is so beautiful… and restoring. The rain brings regrowth and soon the trees will be green again. How do we know that? Because we’ve seen it happen over and over, cycle after cycle.
The rain represents more than the cycle of nature. It is also a way of recognizing the internal cycles of emotions, especially in grief, which can help you befriend yourself with self-compassion and kindness.
Allow yourself to follow the “RAIN.” It can become effortless with a bit of practice.
R: Recognize what is Happening
A: Allow Life to Be Just as it is.
I: Investigate with a Gentle Curious Attention
N: Nurture with Loving Presence
(from “Radical Compassion” by Tara Brach, PhD.)
Recognizing means consciously acknowledging, in any given moment, the thoughts, feelings and behaviors that are affecting you.
Allowing means letting the thoughts, emotions, feelings or sensations you have recognized simply be there, without trying to fix or avoid anything.
Investigating means it is essential to approach your experience in a non-judgmental and kind way. This attitude of care helps create a sense of safety, making it possible to honestly connect with your hurts, fears and shame.
Nurture with self-compassion as you intentionally nurture yourself with self-care.
Rather than a judgment that says “I didn’t do enough” or “I should have _______ (fill in the blank), take a moment to consider your self-dialogue. You will notice the times that you find yourself being hard on yourself, perhaps even with a self-judgement.
We often discuss that the HOPE groups are meant to be a place of non-judgement. That’s one of the things that makes it a safe place. It’s not just a place of non-judgement toward others, it’s meant to be a place to be kinder and non-judgmental toward yourself.
That “non-judgement” means having Self-Compassion and tending to yourself as a friend. That may take some effort. Over time, you’ll find that the kindness of self-compassion is well worth the effort.
How do you find Self-Compassion? Sense what the wounded, frightened or hurting place inside you needs most. Offer some gesture of care that might address this need. Does it need a message of reassurance? Of forgiveness? Of companionship? Of love? Experiment and see which intentional gesture of kindness most helps to comfort, soften or open your heart. It might be the mental whisper… “I’m here with you. I’m sorry. I love you. I’m listening. It’s not your fault.” Trust and listen.
Of course, sometimes this isn’t so easy. It requires practice to create new paths of kindness toward yourself.
Self-compassion adds the gentle touch of care when you are in pain. When things go wrong, you might often try to suppress the pain, berate yourself, or leap into problem-solving mode. Imagine how you might support a friend who is suffering. Would you tell your friend to forget about it? Would you call your friend an “idiot?” Would you instantly try to fix the problem? Or would you offer your friend kindness, and let them know you care — that no matter what happened, you love them? Treating yourself as you would a dear friend, is the essence of “Tend and Befriend with Self-Compassion.”
I think of the HOPE groups as a melting pot of compassion, and about recognizing the common humanity, thus reminding you that you are not alone in your suffering. Self-compassion helps you slow down and reframe the situation in light of your shared human experience, which is the essence of the HOPE Connection grief support groups.
By practicing these elements of self-compassion, you can discover untapped reserves of strength, resilience and wisdom that help survive the storm. What’s more, self-compassion strengthens resources to better navigate future storms. It simultaneously soothes the negative and grows the positive.
May you recognize, allow, investigate and nurture your practice to Tend and Befriend.
May the cycles of nature bring reminders of self-compassion as you continue to walk this journey.
Photo courtesy Michael Podger