This month's poem ~ Remember by Joy Harjo ~ inspired this month's self-compassion practice. When you are struggling or busy, it can be easy to think that you are separate and disconnected from other people and from the world at large. At these times, you may believe that don't know how to be kind to yourself, that you need to learn more skills and techniques in order to relate to yourself with compassion. In a way, thoughts like this come from the inner critic; and they reflect a belief that you lacking.
This way of thinking, and self-criticism generally, is a form of forgetting: you forget your place in the world, who and what you are connected to in this moment and through space and time, what you have experienced, what you deeply know, who your teachers are, what it means to be a beginner, and that it's natural to need help sometimes. You identify with an idea or story of who you're supposed to be and you forget who you actually are.
If you would like to tap into a more compassionate relationship with yourself and to remind yourself of who you are, try this exercise. It's ideal if you can do it outdoors, but you can also do it indoors near a window.
1. Close your eyes and take three slow breaths.
2. Look at the sky. Notice how it is: maybe there are clouds, or perhaps it's a clear, bright blue, or a pale soft blue. Maybe it's gray. Maybe it's stormy. Just let the sky, as it is right now in this moment, register with you. Take a moment to really pay attention to what's up there.
3. See if you can find the moon in the sky. It may not be visible, but look for a few moments. If you aren't able to see it, close your eyes and imagine the moon in your mind. Remember whatever you know of the moon ~ maybe just the way that it is out there right now, in the sky, even though you can't see it. Or the way that it influences the oceans' tides.
4. Notice the sun and where it is in the sky. Perhaps it's a bright day and you can easily find it. And even if you can't see the sun directly, maybe you can feel its warmth on your face or on your arm. Perhaps the light that filters through the clouds casts soft shadows. Or maybe it is casting more pronounced shadows. Recognize the sun's presence as it is now. Take a moment to acknowledge that the sky, the moon and the sun have been with you since the day you were born, and for millions of years before you.
5. Now, close your eyes and imagine your parents or the people who raised you. This may bring up complicated feelings, and that's ok. Make room for whatever arises. Recognize there is a way that your life is evidence of your ancestors' lives, their joys and their struggles, and that you are connected to them, even those who you have never met or known. Let that register.
6. Wherever you are, see if you can make contact with the earth. If you can put a hand or a foot on the earth, do that. If you are looking out a window, see if you can find a patch of grass or bare soil. Recognize your connection to the earth; the ways that you, together with all the other beings who live on the earth, are its "skin."
7. Notice any plants or animals nearby. Perhaps you see a tree, or a rose bush, poppies, some weeds or grass, and the wind that may be blowing through. Maybe there are birds chirping, or a squirrel scurrying up a tree trunk, or your own pet sleeping beside you. Take in these beings and their wisdom as best you can. What might they be communicating to you in this moment, through the way they live their lives?
8. Take a moment to recognize the ways that you are connected to the people around you: perhaps there are others who happen to be present at this place and time. Also, see if you can sense the ways that people all over the world may be feeling whatever you are feeling right now, how you are a human among humans.
9. Taking it a step further, see if you can tap into your sense of being the universe. You are connected to it. And, as Carl Sagan has said, all of us on earth were essentially born in collapsing stars and are made of "starstuff."
10. Finally, remember that everything is changing all the time ~ including yourself and everyone you know. Life is constantly growing and moving, and we are invited to dance with it; even when we feel like wallflowers. Take a moment to let this all register; to remember, more fully, your place and who you are.