Life offers no shortage of difficult times where you need to find a way to be your own best ally instead of worst enemy. Mindful Self-Compassion (MSC) offers a simple yet powerful way to give yourself a break during a really hard time. It uses three simple phrases:
“This is a moment of suffering.
Suffering is a part of living;
And so, how may I be kind to myself?”
Try saying that to yourself silently a few times. (I hope you actually did. If not, then there’s still time!)
Now, let’s briefly look at the phrases one-by-one.
“This is a moment of suffering.” If you need a self-compassion break, then by definition you are suffering. Part of the genius of this statement lies in the absence of judgement or ranking of the suffering. Suffering is suffering, whether large or small. Also, the statement reminds us that we are only in this moment of suffering. We always only experience one particular moment at a time, so this suffering only exists in this particular moment. The practice of being in the moment is mindfulness, and mindfulness is a key component of MSC.
“Suffering is a part of living” This matter of fact statement reminds us that yes, it’s normal to suffer. Dig a little deeper and you soon remember that suffering is part of the human condition. Common humanity is the second key component of MSC, and suffering is one way in which we’re all human.
“And so, how shall I be kind to myself?” Self-compassion is the final key component of MSC, and this is where the whole thing pivots. We so often respond to suffering by allowing our internal critic to attack us in our moment of pain. Instead, we’re reminded to respond to our suffering in the spirit of a really good friend. We’re reminded to respond to our own selves with kindness and compassion. The question lingers … “how shall I be kind to myself?”
Practicing the Self-Compassion Break
Use this informal meditation practice in a variety of ways:
Use an audio recording to get started by following along with instructions (you can find the Self-Compassion Break meditation recording here).
Read or think through the phrases once or twice in your moment of need.
Meditate with them for several minutes:
Cycle through the phrases as written above, either reading them or from memory.
Or, you might repeat each phrase over again until you sense you’re done with that phase. When you’re ready, move on to the next.
Learn more about Self-Compassion
I use Mindful Self-Compassion in my work with most of my clients; sometimes it’s more direct and obvious, and other times more nuanced. Feel free to contact me if you’d like to explore working together individually.
I’m also a Trained MSC Teacher, and offer the 8 week Mindful Self-Compassion course developed by Kristin Neff and Chris Germer. More information on that can be found here.