GENTLE WITH YOURSELF
Turn your gaze inwards, breathe out deeply and set the intention to let go off the harshness. Trust the support of the earth and life flowing through you. As your mind calms and settles into your body, you feel your heart more. At first, you might feel its protective layers and over time, as you listen without an agenda, you will hear how it feels and what it needs. Then you can begin to care for yourself. Start right away with my free meditations.
By taking the Mindful Self-Compassion (MSC) programme you create a foundation of tender self-compassion in your life that acts as a buffer against stress. Sharing with others about our human imperfections in the MSC group provides relief from shame and isolation. If you notice your heart closing at the thought of being kind to yourself, then respect these blocks and gently work with those in my course Self-Compassion Made Easy or with your therapist as a preparation for a deeper dive at a later stage. Once that heart of yours is ready to open and to soften naturally, you can take time out in beautiful places in nature to fully land in your body and listen to your heart in a deepening retreat.
Step 1: Care
What is Self-Compassion?
What may sound artificial is in fact something natural. Remember the last time you felt bad about yourself? Ask yourself how you felt towards yourself. How did you speak to yourself? How did you act? And how did that make you feel in the longer term?
Not to worry if you were not as understanding and supportive, as you would have needed. Our organism is hardwired for survival and not for inner peace, so we need to consciously switch on our inbuilt care physiology to soothe ourselves. That is what we practice with self-compassion exercises.
We give ourselves what we would naturally seek to get from a trusted other in a moment of distress. Over time a kind and wise relationship with ourselves develops. We feel closer to our fellow human beings who – believe it or not – often struggle, too. This skill helps us to take charge of our mental health and be less at the mercy of our psyche’s conditioning. Self-compassion is a core mechanism of change on any journey of personal growth: be it psychotherapy, meditation or other modalities. It is a central ingredient that we can add explicitly to enrich our inner work and it naturally increases our authentic compassion for others.
How can I learn?
Many paths lead to self-compassion. There is no one size fits all. Guided meditations, group trainings, audio courses or psychotherapy are some of many options. If you are currently in therapy and noticing obstacles to letting in kindness, then consider gently warming up to the more focused practices by taking my course Self-Compassion Made Easy.
How does self-compassion work?
Mindful Self-Compassion (MSC)
The MSC Programme explained
Mindful Self-Compassion (MSC) refers to a specific mindfulness-based group training programme created by Dr Kristin Neff and Dr Christopher Germer in 2012. The MSC programme was developed for mentally stable adults in the general population who want to train in self-compassion. MSC is neither a meditation retreat, nor group psychotherapy, nor clinical skills training.
I have been instrumental in shaping the MSC curriculum and teacher training from its early days in 2011 until 2019 because I had already been teaching and researching compassion-focused therapy in the UK since 2008 as a clinical psychologist and mindfulness teacher. I was one of the first MSC teachers and teacher trainers alongside the founders and have taught and supervised new teachers worldwide. I served as a Board Member of the Center for MSC for several years and helped to establish communities of MSC teachers – in particular in Europe – and to develop the growing international community of teachers. You can find all bona fide MSC teachers on www.centerformsc.org and the many national associations of teachers that have been set up since.
The MSC 8-week training programme consists of 8 sessions of about 3 hours each and a 4-hour retreat. Participants are guided to develop emotional resources to deal with stressful emotions in everyday life more easily. It consists of guided meditations and exercises, educational inputs, self-reflection, structured sharing in small groups and teacher-led inquiry in the large group plus home practices.
When practising self-compassion, difficult emotions that we have not had time to feel and integrate may show up, such as normal grief after a loss. Having the resources to tend to any such emotions is necessary to ensure that MSC supports you.
Other prerequisites are:
- To be able to explore your inner experience without being overwhelmed
- To be able to reflect on yourself
- To feel comfortable in groups
The dense format of the programme is usually unsuitable for people who are currently mentally ill or otherwise under a lot of emotional strain, as it requires a lot of focused concentration, self-led working with emotions and self-reflection.
In individual therapy the pace of learning can be adapted to the individual needs of the person, which is not possible in the context of an MSC course.