Reflections - Catherine L. Phillips, MD

I’d like to share some reflections from the past few months, emerging from the MSC program. In MBSR we become aware of how our inner attitudes affect our experience- and we learn to recognize when our attitudes may serve us well, and when we might be better served by attitudes that are more “life affirming”. Many of us find it much easier to offer kindness, patience, acceptance or compassion to others than we do to ourselves- as though we are somehow immune to the need for these attitudes, or are undeserving of them. I have found the practice of Mindful Self Compassion to be life changing, and am now practicing the “Golden Rule” bi-directionally- “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”, and “Do unto yourself as you would (ideally) do unto others”.

I’d like to share with you what for me was the most powerful exercise over the 5 days of MSC. For one of the practices, Michelle introduced us to an exercise in Compassionate Self Talk.  Expecting to encounter an inner block, as I followed the instructions I started writing to myself the words that Michelle gave us as examples: “I love you. I don’t want you to suffer”. I kept writing, curious to see what might emerge. I was surprised as words spontaneously flowed from deep within me:

I support you

I want you to shine brightly- to be seen for who you are

To allow yourself to emanate

To birth yourself moment by moment

To feel safe and supported in your not knowing

To trust your feet will land on the ground

I am here for you; venture forth

Experiment with being

Go deeper into who you are to bring this into the world

Have fun

I am part of you- your grounding, your footing

I am always here- you need only remember, to feel my support

I love you.

I felt this deeply- this well within me of kindness and compassion that I so often extend to others; I felt deeply anchored in and bathed in this myself. I felt loved. I felt whole.

 We each deserve the same kindness and support that we would wish to offer a cherished loved one. In remembering more often to offer this to myself, I have become increasingly aware of when I live in a manner supportive to my wellbeing, and when I do not. From love stems a desire to relieve suffering- which means releasing of things that are not supportive of living with ease.

So often we turn away from ourselves- with business, work- the rationalizations are endless. Just as we are advised to apply our own oxygen mask in an airplane before assisting others, kindness and compassion can only be easily extended to others to the degree we have these in our own lives. What more solid a base to live from than your own inner reservoir of kindness and compassion- starting at home, with oneself.

I invite you to explore Dr. Kristin Neff and Chris Germer’s writings on Self Compassion, and to reflect on how this simple practice might powerfully and positively impact you and your life this year.

Warm Best Wishes for a Happy, Healthy New Year!

Catherine L. Phillips, MD, FRCP(C) is the Founder and Director of The Mindfulness                  

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