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Inner Dialogue: The Foundation of Compassionate

Rachel Alexander June 26, 2013

“Compassionate toward yourself, you reconcile all beings in the world.”
Lao Tzu , Tao Te Ching

We begin, always, with ourselves. If we treat ourselves with kindness, by listening and paying attention, we will naturally extend this treatment to others. If we are unkind, neglectful and abandoning of ourselves, not only are we more likely to treat others the unfortunate way we treat ourselves, we also teach others that we not only tolerate, but foster unkind treatment. The golden rule might be rewritten for our times: treat yourself how you would like to be treated. As within, so without.

How do we currently relate with ourselves? Do we pay attention to ourselves or keep our inner selves quiet with numbing-out activities? Do we keep the TV running so we don’t have to hear ourselves? Do we make time to enjoy the things we love, or do we work ourselves hard and forget to even inquire as to what we love?

How can we practice a different way? Some people say, “date yourself.” A booklet on self-compassion developed by English psychologists suggests focusing on being kind and helpful to one’s self. This could also be understood as parenting yourself. If you were your own child, you might employ gentleness, patience, encouragement, appreciation. You would give yourself time and be sure to schedule activities that would be enjoyable and enriching. You would pay attention to both fundamental needs (eating nutritious foods, sleeping well) and more complex needs (socializing, gaining mastery).

As a first step I recommend simply inviting yourself to listen – to pay attention. Simply set the alarm on your phone with a specific ring to go off at least once a day. When this tone is sounded, allow it to bring you back to yourself. No need to go deep and long into uncomfortable feelings or troublesome issues. Simply let the tone return you to the present moment.

Where are you physically when you hear the tone? Are you aware of your body? How does it feel in the chair? You may take this moment to simply ask, “How are you feeling in this moment, old/new friend?”