December 13, 2010
Self Compassion -- This quality of awareness cultivates love for yourself as you are, without self blame or criticism.
Talk about a final test. If I treated myself with the same compassion and tolerance that I would offer a kind stranger, my life, at the very least, would have gone a lot smoother and been considerably more fun. Luckily, it turns out you can teach a middle aged dog some new tricks, and it appears I've still got some decades left to use them. The past eight weeks I practiced and cultivated some pretty useful skills and I have a damn good feeling that some of them will enable me to eventually become the man I always hoped I would be.
What that would be is fairly simple. To embody self love and peace of mind so that I can use my time and energies to focus on helping others rather than holding myself up to a set of impossible standards that will only cause me to want for more and never be satisfied. To strive to be present even when it's far more appealing to look ahead to the future or to blame the past; to know that my thoughts are really just stories that I don't have to believe in or ever attach much importance to. To be truly comfortable being, when I'm not doing, is the sweetest freedom that I can imagine.
I've heard and concur that depression is anger turned inwards. If you're leaning in that direction when HIV becomes part of your personal reality, there's a whole new arsenal to berate yourself with. God knows, I went for the semi-automatic weapons. But you can learn, even if you haven't learned much recently, the lost art of self care. I am, one day at a time. Medications may have helped improve my brain chemistry but this add-on feels decidedly more empowering and for lack of a better word, authentic.
The gift of self-reconciliation was something I truly needed and finally offered myself this week. The total of my life experiences, even the ones I'm not very proud of, have brought me to the present moment and each of them has taught me something. Every obstacle I have encountered in my life, especially HIV, has only made me stronger and smarter than I was before. Now I understand, there's nothing to forgive, only to congratulate.
I feared when I set out to chronicle my endeavor that the discipline required to change years of mental conditioning would not only be an impossible challenge for me but that anyone on the fence about beginning a Mindfulness Practice would be put off or discouraged in some way. I hope that's not true. And if it is, I hope you give a try, regardless.
I'm not going to sugar coat it for you either. To make time every day to strengthen the ability to redirect my mind has not been easy. There are so many external forces that perpetually bombard us with opportunities to distract us from ourselves that this shit is hard; but the payoff is well worth any effort or time invested. I swear.
For the record, I know my journey has just started and the Attitudes I've tried my best to convey are just the beginning. Both books continue on with further exercises, and resources like emindful.com or facebook.com/MBSRWorkbook will hopefully help me stay connected to other mindfulness seekers beyond these past eight weeks.
I also found this poem (last one, I promise) within its pages. It spoke to me and I hope it helps if you find yourself discouraged along the way.
"Love After Love"
The time will come
when with elation,
you will greet yourself arriving
at your own door, in your own mirror,
and each will smile at the other's welcome,
and say, sit here. Eat.
You will love again the stranger who was yourself.
Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart.
to the stranger who has loved you
all your life whom you ignored
for another, who knows you by heart.
Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,
the photographs, the desperate notes,
peel your own image from the mirror.
Sit. Feast on your life.
-- Derek Walcott (1976)
Anyone else hungry?