Think you need a 3 step breathing space? Try a Compassion Connection instead
Lengthy mindfulness practices can be seen as crucial to help us develop grounding and stability within ourselves, particularly when times get tough. However, for many of us it’s knowing how to deal with stressful situations as they arise throughout our day and developing tools to help us that is our key concern.
Popular 8-week mindfulness courses such as Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) as developed originally by Jon Kabat Zinn, use a short practice called a 3 step breathing space. This important practice brings mindfulness into our daily lives in the midst of difficulties and allows us to ground ourselves, connect with our breathing, and expand this focus to the whole body and beyond. It helps us to then go about our daily lives in a more skilful manner, for example affording us the space to choose how to respond to a situation, rather than react. This steadying practice is highly beneficial when we feel lost among thoughts and stressful events, internal or external.
Sometimes however after completing a 3 step breathing space while we feel steady again, we find ourselves needing something more, perhaps needing something that connects and steadies our heart, as well as our minds. This is an essential short practice that can help us develop love, kindness and compassion towards ourselves as well as others day to day throughout our lives. This is where practicing a Compassion Connection © can help. I use this is my own life when experiencing difficult emotions (e.g. trying to deal with a screaming toddler, feeling lonely, noticing my mood drop). Follow the guidelines below to try it out for yourself:
- Stop what you are doing and ground yourself. Feel the soles of your feet steady in contact with the ground or a shoe or sock. Moving to a wide ‘mountain’ stance (leg hips-width apart) can greatly help with this. Let your arms hang by your sides and straighten your back. Let your ribcage open by pushing your chest out slightly. Imagine that roots are spreading from the soles of your feet into the ground below and a silver thread from the top of your head is lightly pulling you up toward the sky. Calm, steady.
- Send yourself kindness. Do this gently, a small amount of genuine feeling is much more useful that a wave of forceful emotion which you can’t connect with. Some people might imagine breathing in kindness with every in breath, or perhaps giving kindness a colour and imagine that flowing toward you. Sending yourself kindness also means being kind with yourself when the kindness towards yourself is feeling really tough!
- Send kindness back out into the world to others who are suffering. When things are tough for us our minds and thinking begin to shut down and we become inward focusing. By sending our kindness out into the world (be it to people in our work building or our family, people in the local area, or perhaps people with the same stressors as us such as parents or other people who are depressed) this helps move our minds into a different mode of being open and expansive, or ‘approach’ mode instead of ‘avoid’. Knowing there are others who suffer to can give us strength and make us feel connected, know that there are other who are likely to be in a worse situation and we know we are not alone.
I would love to hear your thoughts on using the Compassion Connection! Your comments are appreciated and you can send me your thoughts directly at firstname.lastname@example.org