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How to Be Kind to Yourself

tree trunk in shape of heart

Let’s face it, sometimes we makes mistakes. This can lead to feeling like we’ve let ourselves or others down.

How we handle our mistakes is what’s important. Do you get defensive, angry or berate yourself for your mistakes, or do you use it as an opportunity to practice kindness to yourself?

Reframing Sin

Doug Duncan, one of Clear Sky’s founding teachers, addresses that loaded word, “sin” in his book Dharma if you Dare (launching July, 2020!). In essence he says that, rather than speaking to an evil deed that needs to be rectified or absolved, instead we can look at sinning as simply, “missing the mark”.

How does this change things? Well, let’s say you’re on a road trip with your friends. Then “missing the mark” would just be taking a wrong turn. When that happens, do you park and spend an hour berating yourself or apologizing to passengers? No, as soon as you realize what you’ve done you turn around, and turn your mind back to the journey so you don’t do it again. As a mindful practitioner you’ll note that it happened, and you’ll be motivated to look honestly at the moment and the reason you went off track. Guilt, defensiveness, or spending too much time on it merely keeps us distracted from the path.

As spiritual warriors, then, we’re trying to stay on the path that leads to awakening. Anytime we veer off the path, or even pause and step off it for a moment, our progress is slowed. And each time we veer off, we’re at risk of deepening these old, unconcious patterns. The point of seeing the “sin” isn’t about being at fault, it’s to remember the path we were meant to be on.

Mindfulness of the Body

Are you one of the many of us with the inner tyrant that berates us for our “misses”? Or perhaps a defensive wall hiding your imperfections. This is where the beauty of the teachers and the teachings can help. Either directly or indirectly, when we’re with teachers and committed seekers we’re pointed back to the path.

Exercise

In Dharma if you Dare, Doug Sensei points out one thing we can do when we get caught in our negative patterns – bring our attention back to bare sensations in the body. This brings us back to the path and away from our wandering, because we’re instantly in the present moment by looking at what’s occurring in the body.

  • What are the sensations?
  • Notice if your teeth are clenched or your shoulders hunched.
  • Notice whether the energy is around your stomach, heart, throat or brow.
  • Does it move when you bring awareness there?
  • Try to find the core of the sensation and watch what happens.

Taking the mind away from thoughts or emotions is not about suppressing or ignoring them, or avoiding difficult situations. Sure, some patterns, behaviors, and reactions warrant examination or discussion. With more spaciousness and grounding in the moment, we are better able to address difficult situations or messy conversations. And in meditation or retreat we can revisit these and reap the insights, because we have done the groundwork with mindfulness of the body.

If we can do this, it’s easier for others to be around us. And it’s easier for us to be around others. By surrounding ourselves with people doing the same, we speed up our progress because we spend more time on the right path and less time on detours.

Hence, “It’s Easier With Others” is Clear Sky’s fifth principle.

We’re producing a series of blogs inspired by teachings given in Dharma if You Dare as we approach it’s relaunch this July, along with Catherine Sensei’s book on the Gion Festival. Watch our social media or join our mailing list for more information.

Main photo credit: Engin akyurt on Unsplash

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