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Mindful : December 2014
narrows, and we become absorbed by feelings of insufficiency and insecurity. When we’re confined in the space of self-loathing, it’s as if the rest of human- ity doesn’t exist. This isn’t a logical thought process, but a type of emotional tunnel vision. Somehow it feels like I’m the only one who has failed or made a mistake, while everyone else is getting it right. And even when we’re facing a ha rdship that ’s outside our control—let’s say we develop a geneti- cally determined illness, for instance—we tend to feel like this is an abnormal state that “shouldn’t ” be happening. (Like the dying 84-year-old ma n whose final words were “why me?”) Once we fall into the trap of believing things a re “supposed” to go well, we think something has gone terribly amiss when they don’t. If we were to take a completely logical approach to the issue, of course, we’d consider the fact that there are thousands of things that can go wrong in life at any one time, so it’s highly likely—in fact inevitable—that we’ll make mistakes and experience hardships on a regular basis. But we don’t tend to be rationa l about these matters. Instead, we suffer, and we feel all alone in our suffering. When we remember that pain is part of the shared human experience, however, every moment of suffering has the potential to be tra ns- formed into a moment of connection with others. 3 MINDFULNESS To be self-compassionate, we need to be mindful, which entails being aware of present-moment expe- rience in a clear and bala nced way. It involves being open to the reality of what’s happening: a llowing whatever thoughts, emotions, and sensations that arise to enter awareness without resista nce. Why is mindfulness a n essential component of self-compassion? First, it’s necessar y to recognize you’re suffering in order to give yourself compassion. Although you may think suffering is pretty obvious, it isn’t always. When you look in the mirror and decide you’re over- weight, or that your nose is too big, do you immedi- ately tell yourself these feelings of inadequacy are painful, and therefore deser ving of a kind, caring response? When your boss calls you into your office and tells you your job performance is below par, is your first instinct to comfort yourself? Probably not. We certainly feel the pain of falling short of our ide- als, but our minds tend to focus on the failure itself, rather tha n the pain caused by failure. There isn’t much mental space left over to recognize the emo- tional suffering caused by feelings of inadequacy, let alone try to soothe and comfort ourselves in the midst of our suffering. 78 mindful December 2014 in practice insight Discover Sofa University Join a passionate, dynamic learning community that fosters multiple ways of knowing while embracing diverse paths of spiritual practice and development. Sofa University ofers bachelors completion, masters, and doctoral degrees in on-campus and hybrid: online / face to face formats so students can choose what best suits their needs and lifestyles.