Choosing a compassionate response

I’ve posted this quote from Viktor Frankl previously, and as someone who worked as a mindfulness-based psychotherapist for eighteen years, his words come to mind again and again. Especially now. We can’t control or deny (nor should we) the many stressful events of 2020, but we can choose our response.

In the midst of the pandemic, the wildfires and other natural disasters, the racial reckoning, the heartache and struggle, what can we do? We can start with an acknowledgement of our own suffering, and in the case of any form of suffering, offer ourselves self-compassion.

What do YOU need in terms of soothing, safety, or comfort? What small actions can YOU take to care for yourself? Start close to home, and then gradually widen your circle of compassion, as you are able. Tiny steps matter, yet first we need to start with acknowledgment. “To name it is to tame it,” a simplified reframe of what many clinicians like to say.

This past week, as my family (and hens) were forced indoors with unprecedented low levels of air quality, I chose – frequently but imperfectly – to reach for some of my own coping strategies. I focused primarily upon soothing the body’s understandable stress response (including fears about possible evacuation), and then ways to engage in meaningful action specific to my own values. We all benefit from connecting to the lifeline of common humanity – examples may include texting a friend, donating a few dollars to a local charity (if you have the means), directing a prayer to those most needing support, or offering a note of gratitude for the resources you enjoy.

Choose mindful awareness. Choose kindness. Choose self-compassion. Choose small daily steps you can take during these difficult times. And forgive yourself when you forget, when you react, when you fall down, when you become lost. Remember that you can always start again.

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