What is self-compassion you might ask?
Self-compassion research has developed in the psychological world in the just the past 15 years, but it has its roots in Buddhism. Self-compassion is a newer concept but is based on the ancient idea of loving-kindness in Buddhism.
Dr. Kristin Neff, professor at University of Texas at Austin, began studying self-compassion years ago while struggling through her personal life challenges. Her research has shown that self-compassion helps individuals cope better with stressors in life, depression, and anxiety. It has also demonstrated why self-compassion is preferable to self-esteem. The basic components of self-compassion are: self-kindness, mindfulness, and common humanity.
Self-kindness means to offer yourself kindness and concern. Mindfulness can be defined as non-judgemental awareness of the present moment. Common humanity refers to the idea that we are not alone in our suffering. Essentially this means that, while you are suffering through your experiences and pain, there are other people who are suffering in the same or similar fashion. These three components combine to offer non-judgemental acceptance and kindness towards yourself as a human being. This is otherwise known as self-compassion.
Self-compassion is near and dear to my heart. I think it is important for some self-disclosure here. I struggled with feelings of depression for years. I found that I was highly self-critical of my actions, behaviors, intelligence, appearance, etc. I discovered self-compassion when I took a class with Dr. Kristin Neff. Something changed, and my eyes opened. I started to utilize her exercises both in class and outside of class, and slowly began researching similar authors to learn more about this idea. I can say now that I don’t really beat myself up anymore. Sure I have my moments, but I am human. Self-compassion has taught me a different way to look at life and at myself. So where should you begin? Sign up for one of our groups, pick up a book, or just start practicing mindfulness meditation for a few minutes a day. Slowly your eyes will open as well. I will leave you with an exercise:
Think about something that you did that you regret and are upset with yourself for. Write this event down in a form of a letter to yourself and then put it away for at least an hour but at most a day. Next I would like you to read this letter and think of how you would respond to a friend who had made the same mistake as you (hopefully you would respond to your friend compassionately; this is the key). Now write a letter to this friend who made the same mistake as you did. Consider now if there is a part of you that can offer compassion to yourself in the same way you would have offered it to your friend. Sit with this emotion, be mindful of what comes up, and offer your thoughts kindness and compassion as well.
Take care of yourself and be kind!
Written by Monti Pal, LPC-Intern
Whether you like it or not your son or daughter probably loves hip-hop. Whether that takes the form of expressing themselves through graffiti art or dance crews, buying the latest article of clothing from an emerging “urban fashion” designer, or listening to rap music. Hip Hop culture has almost effortlessly merged with the mainstream. Its appeal ranges across a broad spectrum of ages, races and economic statuses. Rap music ranked second in music style popularity in 2003 (according to Media Life Magazine), and like every other sub-culture that has moved into America’s living rooms, it can sometimes get a bad rap. But here are a few surprises from the hip-hop community that could be useful to your meditation practice, or could be the key to a more hip yet mindful life for your child.
Business mogul Russell Simmons (also known as the “Godfather of Hip-Hop”) in his second book, Super Rich, shares strategies on how to get past perceived obstacles to happiness and fill life with friendship, compassion, laughter, love, a sense of fulfillment, and, yes, money. When you use your gifts and serve the world, the world will in return reward you. Through real-life examples, Russell provides the concepts and tools needed to transform your relationship with yourself and the world for the better.
Tired of the same six songs on the radio? Give an album by MC YOGI a try. MC YOGI grew up in Northern California, painting graffiti and listening to hip hop. He spent most of his high
school years at a group home for at-risk youth. Then at age 18 he discovered yoga. Deeply moved by this powerful experience, MC YOGI devoted himself to learning everything he could about the ancient discipline. By combining his knowledge of yoga with his love for hip hop music, MC YOGI creates an exciting new sound that brings the wisdom of yoga to a whole new generation of modern mystics and urban yogis.
This small but powerful book might be just the thing to get that seemingly stubborn teen to give meditation a try. Ezir'ra James, a Licensed Therapist, explores the connection between Yoga and Hip Hop Culture in this booklet. After three revisions, it organically turned into a meditation performed in his daily practice which helped him overcome mild episodes of psychosis disorders. This booklet is for those interested in healing themselves through meditation and movement. Ezir'ra is also a long time Hip Hop head that proclaims his generation to be “b boy buddhas.”
If you need soothing music to help you meditate or maintain a pleasant mood try Hip Hop Yoga: For Meditation, Relaxation, and Sleep In the Urban Jungle by Workout Music is a two volume collection of songs that are hip hop influenced yet calming enough to use in all areas of personal and spiritual growth. The musicians that worked on this album are devout yoga practitioners and feel it is their mission to make these wonderful traditions available to the next generation.
The great thing about hip-hop becoming “main-stream” is that these wonderful tools are not hard to find. By taking a trip to your local bookstore or logging on to Amazon.com you’ll be able to find not only these items but a lot more just like it. You might be surprised how many beautiful things the world of Hip Hop has to offer.
Written by Brentom Jackson, RYT, LPC-Intern
More and more people are noticing the lack of motivation, emotional confusion, and displaced energy exhibited by teenaged boys and young men in our society. The startling statistics keep coming in (for every 100 females ages 15-19 that commit suicide, 549 males in the same range kill themselves; for every 100 girls diagnosed with a special education disability, 217 boys are diagnosed with a special education disability; for every 100 women enrolled in college, there are 78 men enrolled), and the smash comedies keep coming out (Failure to Launch, Knocked Up, Hall Pass), and new theories as to why keep coming up (testosterone deficiency, video games and social media, educational system). Everyone everywhere is trying to figure this thing out. In the meantime, the sons of our society are suffering. So what can we do right now to help? Here are three simple things you can do today to help your son’s true light come shining thru.
But not your typical questions. “Where were you last night?” “Did you clean your room?” They hate those. Instead, move towards questions that cause him to reflect upon deeper human feelings such as compassion, honor or responsibility. The next time the unmotivated male in your life is active and talking, ask him: “What was your most physically painful experience?” “What do you look for in a romantic partner?” “In your opinion, what makes a man, a man?” You may be pleasantly surprised by the answers, and he may be surprised that you care enough to ask.
I hear it all day from the high schooled age males I work with. “Really? You know about that!” Whether it’s Black Ops II (video games), A$AP Rocky (underground hip-hop), or Instagram (you should know), try to stay in the know. But more importantly it’s really about knowing the young man’s passion. Once it is discovered or revealed, feel free to challenge him to move forward with it, even if you have reason to believe it’s not a passion. Once I challenged a young man to become a professional gamer if he loved video games so much. He is now a college student, studying art. He realized that his passion was creating, and it was often the video games’ brilliant colors and graphics that held him captive for days on end.
Many males cry out for help well in advance. However, too often it occurs out of anger, and sounds like: “I don’t want to talk about it!” “You don’t get it!” “I don’t care!” And because of this, the cries often go unheard. Always be aware that, unfortunately, our society’s gender politics leave many males unskilled or feeling unsafe in the expression of emotions other than anger or exuberance. The next time anger shows up in conversation, be aware that another emotion may be hiding beneath it. However, do not add more shame to the situation by pointing out these underground emotions, simply approach the conversation mindfully with this discovery in mind. Eventually, the atmosphere of safety and compassion will allow the buried emotion to surface.
“Where there is one suffering, we are all suffering.” Whether or not you just noticed it today or it has been years, it’s never too late to help the young men in your life develop into the great men that they have the potential to become. Begin by using these simple tools, and don’t be afraid to seek out professional help if it’s needed. In the end, your son, and our world, may become a bit brighter.
Written by Brentom Jackson, RYT, LPC-Intern
At the Austin Mindfulness Center, we use Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), in which values clarification is a key component. One of the main goals of ACT is to help clients live the life they want, which involves acting in a way that is consistent with their values. However, many people struggle with clarifying their values on their own, often mixing up values and goals.
There are many ways to define values, but the definition we will discuss here is one that is specific to the ACT approach.
· In technical terms, values are “desired global qualities of ongoing action.” What that means is that they are the ways (qualities) in which you want to (desired) interact with the world, other people, and yourself (global), and there is no end to this pursuit (ongoing), meaning, we can always turn in the direction of our values.
· Values are like a compass, guiding us in making decisions as well as acting effectively and intentionally. We may not always follow the direction they are pointing us in, so values are best held lightly.
· Values are freely chosen by you and do not need to be justified. Everyone decides what is important to them, so values will look different for every person. Your values may not be the same as others values. Sometimes we decide on our values based on our family’s values, and other times, our values look different than our family’s values.
· Values often change over time, depending on where we are in life. As values change, we want to step back and re-prioritize. What is most important to you RIGHT NOW, in this moment? Are you acting in accordance with your values in your life TODAY?
· Values are not the same as goals. Values are HOW you want to act or behave on an ongoing basis, qualities that are available at any moment, and what is important to you in the present moment. Goals are future-oriented, an end product, something you want to achieve. An example of a goal is wanting a college degree, whereas the value behind that goal may be a thirst for knowledge or learning new things.
· Examples of values may include: being loving and caring, being open and honest, maintaining health, openness to change, justice and equality, tradition, etc.
When you are living by your values, you may feel like your life has purpose or meaning. You may feel like you have a strong sense of who you are and that you are truly living the life you want to live. If you are not living by your values, you may feel a sense of discord, struggle with acting in your own best interest, avoid painful emotions, and become fused with judgmental thoughts.
One way to start exploring your values is to do a values card sort activity, which can be found here. It’s often helpful to do this activity alone at first and then also do this activity with your family. Which values are family values? Which values differ from your family’s values? Are you acting in accordance with your values? Were you surprised by anything during this activity? By exploring what is important to you, you can start to take action guided by those values and live the life you want.
Written by Jondell Lafont, LPC-Intern
About Our Blog
Here you will find articles contributed by members of our team. We hope to provide helpful information here to inspire mindful living and general wellness. The information provided here is not a substitue for professional mental health advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you need to speak to a professional regarding your mental health, please make an appointment.