Self-compassion and insight

Self-compassion and insight August 17, 2012

“when I am safe for myself, doors of insight tend to open.”

As I have said often, my optimum life pace is about 30-35 mph.  I don’t know why it helps me to express it in mph units, but it does. Now, that’s not my maximum pace, just my optimum pace, the speed at which I can be most present to my life, making forward progress but not missing the freedom to take in and enjoy all I see along the way.  This is also the pace at which my traction is greatest, where all my strokes count, where risk and reward, experiencing and processing are in balance.

However, it has not been the pace of my last month.  Due to circumstances beyond my control, primarily our granddaughter’s early arrival intersecting with my mother’s need for sooner rather than later cataract surgery, my month has been more than full.

So, I am behind.  There is more to do than can be done.

Now, my guess is that some of you likely live in that place all the time and think that I am making a mountain out of a molehill. But, bear with me, this post isn’t about life pace, it’s about self-compassion.


I hate to be behind.  As a “six” on the enneagram, faithfulness is primary for me.  And when time and limitations do not allow me to be faithful to what I have said I will do, it’s not a pretty picture, internally or externally.

But what if, for once, I decided to respond to my loss and disappointment, stress and failure differently? What if I became a safe space for myself? What might happen then?

We know what it feels like to be with someone who is dangerous:

  • We are never sure if we are safe, even if we happen to be in their good graces at any given moment.
  • We shut down and ignore our own wisdom, tenderness, and mercy for the sake of belonging and any sense of relationship.
  • We lose site of anything but self-preservation and survival and our world becomes so, so small.
  • We can become drawn into their violence and cruelty without our own awareness and end up doing things we never thought possible.

I think of Herodias and her daughter.  Oh, what a tragic tale! In confronting Herod about marrying his brother’s wife, John the Baptist had threatened Herodias’ well being, or so she had concluded. She could not see that John was fighting for her honor, not her destruction. Her fear became hatred that spilled over onto her daughter in soul-deadening ways, advising her to ask for John’s head when she won the pleasure of the king.

Can you imagine becoming an active part of such violence?

Well, maybe I can.  I just snapped at my husband.

 I admit to often feeling desperate this week.  The woman in charge of my responses, within and without, has at times been cruel, especially within.  I confess that more than once I have used internal cruelty to silence my own voice of exhaustion and push ahead. Didn’t I just write a blog about not doing that?

The story the world tells is always one of scarcity and greed, desperation and smallness, anxiety and limited options.  Often, I make the mistake of believing that story.

I have been Herodias toward my own human limitations this week.

And in so doing I am beginning to wonder what I am teaching my own daughter about how to be a faithful mother.


We also know what it’s like to be in the presence of someone with whom we feel safe:

  • We laugh louder and cry harder.
  • Our mind opens and our hearts relax.
  • We risk, imagine, and create.
  • We can rest and sleep.
  • We become the people we are most truly.

I think of Ruth and Naomi.Together, they risked a big move into larger spaces.  Naomi explored the depth of her grief and loss. Ruth ventured in Boaz’ field and eventually into his bed. They celebrated God’s provision together first in food, then in relationship, then in a child. We see Ruth living faithfulness, kindness, and loyalty in a rich and full way… and Naomi doing the same with her journey from loss to re-born hope.

 The story of God is one of generosity, thanksgiving, and rest.

What if I could be Naomi for myself, a wise, authentic woman, unafraid of hard times and honest about personal limitations?

What if I could be Ruth for myself, a faithful companion to those parts of myself that are in pain?

What if I believed the story of God?

Who is the me that I will choose to meet inside of myself? Will I meet the desperation of Herodias or will I meet the kindness of Ruth?

Will I be caught up in doing violence against myself and others or will I faithfully lament and find new hope with Naomi?

When I can find self-compassion within, I can let go of what I cannot get done. Just let it go.  Let it be.

And when I am safe for myself, doors of insight tend to open.

For me this week, that has looked like noticing the beauty of what I cannot not do… celebrating what is…

 I made all my physical therapy appointments… telling me that somewhere inside I still hope for the end of this pain.

 All my mom’s eye drops were given as prescribed… telling me how important it is for my mom to be safe.

All the meals and even the M&M cookies got made… telling me how much I care for my daughter and son-in-law, and want to support their transition into parenthood.

 And I got to know my granddaughter a little better… letting me know that I am fully engaging a whole new landscape of love.


So, if you were to choose to be safe for yourself, what might you see in what is?

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