One of the things I like to do before going to bed is to make sure there are no dishes in the sink. I like coming down in the morning to start my day feeling calm, peaceful and curious about what the new day will bring. What I know to be true about myself and how I operate best in the world, is that the stuff around me affects my energy…. when my space feels peaceful, I feel peaceful. A sink full of dirty dishes feels messy and chaotic to me so that is why I make a point, most nights, to clean it up before I retire for the evening. The problem is that I am almost always the first person to go to bed and sometimes more dishes accumulate. This was the case last night.
My daughter is home from college for Easter, and she and her boyfriend were up several hours after me. This morning the sink wasn’t as neat and tidy as I had left it. One of the items in the sink was my favorite mug. You know the one… it’s the one that is just the right size, that fits in your hands perfectly and that when you drink out of it, you just can’t help but feel happy. I was up early this morning to get ready for my exercise class. When I came downstairs, I saw the mug in the sink. I knew that when I returned home, after the workout, I would want to use it to enjoy a nice cup of tea, so instead of putting it in the dishwasher, I began to hand wash it. Now, mind you, it is about 4:45 am and although I am a morning person by nature, I’m not fully awake yet. I’m not sure exactly what happened but suffice it to say that the mug slipped from my hand and broke 🙁
What happened next, you might be wondering!?! Well, I picked the pieces up, put them in the trash, and headed out the door without any negative thoughts or feelings. I don’t know about you, but for me, this felt like a little miracle, because not that many years ago, what happened next would have looked a lot different.
Here’s how the Laura from a few years would have reacted…
There would have been a significant amount of criticism directed at both myself, as well as my daughter. My inner critic would have had a field day. My self-talk would have been something like, “You are so clumsy! Why aren’t you more careful?!? If you would just slow down a little bit, things like this wouldn’t happen!” Blah, blah, blah….
But it doesn’t stop there! When something goes wrong, our egos want to project any negative thoughts and feelings away from ourselves and onto someone or something else, so my daughter would have been part of my inner critics rant as well. My inner dialog around her may have sounded something like this… “If only she hadn’t left the mug in the sink, this wouldn’t have happened! She knows I don’t like leaving dishes in the sink overnight! It’s like she doesn’t even care about what matters to me!” Blah, blah, blah…
Self-Criticism and blame would have disrupted my calm, peaceful and curious start to my day. I would have been frustrated and angry! But, I didn’t go there! That was the miracle 🙂
As I reflect back on where I am today versus where I was several years ago it is easy to see how far I’ve come. So the question I’m sure at least a few of you are asking is, ‘How did you get to where you are today’. The answer is by practicing being compassionate and really paying attention to my self-talk. I’ve been using something I call ‘ace-ing compassion‘. Here is how it works…
- Awareness – I believe this is alway the first step if. It’s a simple truth that you can’t change something you aren’t aware of, so listen to yourself. Pay attention to the thoughts that were present before you reacted. Learn to see your reactions as gifts that can teach you more about yourself. I believe that deeply knowing yourself is the key to your personal evolution.
You saw in my story above that before I started practicing being compassionate that my thoughts were all very critical – both of myself as well as of my daughter.
- Curiosity – Once you are aware of the thoughts you are thinking, get curious about them. Curiosity and wonder are beautiful lenses to look at life through because they take out judgement. Ask empowering questions about your thoughts like, “Is that thought true?”, “Can I absolutely know that’s true?”, “Could there be another way to look at this situation?”, etc.
Once I looked at the mug situation with curiosity, what I saw was that I actually believe I am a pretty coordinated person and not overly clumsy. The mug was slippery from the soap and I really believe it was just an accident. And, the truth about my daughter is that I know she loves me deeply, and blaming her would not help the situation.
- Empathy – The final step is to turn to empathy, both for the part of yourself you were criticizing as well as anyone you were blaming. For yourself, you want to practice talking to yourself like you would talk to someone you love and for anyone you might be blaming, I encourage you to look for a more generous assumption.
In my case, here is how I shifted my self-talk to be more compassionate and more in line with how I would talk to someone I love… “Don’t be so hard on yourself…It was an accident! And, it’s just a mug that can easily be replaced. Please don’t worry about it.” Then I shifted my inner dialog around my daughter. Instead of blaming or criticizing her, I chose to remind myself that I know she loves me…that sometimes I too leave dishes in the sink usually because I’m just so tired by the time I’m making my way to bed that it feels easier and, when I really think about it, I’m not sure I’ve ever actually told her that this is something that is important to me.
One of my guiding life principles is this…”Be the change you wish to see in the world”. A quote attributed to Mahatma Gandhi. I believe we can all agree that more compassion in the world would be a wonderful thing. So if you are like me and would like to expand compassion in your life, I hope you will consider joining me and the Wholistic Woman community on April 25th in Frederick, Maryland. I will be leading a workshop title ‘Be Compassionate’ where we will be exploring this topic. If you’d like more information, please click here.
In the meantime, I love hearing from you! If you start experimenting with the ‘ACE-ing compassion’ process, please let me know what you think. Talking to yourself like you would talk to your best friend or someone you love is such a simple concept but it doesn’t mean it’s easy. Please share your successes as well as your struggles. We all learn from one another. You just might be the teacher someone is waiting to hear from 🙂
Thanks for taking the time to read this and I hope you look for ways to bring more compassion in to you life today and in the days ahead. ~ Laura
Today’s author: Laura Hall, CPC, CDWF: As a certified professional coach since 2009, Laura Hall, Certified Daring Way™ Facilitator has been helping people just like you make changes in. As a mother of 2 girls, Laura has a special interest in coaching parents, so if you still have children living at home, ask Laura about her Wholehearted Parenting programs. Laura can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or feel free to visit her website HallCoaching.com