If you’re like many people at this time of year, you probably have had and will continue to enjoy your share of holiday indulgences in the form of food, alcohol and several celebrations. You probably have also had your share of difficult or even painful experiences in the form of financial worries, feelings of guilt or shame because of your indulgences or simply because you are alone and have not received the invitations you were hoping for from the people who are in your life. While all of these experiences are both very reasonable and frequently lead to short term gratification or pain, they will not help you to experience an unshakable and enduring appreciation for life or lead to the root of cause of happiness.
As a reader of my blog, you’ve read about how research on self-compassion and mediation practices like Loving Kindness and R.A.I.N. can help you to effectively reduce your unpleasant or painful emotions and improve your well-being and health. Nonetheless, you may resist the idea of being kind with yourself or prioritizing these practices into your busy life schedule because you struggle with an addiction (i.e., drinking alcohol, binge eating and emotional eating, using the internet as a distraction) or you are unable to sit to still your mind and make friends with your pain.
Taking perspective and imagining your mind as an infant who is learning to walk and eventually run will help to soften the pain. Just as you would never shout at the baby for stumbling and falling, remembering to shift your perspective will help you to cultivate patience, trust and faith in letting go of your ineffective strategies to control and avoid the pain and discomfort that you may experience in your life. Likewise, imagining that you are feeding an infant who does not sit still or is crying when you experience distress or are distracted will help you to shift your attitude and be patient, loving and even playful with your mind.
If these gentle reminders do not seem to be enough to ease your pain, the traditional practice of giving and taking (i.e., Tonglen) as described by Pema Chödrön may offer you relief and help to open your heart to deepen your compassion in order to experience vitality and bliss. While Tonglen meditation may appear to be overwhelming as you envision breathing in the pain and suffering of other people, the simplest form to practice Tonglen “on the spot” is simply to repeat “other people feel this too” each time you experience an unpleasant or painful emotion (e.g., the anxiety you experience in meeting a deadline at your job, the pain in your body because you fell and bruised your knee, the loneliness you experience because you have not been invited to the your friend’s holiday party). Similarly, each time you experience a pleasant feeling or have pleasure in your life, repeat “may other people experience and delight in this too.” As you practice consistently, Tonglen will help open your heart to deepen your compassion and ease your suffering. You will also experience peace and joy as you notice and become aware of your everyday simple pleasures in life (e.g., the sun’s warmth on your skin on a cool day, the delicious taste of your favorite meal, the post office worker’s smile and help).
To your health and success,
To learn more about how working with a psychologist and holistic health coach can help you to enhance your health and well-being, call or email Dr. Sandoval to schedule a free consultation.
The information, published and/or made available through the www.drjosesandoval.com website, is not intended to replace the services of a physician, nor does it constitute a physician-patient relationship. This blog is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice. You should not use the information in this post for diagnosing or treating a medical or health condition. You should consult a physician in all matters relating to your health, particularly in respect to any symptoms that may require diagnosis or medical attention. Any action on the reader’s part in response to the information provided in this blog is at the reader’s discretion.