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My mind had wandered off for the 400th time.
I was doing my meditation practice one morning a few weeks ago, as I do most days. I was sitting cross-legged on my cushion. I was breathing in and out. I was watching myself breathe.
And then, I was somewhere else. My back hurt a little, which made me think of my massage therapist, which made me think of her house, which made me think of my own housing search, which made me remember.....
I recognized that my mind had wandered off for the 400th time.
And then, perhaps for the first time ever, I met myself with real compassion.
“Oh hi,” I said to myself softly. “There you are. Welcome back.”
It’s slightly hyperbolic to say I’d never done this before. I have been kind to myself in the past, at least theoretically.
I cognitively understand that meeting myself without judgement is at the essence of the practice. After 11 years of practice, you’d hope I’d have that one down.
But somehow underneath my attempts at self-compassion, there lurks a condescension. A snarky voice that says, “Of course you got caught up in thinking.” That sneering you holds all my unworthiness, disappointment and self-loathing.
And last week, just for a moment, it dissolved.
I've been told that one of my strengths as a teacher is creating spaces where my students can show up in their flawed fullness and feel warmly welcomed. The nicest feedback I’ve ever gotten about my teaching is that I talk to my students the way they wish they could talk to themselves.
For the past eight years, I’ve been talking to my students the way I wish I talked to myself. And last week, I finally used that voice on myself. I’ve been teaching them how to talk to themselves so that I could finally learn how to talk to me.
A friend congratulated me on my breakthrough, but it didn’t feel like anything nearly that forceful.
It felt like sinking.
It felt like melting.
It felt like rinsing off my salt-crusted heart.
It felt painful.
It felt sweet.
It felt different than anything else.
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