Self-love talk always freaks me out. It sounds cheesy, like a Saturday Night Live skit on affirmations.
I still am not really comfortable with the idea that I need to love myself. I mean, I understand it intellectually but can’t easily find a doorway into that love as a lived practice.
Please don’t send me invitations to ecourses to cultivate self-love or Oprah + Depak’s latest meditations on the subject. Really I get it. It is a good thing. I am just searching for a way to offer myself love that feels authentic and not forced.
But one thing I can understand is the need to stand with myself, even when I’m struggling.
Perhaps you too have noticed that those inner critic voices get louder when you are growing or changing?
So when you find yourself marching in lock step with your inner critic this is your clue to slow down… and offer yourself some kindness.
I love the Metta or lovingkindness meditation practice.
It has an awkward sound to it because we don’t have an exact translation for this sentiment of Metta into English. “Love” doesn’t quite cut it– it is too multivalent.
So lovingkindness it is sort of a made up word and an effort to capture a positive sensation we experience in the body.
Historically the meditation starts with offering a set of blessings to yourself and extending them to others: first a friend or benefactor, a “neutral person” like your UPS delivery man, and ultimately (if you are feeling brave) to someone who irritates you or has hurt you in the past. Lastly we extend the blessings to the whole world.
Increasingly some meditation teachers flip it, and invite you first to call to mind someone you love and offer the blessings to them. Then once your heart is warmed up, you can offer the kindness to yourself. Apparently this is because some of us have such a hard time generating that feeling of loving kindness for ourselves. (I’m indebted to one of my meditation students for sharing this observation with me recently.)
This inability to authentically offer ourselves kindness is a serious problem. A major roadblock to being happy and present.
Because if we only stand with ourselves internally when we think we “did a good job” or “got it right” then our love is quite fickle. And we spend a lot of time trying to earn that external approval because we can’t depend on ourselves to offer it.
Here is your week three practice, recorded one evening al fresco out under the stars.
We live on a street realtors describe as “a country lane in the city” which is near a creek and quite wooded. Lots of bugs and an occasional car driving by find their way into this recording. You can use all those noises as an extra invitation to stay with the mantras:) But if you find it too noisy feel free to try an earlier version here.
And Now Choose Your Commitment!
Engage your sense of choice as you design your practice this week.
Take a moment right now, a few breaths, close your eyes and feel into your body. What is the right commitment for you?
Could you do this loving kindness meditation for 10 minutes every day?
Or maybe 3 times a week? Or just once right now?
Share your commitment in a reply to the post. I will read and hold that commitment with you. Or share it with a friend. Or on social media (Don’t forget to tag me + use #summerofmeditationchallenge). Or all the above.
Social accountability helps to make it real.
While the gold standard for rewiring your brain with meditation is 30 minutes a day for 8 weeks, the benefits come much sooner and even with smaller doses.
And the best meditation is the one you do.
I so enjoy hearing from those of you who have tried out the practices (much of this has come via email and conversations. But I hold out a hope that some of you will post your commitments on the blog so others can hold them with you:) However and if you share, remember there is no behind in the Summer of Meditation Challenge! Just begin again today and set your intension for this week. xo
If You Would Like a Little Bit More…
I promised distilled this Summer. However, these are some of my deeper reflections if you are into that. Xo
QuickStart Mindfulness Question
How do you show yourself kindness? I’m not talking about the self-care things you think you should do, but the gentle offerings you actually crave and enjoy? Can you tuck a few of those in your daily schedule as “non-negotiable time” or NNTs?
For me morning meditation (currently happening before my husband leaves for work since I have the little people at home for the summer), yerba mate (a kind of green tea), and some time in the garden are my self-kindness daily requirements or NNTs. I’d love to hear yours! Leave me a comment below or via social media.
I had a great conversation this week with a leader who is bringing me in for an Enneagram workshop with his team. He shared a powerful observation, noting: “My team already does a great job. I don’t need them to work harder. As we go for these two big initiatives this year I just want them to know how to center and care well for their go-getter selves.”
Ahem. That my friends is a leader. Not only for the push, but for the people involved.
In the places where you hold influence, whether formal or informal, could you be a “self-kindness” leader? We all know our culture values outputs and productivity, but to really nurture people and communities we need leaders who remind others that they share their biggest gifts, and are most resilient, when they know how to offer kindness to themselves. Often this recharge comes through really small gestures, actions which seem almost insignificant (like a green smoothie) but on a daily basis make the difference between burnout and full-living individuals and thriving communities.
And one final note: people can sniff out inauthenticity. So if you push yourself super hard while telling your staff or kids or friends to take it easy, they will not be able to hear that message from you. Live it to give it, in self-kindness as in all other areas of life. Authentic leadership is whole life leadership.
I will be meditating each Friday at noon as the invitation goes out. Join me then or schedule meditation in your calendar at a regular time.
Until next week… where we will bring in some enneagram fun (aka personality types) into the meditation process. xo Courtney
PS Like to schedule me to come offer a workshop (on the enneagram and/or meditation) to your people? Email me at cp@courtneypinkerton with the specifics of your request and let’s talk more. xo
Courtney Pinkerton, M.Div & M.PP, is a holistic life and leadership coach and the founder of Bird in Hand Coaching. She holds dual masters degrees from Harvard Divinity School and Harvard Kennedy School, is the host of the Summer of Meditation Challenge and publishes a weekly e-newsletter on real-world mindfulness practices. Courtney teaches regularly on the Enneagram, meditation, and conscious approaches to leadership and parenting. She lives in Oak Cliff, Texas with her husband Richard Amory where they try to keep up with their three young children and remember to water their garden boxes. Courtney can be reached at email@example.com or you can schedule a complementary conversation to talk more.
Join the Summer of Meditation Challenge Here!