On self-compassion

Today I naturally woke up during brahma muhurta, those one-and-a-half hours before sunrise, best time for knowledge and connection with divinity, as described in sacred texts like the ayurvedic Ashtanga Hridayam (for more on brahma muhurta, click here). I had set my alarm for 7 am, but at 5.14 am I was awake. I tried to go back to sleep, but my mind was too fresh and alert. It was pouring down outside and cold in the bedroom, yet I still sat down in bed encouraging myself to meditate. A mantra came to mind, and I found it on YouTube, focusing my attention on such a pure and touching chant – Namo Avalokiteshvara. If you haven’t listened to this mantra yet, I highly recommend – watching the video on YouTube (below) is highly soothing and moving.

Namo Avalokiteshvara is known as the Great Compassion Mantra. I heard it for the first time while watching the documentary Walk with Me – it had a profound effect on me; it really touched my heart and after a few minutes listening to it, I do feel like my heart is melting with compassion.

Compassion – and particularly self-compassion – has been an important aspect of this journey I’ve been through lately. I was raised to be tough, to hold my cry, to get things done no matter what emotions I was having, to never fail. So it’s natural that I go easily into a self-criticism mode and feel inadequate when/for having hard times. Or I just somehow ‘forget’ that I’m going through so much and start doing too much, putting on my plate many more things than it can hold, until I’m reminded through a chat with someone that I’ve been going through a tough time, and that it’s normal to take it easy. So more and more I’ve been finding that I need to practice self-compassion, self-kindness, and self-love while navigating this journey. And I think I’ve been succeeding in doing it here and there. When things get hard while I’m sorting things, packing, or just when emotions arise, I try and cultivate understanding and kindness toward myself. Like it happened yesterday – I was packing and this avalanche of emotions hit me, as my mind started to think about my uncertain future and the fact that I’m leaving my life as know it behind. I let the emotions flow, distanced myself from packing, thinking: it’s ok, I can sit with my emotions now and come back to packing tomorrow. For some, this might seem like a natural response. But for people who have always been criticised for having emotions and for their sensitivity, being so gentle on themselves may take lots and lots of practice, and a voice may still echo in their head questioning if being warm and accepting is really the right thing to do.

I’m glad I was up in brahma muhurta, with a fresh mind, ready to accept compassionate energy from the mantra, and with clarity about what I’ve been learning about self-kindness and being imperfect. This opens a new window to see everyone as imperfect, and to be compassionate and understanding also toward everyone around me. It’s a new perspective on life!