As the holiday season begins to set in here in the U.S. — a time of year that many of us may find fraught with expectation, stress, and even grief — it is more important than ever to practice self-compassion. In the Vedas, the idea of atma-kripa is prevalent, and translates roughly to "self grace." Self grace is the ability to lift ourselves up in authenticity and truth, manifested in the way we speak to ourselves, the way we honor our desires and dreams, and our commitment to moving along the path of our Dharma.
Even when the external world is not stressful, our inner critic can move into hyper mode, and lead us to criticize ourselves to the point of detriment; finding reasons to shame or blame ourselves. The feelings of helplessness and pain that comes from this kind of negative self treatment are real. Of course, we do not move through the world alone, and oftentimes these feelings of stress, shame, and criticism come from the external world. And yet even when we feel that there is no compassion coming toward us, we can cultivate this sense within and quiet the voices in our mind that tell us otherwise.
To practice self-compassion, it can be extremely helpful to first set a heart-centered intention, a Sankalpa, to demonstrate compassion oneself. Acknowledging your own motivations in practicing self-compassion can help you to identify where you can make practical changes. When we allow ourselves the time and space to tap into the wisdom of our heart's desires, we release self-abandonment; we give ourselves permission to listen to what wants to be heard.
Some of these practical changes can be as simple as forgiving yourself for mistakes you may have made, without internalizing toxic blame. Self-compassion can also be more tangible, like giving ourself time to exercise, or leisurely cook a healthy meal, or spend some time in nature. It can also be as simple as hugging yourself in front of a mirror.
However you choose to explore it, give yourself the gift of atma kripa this week, and experience the radiance of true love flowing back to you.