Don’t meditate to fix yourself,
to heal yourself,
to improve yourself,
to redeem yourself.
Rather, do it as an act of love,
of deep warm friendship to yourself.
In this way there is no longer any need
for the subtle aggression of self-improvement,
for the endless guilt of not doing enough.
– Bob Sharples
This weekend I am grateful for participating in the Mindfulness and Happiness workshop at the Sacred Treehouse by Piero Falci. The class was filled with so much wisdom and encouragement to move toward happiness through using many active steps, including the important act of truly SEEING the moment as it is, filled with both positives and negatives. Piero shared the term negativity bias, the nature of the mind to see the negative as a survival instinct, and how this automatic mechanism can become all one focuses attention on, with the exclusion of what else is also present. The mindfulness and happiness workshop is dedicated to helping people exercise the ability to expand and see what else is here, to truly feel it, to soak it in, and to allow participants to see and feel for themselves that life is filled with both and it is not their fault that they see the negative. In fact, the mind has been described as being quite like velcro for negative and teflon for positive emotions and experiences, requiring some effecting at seeing and feeling the positive.
Meditation and mindfulness were shared as ways to cultivate the positive states and to increase the ability to see beyond the negative. What I shared at the end of class was my appreciation that Piero wisely warned participants of the danger of the subtle aggression of self improvement. This encouragement to take in the lessons, the ideas, the suggestions given in class with a warning to use them with care and kindness. So often we can engage in self help courses and daily practices because we are trying to perfect ourselves, to become worthy, or lovable. This is a slippery slope because the underlining belief motivating the action is unworthiness, self criticism, and even self hatred. Actions that stem from this belief are inherently negative and therefore more likely to bring self harm.
As Bob Sharples writes above, do not meditate (or engage in any self help practices) from a place of fixing or perfecting, rather care for your self from a place love and kindness. For those of us in the world who have struggled with the idea, nonetheless the act of self love, it is perfectly ok to start with the intention to love oneself.
Try this before you start to meditate, exercise, eat, or practice any other form of self care.
Am I trying to perfect/improve/heal/redeem myself?
If so, set the intention to drop all expectations and continue with loving and caring for yourself just as you are right now…perfectly imperfect.
With gratitude and love,
Patty and all the Sacred Treehouse faculty.
Patty Thomas Shutt, founder of Sacred Treehouse, is a licensed psychologist and co-owner of Therapeutic Oasis of the Palm Beaches. Dr. Shutt is passionate about helping others discover the benefits of mindfulness and meditation. She offers Beginner Meditation & Advanced Meditation classes at Sacred Treehouse, in addition to Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction, Mindful Self-Compassion and various book studies throughout the year.