Cultivate Self-Compassion With This Lovingkindness Practice

Updated on 4 minute read

This is my simple religion.

There is no need for temples; no need for complicated philosophy.

Our own brain, our own heart is our temple; the philosophy is kindness.

-His Holiness the Dalai Lama

For most of us, being kind to ourselves just doesn’t come easily.

Self-compassion is a muscle that can be developed no matter your history or past.

As women, wives, and mothers, we tend to put ourselves last.

Our self-care and self-love practices are often an afterthought.

And yet, self-compassion is exactly what’s needed to nurture Mom.

Our kids don’t learn by what we tell them as much as they learn by what we model to them.

The way we treat ourselves and how we talk to ourselves gives them cues about how to treat themselves.

As parents and future parents, learning to generate lovingkindness towards ourselves is a duty and a privilege.

One way we can start the self-love fest is by practicing the yogic principle of ahimsa.

Ahimsa is about non-violence and non-harming.

It’s about having good intentions and benevolence towards ourselves.

The Yogic Roots of Self-Compassion

It’s the first step in the practice of true yoga practice and it’s the first of 5 foundational self-regulating behaviors (Yamas):

1) Ahimsa (non-violence)

2) Satya (truthfulness)

3) Asteya (even-exchange, non-stealing)

4) Aparigraha (non-attachment)

5) Brahmacharya (non-excess)

The Yamas are the first of 8 major limbs outlined in Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras – the earliest known system of yoga practice (known as classical yoga) written somewhere around the third century AD.

The Yamas (the first limb of yoga) and the Niyamas (the second limb of yoga, personal training) both are considered the backbone of the ethical standards and guidelines for true yoga practice:

1) Saucha (cleanliness)

2) Santosha (contentment)

3) Tapas (self-discipline)

4) Svadhyaya (self-study)

5) Ishvara Pranidhana (surrender and dedication)

Given today’s modern yoga culture, it’s easy to mistake asana (postures) practice for true yoga practice in its entirety (observing all points of the 8-Limbed Path):

But you don’t need to be able to do a handstand to be a yogi, and you don’t need to turn vegan to practice ahimsa.

The practice of ahimsa actually starts within – by directing loving-kindness towards ourselves first.

You can incorporate ahimsa into your daily life by… becoming your own best friend.

How To Be Our Own Best Friend

Have you heard of the saying “as within, so without”?

It means that your internal world creates your outer world.

So the world will reflect back to you the way you treat yourself internally.

Through the daily practice of ahimsa, you can increase your own sense of well-being.

Treating yourself with compassion is powerful.

And while it’s relatively easier to observe this practice of benevolence and non-hatred in relation to others, it tends to be more challenging in relation to ourselves.

We can be our biggest critics, judges, and bullies.

Think of the beliefs you hold about yourself.

The tone of your internal dialogue.

How do you speak to yourself?

What messages do you send to your body?

What thoughts swim around in your mind when you catch your reflection in the mirror?

Every time we think “not enough” we unleash a small internal burst of violent energy.

But… we can change that pattern.

We can change how we relate to ourselves.

We can choose to be kinder to ourselves.

We can choose to wish ourselves well.

We can combat inner violence with heartfelt gratitude.

Gratitude is like a muscle, the more you work it the stronger it gets.

[BG Music: Chris Zabriskie, “The Temperature of the Air on the Bow of the Kaleetan,” Licensed under Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0),]

A Self-Compassion Practice

Take a moment for yourself – to come home to yourself.

It’s time to stop what you’re doing and go inwards.

Sit comfortably and upright.

Close your eyes and place both hands over your heart or join palms together to form Anjali mudra.

Notice whatever sensations are present.

Maybe you can sense, hear, or feel the pulse of your heartbeat.

See if you can feel the subtle rise and fall of your chest as you inhale and exhale.

Follow your inhales and exhales and breathe with full attention and awareness.

Engage your lower belly as you inhale so that it expands outwardly and contracts inwardly towards your spine with each exhale.

Imagine the palms of your hands radiating warm light into your chest.

Picture it penetrating each layer until the light reaches your heart.

Feel that for a moment.

Stay present with it.

Be fully present as you nurture your own heart with your own light.

Now begin to direct loving-kindness and good intentions towards yourself.

Repeat after me (either out loud or internally):

May I be healthy.

May I find inspiration.

May I love and feel loved.

May I create my own fulfillment.

May I learn from pain.

And again…

May I be healthy.

May I find inspiration.

May I love and feel loved.

May I create my own fulfillment.

May I learn from pain.

And again…

May I be healthy.

May I find inspiration.

May I love and feel loved.

May I create my own fulfillment.

May I learn from pain.

Once more:

May I be healthy.

May I find inspiration.

May I love and feel loved.

May I create my own fulfillment.

May I learn from pain.

And so it is, and so it will be.

Sat nam.

I am truth.

We are truth.

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