Mindfulness and self-compassion

Mindfulness, Living Well Dying Well Reflection

Suffering is an inevitable part of the shared human experience, find out how the practice of mindfulness and self-compassion can help.

In our very natural desire to relieve our own and another’s suffering we need to acknowledge two important considerations:

  1. In addressing the suffering of the person I am caring for, I must also address my own.
  2. Not all suffering can be relieved.

To recognise and integrate these principles into our lives is not a failure on our part, but rather, it acknowledges that unrelenting suffering can be an opportunity to learn how to focus and be fully present when we can’t do anything tangible to relieve the suffering we see and feel.

Learning how to remain present when we can’t fix something, make it better or can’t change the outcome is hard work. It is not the same as giving up – it is not abandonment, it is not failure. It is an act of compassion. Our full presence, care, empathy and compassion are true gifts that can be cultivated with practise if we are not attached to outcomes.

Mindfulness can help us navigate stressful situations and uncomfortable feelings, increase our capacity for empathy and allow us to reframe our lives with life-limiting illness.

By cultivating nonjudgmental awareness/ observation/curiosity and an awareness that suffering and grief are a part of life, the focus becomes about finding a way to be present to our living losses – our living grief. This allows us to stay with difficult and intense experiences in a way that allows us to learn to live alongside them and find healing in the midst of suffering. Grief is allowed to do its healing work.

The practise of mindful awareness provides a sense of groundedness that allows us to live the life that we can live. We can move out of feeling overwhelmed and instead, take up the invitation to live what can be lived in the circumstances and choose to respond rather than react.

Mindfulness Compassionate Response Meditation – G.R.A.C.E.

  1. Gather your attention – take a breath and focus on being in this current moment.
    Allow the breath to ground you….remain open to looking at your situation with fresh eyes.
    Become aware of any distractions and consciously choose to set them aside for this time.
  2. Recall your intention – what is most important to you at this time?
    What do you feel and believe matters the most?
    Affirm your purpose and deepest motivation towards yourself and others – what keeps you grounded and connects you to your highest values?
  3. Attune to yourself and others.
    Notice what’s going on in your mind.
    Notice what’s going on in your body.
    Try to sense how others might be affected by my situation at this time. What might be the experience they are living?
    How might others be experiencing me at this time?
    Meet what you notice at this time without judgement…
    Identify any biases you may have that could have an impact upon your relationships. Allow yourself to notice and experience empathy and/or affection with and for the individuals, family members and friends in your life at this time.
  4. Consider what will serve you and others.
    Notice what others might be offering you in this moment.
    What are you sensing, seeing, learning and feeling?
    Ask yourself what will really serve me and others here and now? (not what you will fix or what you will do)
  5. Engage in compassionate action emerging from this renewed sense of openness, connectedness and discernment you have created.
    Release all expectations – breathe out…
    Acknowledge the invitation to live in the present with others. Living the encounter of each present moment…

Additional resources

Living with the knowledge that death is close at hand can take a huge emotional toll. These resources will help you through the experience of facing death.