On the importance of compassion, rest and restoration
Good morning; I hope this finds you safe and well.
I like this message opening because it contains the word “hope”. Last week my post was long, and I was feeling focused and ripe with new ideas.
This week I am resting. The autumnal rains came, lifting the healing scent of soil into the air and calming my senses. I sat down for a coffee with someone with no other reason but to reconnect. I had a herbal tea with a friend while planning an eco-therapy group – both of us wrapped up, supporting each other’s flow. I planned a few more coffees in the upcoming weeks. I sipped my morning coffee in my quiet moments, softly watching the playful raindrops on our front window. I nurtured my newly discovered love for birch juice (magical!). I went back to the “The Vein of Gold” reflective journey to nurture a little bit of creativity too.
I needed those restful moments too. The week was heavy with significant work moments, decisions and challenges. At one point, I even felt stressed out – a rare occasion for me simply because, as a newly trained counsellor, I am aware of the impact of stress on clients. I cannot afford it. I need to prevent it and keep my emotions at a more balanced level.
As we enter a winter of despair here in the UK, I am wrapping up with additional layers of reflective practice, gratitude and hope. I expand my time intending to enjoy the moments we do have. I soften my directness. I pause and listen more. I allow myself a lot of time to practice self-compassion.
My Moleskine now has sections with a compassionate inner part’s voice, and those sections start and end with “xxx” to mark the change of tone. To mark the time of self-compassion and honest self-care too. Writing with a fountain pen on paper those three kisses feels like saying: “To Sylwia, with care and love…” or “Gentle reminder, you matter…”. The more I journal in my usual, honest, authentic, and completely open voice (my deepest, darkest, most-powerful thoughts), the more I seek the compassionate voice too.
Yes, seeing an Instagram photo of a Ukrainian solgier’s remains with a noticeable bracelet and an update stating that his wife spotted this image online (not linking to it, no need). That’s how she learned of her beloved one’s death – on social media. It’s hard to wrap my mind around the reality of those tools and platforms that signal connection and sometimes feel like one step too much. I felt the pain of the truth of that update, and I know the image will be stored in my memory next to the Syrian boy on the beach and all the others…
However, it makes sense that we hurt seeing those images. Every time this experience happens to me, I realise the importance of being present with our pain. Otherwise, if we absence ourselves from it, who are we? How would we see war without the pain it brings to our humanity? What story would we tell ourselves seeing just the invader’s posts? The complexity of truth is important to connect with. That is how we grow wiser. (This is written for you by a woman who entered the Auschwitz camp museum at the age of 10 with a father who told her to face history and learn to live in a way that leads to peace instead or war).
And here, the compassionate voice in my journaling helps. It is incredibly helpful to notice the pain and find ways of soothing it too. We need to rest and restore before moving on to processing, making sense of it all and building it into our personal actions.
So I go on, developing my own ways of restoring. I see new compassionate voice prompts emerging. When I journal this way, I start my sentences with those, and somehow the compassionate approach just follows and flows:
“It makes sense to me that I feel this way today because…”
“It is perfectly okay to make a mistake like this, considering…”
“It is understandable that I am feeling low today. This event made me feel….”
(This suicide-awareness statue re-appeared in Bristol this month; more from the anonymous artist here)
We have many parts in our psyche; we even say so: “One part of me wants to have that drink, the other part knows it will cost me three days of quality sleep”. We have parts that may feel heavier and darker, which is perfectly fine – it’s in our nature – and so we need to cultivate a kinder, compassionate, lighter response, too, sometimes. We need to learn to comfort ourselves and others too. Simply expand our menu of tools and healthy responses. To rest from this work. To heal for what comes next. To restore our energies for the future ahead of us.
When I mention my writing, journalling, and reading, I am aware that it may feel overwhelming to those of you who prefer to access audio, visual, mixed, movement and sensory ways of processing instead. Please, remember that we are all beautifully different. I encourage you to translate my personal habits into ways that fit your authentic self. Today I encourage you to seek and nurture your compassionate voice with the help of technology. You can use pen and paper (technology still, in my opinion) or digital devices, apps, a public blog etc. The idea is to introduce a compassionate approach to how we experience the world as it results in opening for connection and lightness.
Q: What sentences and words could you use as prompts to encourage your compassionate voice? What images, sounds, and landscapes could you notice to connect with your compassionate part? What weather conditions facilitate your compassionate state of body and mind? If your compassionate part was a fictional character, what would it look like? If it was a landscape, how would you travel through it? If it was your guide, what message would it offer along the path you are on now? Who can remind you of your compassionate voice in your current offline and online networks?
(The sun is out today, and it is gorgeously windy, so I hope to venture out to our allotment and check on the pair of frogs who have honoured our pond with their plans for wintering there. Wishing you a light week ahead!)
This post was originally posted on Substack in our Syl’s Liberation Psychologies Newsletter