Tangled Weeds

If you have some experience of how the weeds in your mind change into mental nourishment, your practice will make remarkable progress.

Shunryu Suzuki

Self-empathy is a practice of giving attention to the weeds in your mind… so you can listen with presence to what they are pointing to. My scientist friend and gardener, Ian Thompson, says weeds are great indicators of what is missing in the important bed of soil. The same is true for weeds in the mind. They are pointers to what you may be yearning for and the underlying Needs that are present.

In the program, Ongo: Everyday Nonviolence “self-empathy is a practice of bring awareness and compassion to the thoughts, feelings and requests that arise within us in every day life.”

Self-empathy can help us to connect to the life flowing through us, as it is. Not having to change anything by force or complication. Self-empathy can increase our capacity to access presence and care and loving kindness.

Viktor Frank wrote, Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.”  For me, self-empathy creates space.

Space to breath.

Space to connect.

A short self empathy practice

Think of a situation that didn’t go quite the way you would have liked. Work through each of the following steps. Take your time to connect to with what is being asked of you in this moment.

  • Write down the observations of what you said and did. Imagine looking through a camera lens and write down the pure observations.
  • Write down what they said and did. Again, pure observations.
  • Connect with the thoughts and beliefs you have about yourself and write these down.  (I.e. This always happens, this will never work, I’m right. You’re wrong. Etc)
  • And then, connect with the thoughts and beliefs you hold about the other. (They will never change, they are right. They are wrong. Etc.)
  • Now read over the last step and circle the thoughts that you want to work with.

We come now to the Self-Empathy flow chart from the Ongo: Everyday Nonviolence program.

Connect with one of the thoughts you circled and say, silently or aloud, When I tell myself…..(insert your thought here). Take a breath and say, I feel…..   Be curious about what happens in your physical and emotional body. Connect with the body sensations and feelings that arise when you say this thought.

Say these out loud or silently.  I feel…..

Take a breath… or two. Stay really present to the truth of what is here.

When these feelings are present what Needs are alive in you. You may want to use this Needs list  to see what jumps off the page!

NVC Needs Chart

Click here to download a Needs circle.

Take note of the Needs words that you identified. Look at them and let them be in your awareness throughout the day. Check in with the ‘energy’ of the Need. How would it feel in your body if the Need was ‘met’.  Let the energy of the Need ‘land’ in your body. How is it alive in you?  Or does your mind say, This is not possible. This will never happen. Notice the thoughts that arise and you may want to go back to the start of the self-empathy practice with any sticky thoughts. It’s not always a linear process.

You might get to the feeling part and a stronger thought arises… go back to the ‘when I tell myself…..’.

The hand on your body can help keep you connected to where you are at. Thought. Feeling. Need.

Remember to breathe in between.

You may finish with a request that you have of yourself or the other. Go gently. Self-empathy is a loving kindness practice that create more space… and more power in your world.  Click here to download the PDF of the Self Empathy chart below.



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