The one person you may be forgetting to be a good friend to

One of my best friends and I decided to go to a day-long retreat at Spirit Rock, a meditation center tucked into the beautiful rolling hills of Marin County.  She and I are both go-getter personalities, and have been exploring mindfulness as a way to mitigate the stress we sometimes encounter at our jobs.

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The day we went was bring-a-friend day to the day-long meditation retreat at Spirit Rock.  The instructor, Anushka Fernandopulle, pointed out that in addition to bringing a friend to the retreat, we would learn how to become a good friend to someone we often forget to be a good friend to — ourselves.

This is truly something I’ve been struggling with lately.  When a friend is feeling emotional, I can empathize and make space for her to vent if that’s what she needs.  When a friend is feeling exhausted, I can recognize the tiredness in her voice, and I’m happy to support her in making time to rest.  And when a friend is feeling like she isn’t doing/being enough, I can acknowledge how she feels, and if appropriate, offer an outside perspective to reassure her that she is enough.  If a friend needs me to just listen and tune into how she’s feeling, I can do that.

Rarely do I offer these comforts to myself.

In learning about mindfulness, I’ve been experimenting with  treating myself with the same compassion I would normally extend to others.  When listening to a friend, I set judgement aside.  What would it be like to set aside judgement of what I find when I tune into my own thoughts and emotions? 

Today is the first day of Lent, which makes me think about what I’m going to give up for the next forty days.  One of my friends recently tweeted “What if Lent was about letting go, rather than giving things up?” (click to tweet)

What if I let go of judgement, striving, and inadequacy, and in the process became a better friend of myself?  How might my life, temperament, and interactions change if I could treat myself with more compassion?

One of the things I value most in my life is my capacity to help others.  Unfortunately, I’ve found that a common trend among people who are driven to serve others, is that we forget to pay attention to ourselves, even though on some level, we know that by taking care of ourselves we will be in a better position to support others.

What about you?  In what ways could you be a better friend to yourself?  How might that make you a better friend to everyone else, and better able to make the impact you want to make on the world?

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