Day #18: Being Ace!
Quick recap so we know where we are - Thursday we looked at the first competency that enables mindful living - Concentration and Being Focussed. Friday we looked at the second - Contemplation and Being Open. Which means, Saturday was for Cultivation - Being Ace!
Given this post is going out on a Sunday, it doesn't take a genius to notice i'm a day late. Yesterday time ran away from me. But c'mon, it wouldn't be much of an (En)Lighten Up! experiment if I loaded on the pressure to get a blog post out ahead of what I mindfully chose to prioritise instead. I value and invested in quality time with family and friends because the Saturday of the long weekend was booked with a 2nd birthday party with friends, and a dinner party with other friends. Practising what I preach, I didn't beat myself up for getting this post out later than originally planned.
The approach I took yesterday, therefore, showcases the third competency in action quite nicely. Let's quickly explore what this means.
3. Cultivation - Being Ace!
When being mindful in our day-to-day lives or engaging in mindfulness practice, we can deliberately choose to focus our time and effort on cultivating useful qualities and experiences. By putting conscious effort into embodying positive qualities we are training ourselves to have greater strength and skillfulness applying them in our lives in useful and meaningful ways. I think skillfully cultivating positive qualities that benefit ourselves and others is the definition of Being Ace! Some qualities we can practice include:
Compassion & Empathy - getting perspective on the experiences of others and in terms of compassion bringing a desire to help.
Loving Kindness - focuses on developing feelings of goodwill, kindness and warmth towards yourself and others.
Peace - freeing the mind and body of disturbances which could include pain (physical or psychological), bringing yourself into a state of ease and calm.
Forgiveness - intentionally bringing a new attitude and feelings to something we found offensive - which can include (and relate) to practices where we accept and let go of unhelpful and uncomfortable emotions that won't serve ourselves or others, including hatred and resentment.
We need not cultivate only one quality, either. Instead we can recognise ourselves as a home for heaps of qualities - some positive and helpful, and others less so. Qualities can reinforce each other, and they can sometimes be in conflict. An example of on the more helpful side, we can combine compassion with forgiveness by cultivating good will for the offender's future, and this may in turn cultivate peace in the present.
Although we might demonstrate compassion towards others, I believe a cultivation practice we often neglect is compassion towards ourselves. Self-compassion is about bringing mindfulness to any struggles we have where we need to respond with kindness and understanding towards ourselves. When we are experiencing challenging or stressful of experiences we can often cultivate uncomfortable qualities including feelings of inadequacy, despair, and confusion. It is really important for our personal wellbeing and effectiveness to recognise when we are cultivating qualities that are not serving us in the present, and investing our effort in cultivating qualities that will be valuable for navigating the terrain.
If your compassion does not include yourself it is incomplete
Pathways to Cultivating Self-Compassion in Daily Life
One simple way to cultivate self-compassion is to identify how you already care for yourself. Then, find a way to remind yourself to bring self-care to stressors and troubles that emerge in your life. Contemplate the 5 areas below, and consider what you can concentrate on cultivating today and into the week.
Take care of your body by relaxing and ensuring you are doing 'no harm'. Train your body to be fit and agile.
How do you look after yourself physically (e.g., exercise, massage, warm bath, go for a drive, enjoy a cup of tea or a glass of wine)?
Can you think of new ways to release the tension and stress that builds up in your body?
Allow and observe your thoughts as thoughts. Ease agitation and preoccupation with thinking.
How do you take care of your mind, especially when you’re under stress (e.g., mindfulness practice, watch a funny movie or YouTube clip, read an inspiring book)?
Are there new approaches you’d like to try to allow your thoughts come and go more easily?
Accept your feelings. Comfort yourself.
How do you care for yourself emotionally (play with a pet, write in a journal, cook)?
Is there something new you’d like to try?
Connect genuinely with others.
How or when do you relate to others that brings you genuine happiness (e.g., meet with friends, send a birthday card, play a game)?
How might you further enhance your connections?
Nurture and commit to your values.
What do you do to invest yourself in meaningful activities that align with your purpose and values (help others, have an adventure)?
If you’ve been neglecting your purpose, is there anything you’d like to remind yourself to make time for?
Cultivation practice is something we do automatically, and we can also be mindful to choose what qualities are best for us to cultivate in any given moment.
I chose to be kind instead of critical of myself for not publishing this important 'Cultivation' post yesterday. Realising that I was living the learning, however, I am at ease with it and hope others can relate to how important this practice can be for us.