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Practicing Through Becoming: No Place For “Trying”

April 21, 2018

As a teacher of self-compassion and mindfulness, I often have occasion to hear from people about their personal practice. I might ask “How is your practice going?” and quite often the answer is “I’m trying to practice, but it’s not easy.” And therein lies the rub: practice is often not easy, even though it is remarkably simple.

But it’s that word “trying” that really gets me. Are YOU “trying” to practice self-compassion? What is that like for you? For me, just hearing the word “trying” makes me a little bit tired and disheartened on your behalf. What if you were to turn that term upside down and shake it to see what comes out. As the Jedi (Zen?) Master Yoda famously said “Do. Or do not. There is no try.”

As we learn in exploring self-compassion, if what you are doing is a struggle it is not self-compassion. If we let go of needing to get to a specific destination (“trying”) and instead see ourselves as simply practicing (“doing”) self-compassion moment by moment, we find that we are actually on a continuous journey that is traversed one step at a time, and each step finds us just a tiny bit farther down the path. Patience is the key. Perhaps you have had the experience of taking a long journey in a car with small children who ask every five minutes “Are we there yet?”. The wise adult in you knows that life doesn’t work this way when you are on a journey, and so it goes with the inner journey of mindfulness and self-compassion, but we forget that.

Is it possible for you to see yourself as simply practicing self-compassion through the process of becoming more self-compassionate? What if you stopped being the nagging child in the back seat asking, “Am I there yet?” and instead say “Here I am!” and perhaps even go on to inquire: “What do I need in this moment?”

Bingo! You just practiced self-compassion through your process of becoming more self-compassionate. No trying required, no effort expended, no destination but simply a journey in the process of becoming . . . a more self-compassionate you. See if you can stop trying and practice instead. Do you really need to “try” to put your hand on your heart when you notice a moment of suffering? Or could you just do it?

I would love to have you join Beth Mulligan and me for a silent meditation retreat entitled “Coming Home to Kindness” on November 9-14, 2018 at the lovely Copper Beech Institute in Hartford, Connecticut. Retreats can be a remarkably rejuvenating experience to deepen our commitment to practice and facilitate our journey of becoming. See the Copper Beech website for more details.




3 Comments leave one →
  1. April 21, 2018 11:08 pm

    Thank you for these thoughtful reminders.

    I wholeheartedly agree about the term “trying”. For me, I’ve recently become a little weary of “doing” self-compassion as well. It sneakily morphed into something more like “striving” or “managing”. It eventually launched me into the stage of disillusionment with something akin to caregiver fatigue for myself. I’ve since remembered that what I long for most deeply is for self-compassion to become my natural quality of “being” or “being with”, rather than something I “do”. From “What can I do in a moment of suffering?” to “How can I be with myself in a moment of suffering?”. For me that was a subtle but significant shift in my practice.

  2. Ruth Folchman permalink
    April 23, 2018 6:47 am

    I love this! Thank you so much for this wonderful synopsis on how to recognize the attitude of mind we bring to practice. As a teacher, I know how often I hear this very thing, this ‘trying’…

    Is it ok if I share this blog with my class participants?

  3. Judy Kneisley permalink
    April 24, 2018 10:15 am

    I, too, appreciate this reminder. As others have said, I always bristle a bit when I hear, “I’ll try.” I’ll try to make it; I’ll try to get organized: etc. or worse yet, “Ill try, but…” I usually translate it to: forget about it. With all the wonderful ideas and encouragers out there to help us be mindful, I find it amazing that we manage to find excuses to berate ourselves and our practice. As Albert Ellis said, “shoulding” on ourselves gets us nowhere. We’re already “there.” Just notice.

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