My best friend, Mary and I have decided that the feeling of gratitude is our favorite feeling. When I feel grateful, I am aware that I feel humble, which makes me think of Grace. And Grace is beyond words. So I won't even try.
I appreciated the quote from the TED Talk speaker, David Steindl-Rast, "If you are grateful, you are not fearful." I totally get that. In fact, I realize that random acts of kindness are gratitude... expressed. Expressing gratitude is usually thought to be expressed with a verbal, "thank you," or some expression using words - which is a fine and good thing. I think acts of kindness are my behavioral expressions of gratitude.
When I was writing my workshop presentation about how to use Mindful Self-Compassion to Reduce Test Anxiety, it seemed intuitively wise to suggest that the test anxious student plan to perform a random act of kindness on the day of the test, preferably before the test. I was aware that the state of anxiety is a very self centered space to be in, that energy is contracted, assuming a posture of self-protection and defensiveness.
It seemed to me that that is probably not the best energetic space for peak mental performance - fear based self-protection. So, I wanted the student to behave in a way that tells the brain that the heart chakra is open, that we feel safe enough to come out of ourselves and give to another.
Now, what is coming into focus for me is that this act of kindness is really an expression of gratitude - even unconsciously - and "if you are grateful, you are not fearful." Hence, your test anxiety might just get the memo that the body/mind - the "self" is in a state of gratitude, and therefore, cannot possibly be anxious. Remember, "love is letting go of fear." We are in a state of either love - or fear - at any given moment.
May I accept things as they are.
May I be free from suffering and the cause of suffering.
May I have ease of well-being.
May I be protected and safe.
May I be happy.
This is why I think Self-Compassion is the perfect antidote for fear or any kind of performance anxiety. Love yourself through your fear. You can't be in both states at the same time. Pick love. And then take the test. Take the test with an attitude of love for yourself, and even love for the test. Say Metta for the test. "May the test accept things as they are. May the test be free of suffering and the cause of suffering..." Re-frame the adversarial attitude toward the test. Befriend the enemy and lo, there are only friends in your midst.
The same principle applies when I say, "What is learned at an emotional level cannot be unlearned at a cognitive level." You can't just throw flowery affirmations at a deeply wounded soul and expect it to just bounce back as if it was all just an unfortunate misunderstanding. Only love, ie, Self-Compassion can soften, in time, the hard crusted scars of the wounded child in each of us. You only insult the pain further by presuming to "positively affirm" it away.
Don't try to not feel your emotional pain. Don't deny it. Don't minimize it. Don't try to rationalize it away. Don't effort it away. Tether yourself to the promise of the healing power of love. Accept your memories and your pain. Bring mindfulness to the experience of your pain. Then extend the loving-kindness of our vast universe toward yourself. Bring love on a velvet pillow and offer it to your pain. Inhale that love and then exhale the breath that has been trapped in your pain body for so many years. Stay with that visualization. Inhale ... Exhale ... Repeat. Then take a nap, because you might be a bit exhausted.
I think I just invented MBSCT - Mindfulness Based Self-Compassion Therapy. Move over, Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT). Move over, even Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy. It's not about cognitions. It's about love - self-love, self-compassion. And then it's about having the courage to accept that healing, to give yourself permission to let go of the old pain, the old identity of being a broken person. And turn toward your future, casting off the trappings of the former victim and claiming the freedoms of the new self. Cool, huh?
Let me know what you think. Are we on to something here?
Make this easy for yourself! Let me come to you!
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