The British School of Meditation Blog


Practising Self Compassion

Every time a diminishing thought arises, I repeat the vow ‘I will not harbour unhealthy thoughts anymore’. 
Elizabeth Gilbert, Eat, Pray, Love: One Woman's Search for Everything



One of the joys of my recent move out of London to Suffolk at the beginning of January has been the time I’ve spent outdoors, taking in the wonderful country air and marvelling at the stunning skies over the sea, the smells of the forests and the sounds of birds overhead. 


Being in nature has been scientifically proved to decrease stress, something that many of us can struggle with in today’s fast paced way of life, and which is a leading cause of ill-health. For me, just being outside, simply walking and being present with the changing sky, the trees or plants and feeling my feet on the ground is incredibly therapeutic on many levels. I also enjoy the various meetings with other walkers and a lot of dogs!


But, despite the beauty and the positive social interaction, at times I’ve been very aware of the inner chat, which can be both positive and negative but is often critical. It’s that old ‘monkey mind’ that doesn’t really like stillness or rest, or not being in the driving seat.


Wintering is often seen as a time of rest. For some this may include taking lovely relaxing baths, spending a little more time in meditation, curling up with a good book, being outside, or catching up on sleep. We need rest on all levels of our being.  This is self-compassion, showing ourselves kindness. And recently, as I walked, I considered this negative self-talk that we so often find rattling round in our minds. It certainly wasn’t self-compassionate!


And so, I decided to be kinder to myself and re-ignited a meditation that I have practised in the past. It’s essentially a Buddhist meditation where you use the words neti-neti (not this, not that) to disengage the mind, and those pesky negative thoughts about oneself and others, and awaken to the ever present spirit or consciousness. Neti Neti meditation aims to reveal what you are by negating or dissolving that which you’re not. It reveals your true nature.


I’ve practised now on many walks, and at home, and I’ve also re-read a book by Andre Doshim Halaw called Neti-Neti Meditation. I can say that it’s a constant work in practice but it has definitely inspired me to be more self-compassionate in my daily life.


Loving-kindness meditation, again advocated by the Buddhist tradition, can also be a wonderful way of practising self-compassion. Many people find it challenging to send loving-kindness towards themselves. They find it much easier to wish for happiness for others. But, from experience, repeating the mantra ‘May I be happy, May I be well, May all things go well for me’ may dissolve attachments, energy blocks and negative thoughts with a rush of emotion, and quite often some tears! 


So whether you’re taking a lovely bath, curled up with a book, walking in the woods or along the city streets, or maybe even spring-cleaning, ‘may you be compassionate to yourself’. 

Breathe…all is well.




Catherine Thomlinson


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