Indi Angel, Quality Improvement Advisor for Sussex Partnership NHS Foundation Trust, writes from the heart about her mindfulness journey and her more recent experience of Sussex Mindfulness Centre’s eight-week Mindful Self-Compassion course.
When I learnt how to apply self compassion, it was literally transformational for me. That’s not a word I use lightly.Indi Angel, Quality Improvement Advisor, Sussex Partnership NHS Foundation Trust
I had done the standard eight-week mindfulness courses a number of times, getting different benefits each time. My meditation practice had been a constant, if somewhat inconsistent thread in my wellbeing recovery over a couple of decades. I’d worked a lot on embodying the mindfulness principles of ‘non-striving’, ‘moving towards difficulty’ and ‘allowing things to be’ as best I could, but it was the course on Mindful Self-Compassion that caused things to shift in a surprising and significant way for me.
In my podcast which you can hear on SoundCloud here I was interviewed about my experience of the Mindful Self-Compassion course. Although it finished at the end of last year, it’s still revealing exciting layers of value for me now. I’m gliding more lightly in my life, and for someone who lives with complex PTSD and chronic physical challenges, that’s a big deal.
The first time I was introduced to the metta bhavna (loving kindness) meditation I found it really difficult. Actually, I said I hated it, but now it’s one of my most frequently used. I’d found it so hard to extend the same loving kindness and compassion to myself that I so easily did to others. So, when I found there was a course which was all about self-compassion, I was delighted to be able to get professional support from a specialist teacher in developing that mindset.
My initial impressions included the concern that self-compassion might be self-indulgent and feed into my strong tendency for reflection and analysis. That theory was unfounded, as I quickly learnt that in order to care most effectively for others, I needed to develop the ability to apply that to myself, authentically and more consistently.
The teacher, Paul Johansen, modelled self-compassion in such an embodied way, it felt easy for me to learn to do that too. The science and research he shared, gave it the credibility to banish my critical thinking. And by taking what felt like a slightly radical step in committing to loving and accepting myself as my focus for eight weeks, I can honestly say it was one of the most life changing things I’ve done.
The remaining self-deprecating thoughts have been weeded out and replaced by internal dialogue such as ‘that’s ok Indi, you’re doing your best’, ‘maybe you could rest now that you’ve noticed you’re feeling too much pain today’, I’m also declining social invitations without feeling the need to explain why.
What’s most wonderful about embodying self-compassion congruently, is that others are reacting positively, and picking up on my compassion for them, in a way that’s embedded in empathy for our shared humanity. I’m now less in my head and more in my heart, and also less dissociated from the overwhelming sensations I’d previously tried to supress. In short, I feel a growing equilibrium as well as equanimity, whilst feeling more aligned with my values and principles. I’m allowing myself regular Epsom Salt baths and lie-ins at weekends, taking more one minute resting moments and breathing spaces throughout the day, and finding a greater capacity to enjoy my connection with nature. Oh, and there’s more tea and cake without guilt too.
If you’ve got an inkling that this course might be what you need, why not give it a go, and allow yourself to explore the gift of it!
You can find out about our mindfulness for courses in the Learn section. For Trust staff our next Mindful Self-Compassion course, which takes place in the centre of Brighton starts on 2 October 2023. You can find out about this and our other eight week-mindfulness courses for staff, and how to book here.