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Be Kind To Yoursef. Self kindness is self care with a heart. It springs from self compassion. Being kind to yourself is self care imbued with tenderness. Self care tips |
self kindness

Be Kind To Yourself

Every once in a while I make a decision to treat myself with kindness and watch what happens. Here’s what happens: things get better.

When I’m kind to myself there’s a softening, a releasing of actual contractions in my body that are there through the habit of continually pushing through my day.

That softening happens even before I do any actual act of self care, whether that might be taking some time to meditate, to rest, to go for a walk, to stop working and feed myself some nourishing food.

All those actions are helpful as well. But it’s important to know that even making the decision to be kind to yourself has an effect.

Something in you responds to self kindness. Something shifts. You will feel it inside, and it will change how you react to other people and to your circumstances.

When you’re kind to yourself, other people notice. Because you become softer, kinder in your contact with them. The kindness ripples out. You develop fresh habits that reinforce self kindness. That kindness will start coming back to you as people respond (in kind!) until it becomes a self reinforcing loop of kindness.

So, being kind to yourself becomes a way of calling in kindness from other sources as well.

What Is Self Kindness?

Self kindness is self care with a heart. It springs from a sense of self compassion.

The idea of self care can easily become a chore if the heart is not involved, a list of things you do out of obligation to yourself, like a daily maintenance program. Self kindness is self care imbued with a sense of tenderness towards yourself.

That used to sound hard to me

“Be kind to yourself” — if someone had said those words to me when I was 24 I would have let loose on them. At that time I was struggling, a lot. I had just entered a twelve step program and was in the process of getting sober and drug free. I did not feel kind towards myself at all.

Self criticism was running strong and, as my life was falling apart, there was also a sense of urgency to put my own needs aside and get things right. I was doing my best to get on track again but, looking back, it seemed like I was making things as hard for myself as I possibly could.

The idea of self kindness would have been hard to take on at that point, even if I had tried. So I know very well that the journey towards self kindness can be difficult in the beginning.

Some ways it can be hard:

  • You might be working against a barrage of unhelpful internal / external messages: ”I don’t deserve that’ or “You don’t have time for self kindness, you have work to do!”
  • Distractions, obligations, expectations: sometimes you can have so much on your plate already that it seems impossible to carve out more time to practice self kindness, even if you see it as important.
  • indulgence = bad:  We’re told that a lot, and I’ve definitely heard that little message coming up in my own mind, it can be a hard one to ignore. But really,  I don’t think it’s true.

The great thing is that these obstacles to self kindness start to melt away when you apply a little self kindness. Another great thing is that most of us aren’t starting at the beginning, most of us have some experience with being kind to ourselves, some small area in life where we’re able to do that. Finding that place is a great start.

All It Takes Is One Drop

Here’s what I’d say to 24 year old me: “All it takes is one drop.”

One drop of kindness towards yourself, it doesn’t even have to be fully sincere.

5% would probably do. So let’s say, 5% of one drop of self kindness will do to start with.

If you can’t find that 5%, pretending helps. Imagine there is, inside of you, a small drop of something–let’s say mostly water, with 5% of that drop being open to self kindness.

Then get started by acting on behalf of that imaginary droplet.

“Indulge me.” I would say, “Because I’m the same as you, I just learned how to be kind to myself and it made things easier.”

Because all you need to get the ball rolling is the slightest impulse to start. Once you’re doing things in the name of self kindness it starts to feed itself.

How Can You Make It Easier?


Cultivate an attitude of gentle persistence.

Working in the spirit of gentle persistence means you don’t ask too much of yourself. You give permission to make slow progress, and you simply keep going, no matter what. No self criticism, no blame. Just moving gently forward, trusting we are going at the right pace.


Catch those moments when you are being kind to yourself. Sometimes it just occurs naturally, so it’s good to note when that happens. Note down how it felt, what difference it made to you as well. These are useful things to come back to and over time it can be encouraging to be able to look back and see how much progress you’re making.


Set a direction for where you want to go. If you sit down and think of a few ways you’d like to be more kind to yourself then you can plan for that. You can make a time, create a ritual, maybe find a nice setting to do that in, imagine what it will be like beforehand. Setting an intention can be a powerful way to start moving forward.

Know your tendencies

I’m more likely to remember self kindness a little later in the day. Mornings are a blur of activity and I focus on getting the boys fed and off to school, it’s only then that my mind clears a little and I can sense more clearly where I’m at.

That means late morning is when I’m most likely to remember to do a Yoga Nidra meditation, or to write in the garden for a while, so I usually wait till then to build self kindness into my day knowing that fits with my daily rhythm. Again, writing down your observations can be helpful here in finding out the best opportunities to do something for yourself.



Be Kind To Yourself: E-course coming in September

I’m currently in the process of rewriting my course on self care and bringing more emphasis on self kindness, with some new guided meditations and exercises. It will be  happening in September (Sign up to my newsletter in the yellow box below if you’re interested to know more)

And how about you? How do you build self kindness into your life? What helps? What gets in the way?

Working with Guided Meditation is a deep and powerful practice. Let's look at some ways you can get the most out of doing guided meditations.
presence practices

Guided Meditation Made Easy

My introduction to meditation came through doing a recorded guided meditation. At the time, I wasn’t really interested in meditation at all. I was interested in controlling the thick, sticky webs of anxiety that were hemming me in.

I was in my mid twenties and in early recovery from alcohol / drug addiction. The guided meditation helped. I soon started collecting recordings that had ‘stress relief’ in the title and listened to them almost daily for a few years, until I walked into a meditation group and began a more formal sitting meditation practice.

After a long break I’ve rediscovered guided meditations over the last four years or so. Last year I began training as an I-Rest Yoga Nidra teacher. Guided meditations are again a daily part of my life, and they work beautifully as a component of my meditation practice.

Guided meditations can provide a deep and powerful practice. This means it’s worth taking the time to set up your experience so you get the most possible benefit. So let’s look at some ways you can get the most out of doing guided meditations.

What is a guided meditation?

A guided meditation is a meditation you do with the help of a guide. The guide may be in the room with you giving verbal directions, or you might listen to instructions through an audio recording.

In this post we’ll be focusing on how to get the most out of a guided meditation recording.

The role of the guide is to support you in moving through a meditation process from start to finish in a safe and helpful way. Even in a regular meditation practice there is usually some form of guidance going on—meetings with a teacher, classes and discussions, readings.

The main difference is that on a guided meditation, the guidance is an in-the-moment affair. The guide is right there with you, in a sense, as you go through the experience.

Having a practice that combines guided and non-guided meditation sessions is like a form of spiritual cross-training. Both sides of the equation are enhanced.

Set an intention for your practice

As you are getting ready to do your guided meditation take some time to reflect on what you are hoping to get from your practice. Imagine that you have been using guided meditations for a while, what are some of the changes you imagine might happening for you as a result? Go over your answers and choose any that appeal to you. These can serve as seeds your starting intention.

Briefly imagine what it would be like if these desired results come through. What would it feel like? What subtle changes would you notice? Is there something different the people closest to you might notice if you these things started happening for you?

Once you know what you would like to get from your guided meditations, then your intention becomes clearer. Perhaps your intention is to create some kind of lasting change, to ‘feel calmer’ or ‘have more energy’. You might simply want an enjoyable experience.

Having an intention for your guided meditation practice can be helpful when it comes to choosing your meditation, and can help you keep motivated to do the guided meditation regularly.

If you journal, write your intention down. A line or two is plenty. What you are wanting is to bring that intention into the world and affirm it.

Writing down your intention is also useful as you can come back later and reflect on how it’s going. You can determine if anything has changed, or been clarified, about your intention. This allows you to refine your practice as you go.

Find a guided meditation recording that suits you.

I learned the importance of this the hard way after purchasing a few ‘unlistenable’ guided meditations.

Listening to a guided meditation is an act of trust. You are relaxing some of your defenses and agreeing to be led through a process,. To do this it’s important that you feel comfortable with both the process and the person leading it.

Always try to access a preview of any meditation you are interested in buying or downloading. That way you can listen to a few minutes of the audio and decide if it’s suitable for you.

What to listen for:

Is the guide’s voice soothing or comfortable? Is it annoying in some way? Is there any background music / background sounds? How do you feel when you hear them? Soothed? Inspired? Annoyed?

This is important, because you don’t want to be lying there rolling your eyes and arguing with the guide as you meditate. You want to be able to let go and be fully with the meditation. If a preview annoys you then it’s going to be difficult to give all your attention to the meditation.

Also check for periods of silence between the instructions. A skillful guide allows you some space to feel the meditation process. There should be a nice rhythm between verbal guidance and silent spaces for you to experience, and get the fruits of, that guidance.
What imagery or themes are covered? Imagery is often a key part of guided meditations. You can usually get a sense of what imagery might be in the meditation by reading the description, or from the cover art.

And finally, does it fit with the intention you set in the first step?

If you are wanting to feel less anxious, does this seem like the kind of meditation that will help you with that? If you wanted an enjoyable experience, does it seem like a meditation that will give you this experience?

Create A Safe and Nurturing Container For Yourself

You’ve thought about what you want from your guided meditation, you’ve chosen your recording, now it’s time to create a container for your experience.

Can you find a time and place where you won’t be disturbed. You might think of it as your own personal oasis tucked away in the middle of your day.

You want to dive into this experience fully.

Make your meditation space beautiful and nourishing for you. Eventually you will develop associations with the place you do your guided meditations. Over time, as you lie or sit down to do the meditation you are rewiring your neural networks and soon enough just the act of preparing for your session will shift you into a relaxed and receptive state.

Make yourself Comfortable

Now that you have your space set up, it’s time to get your body taken care of and ready to go.

Make yourself comfortable. Not too comfortable though, unless you want to go to sleep. Find a middle balance between too squishy and too hard. I like to lie on the floor in a darkened room with a yoga mat and a blanket over me.

Some other options might include: a comfortable chair,  eye pillow, bolsters, cushions, a folded up towel or thin pillow under head.

During The Meditation

The most important thing you can do during the meditation is to relax and enjoy the meditation as much as you can. This is not meant to be hard work, and you can’t really get it wrong.

Occasionally you will drift off during a meditation, that’s perfectly okay. It’s also okay to make it easier for you to stay focused and aware during the meditation process.

A Simple Trick To Avoid Drifting Off

Remember earlier, when I suggested you listen to a preview to see if the guide’s voice is a fit for you? If you did that then this tip will be much easier to follow.

As you listen to the voice, imagine it is an internal voice in your head. This helps to minimise thinking and distractions as you follow the meditation. It requires trust in the person doing the meditation, and that you are comfortable with the person’s voice/mannerisms etc.

Adopting the guide’s voice like this takes a layer of thinking out of the process. If you don’t feel comfortable doing this, then definitely don’t. But if you do, it can really deepen your experience.

Ease Back Into Your Day

We’ve looked at the preparation process before the meditation and how that helps. Just as important is the process of transitioning back into your day after the meditation.

Allow yourself some time to come out of the meditation. Guided mediations can be very powerful, you need to integrate the practice and feel fully prepared to move back into your day.

What helps:

Specific actions like having a few moments to stretch your body, or wash your face, maybe have a sip of water. Even packing away your things can serve as a useful transition ritual. Any kind of movement works.

I like to walk around a little, to ground myself by putting my awareness down into the feet and walking a little. Physical actions are great because they ground you back into the physical world.

I also find it helpful to say something out loud like: “I am now stepping back into my day.” Or “This meditation is now complete.”

It doesn’t take much to get you ready, but it is important to take one or two clear actions that say “I am moving onto the next thing.”

A Final Guided Meditation Tip

Just a final point if you are thinking of doing guided meditations as a regular thing.

It’s good to try a few different options and develop a feel for what you like, but once you have a couple of guided meditations that really work for you stick with them for a while.

A good guided meditation can be useful over a period of time, I like to spend a t least a month or so regularly doing a guided meditation before moving onto a new one.

If you jump around too much you miss out on this deepening aspect of the practice.  And remember, if you’re interested in meditation you probably have a desire to settle, to ground deeply, and investigate. Bring that sense of grounded-ness to your guided meditation practice and you will see the benefits over time.

I hope this is helpful to you. Do you do guided meditations? If so, maybe you could share some things that have helped you get the most out of your practice. Let us know in the comments, I’d love to hear from you!


photo by Amy Treasure via Unsplash
presence practices

Can I Meditate Lying Down?

Everybody settled onto the floor. We were swaddled by the sounds of shuffling limbs, the sighs of tired people arranging themselves, the rubbery sweat-smell of the yoga studio.

It was my first live yoga class and we’d finally arrived at the snoozy part.



शवासन !

Then came the instructor’s voice.

He started giving quiet instructions. Specific guidance on how to align our bodies, bit by bit, so that we were laid out on our mats as if we were resting. But really, we were doing a lot. He was directing us to hold our bodies in this precisely aligned way. He was asking us to hold our awareness in this precisely aligned way. And to not snooze.

It was way more work than I had expected it to be. I thought this was the resting bit, the bit where we got to blow off all the effort, and the attention, and just drift away a little. But, no.

This happened in my first live yoga class and I was being very obedient. I have since done Shavasana many times and have often occasionally drifted away. I’m much kinder to myself about that these days.

But I have never forgotten that slight sense of shock at learning that you could lie down on the floor like that and not let go into dreaminess, but have it be a very rigorous practice of paying attention.

Sit Upright, Cross Legs, Face Forward

When I took that first yoga class, I had been meditating for a while in the Zen tradition. And even though my earliest experience of meditation practice was through using guided meditation recordings, I had decided that real meditation involved sitting on a cushion in a formal posture.

I didn’t think about it much, but if you’d asked me I wouldn’t have thought of lying down to meditate as being very useful. The only time I’d seen it happen recently was on a retreat when someone had some kind of injury and couldn’t sit up straight. Otherwise, it seemed like an invitation for a nap.

The idea that meditation involved sitting upright, crosslegged, facing forward was very ingrained with me.

It’s not like my practice was going that well. Whenever I sat, my body became a battleground of stiff limbs, knots of unresolved traumas, and grinding jaws trying to clamp down on all of this as well as an unrelenting wave of useless, critical thinking.

Pushing hard made sense at the time. I thought that if I meditated hard enough, correctly enough, that some kind of awakening would wash away all my difficulties.

That experience of meditation as a fight did ease, and as my relationship with the practice softened I got a lot of benefit from it.

Then I came across yoga nidra, a guided meditation practice that you generally do while lying down.


When I began this daily practice of lying down to meditate I learned a whole lot.

The Gift Of Yoga Nidra

The reason I’ve been thinking so much about lying down to meditate is that my main daily practice for the last two years has been Yoga Nidra. In fact, a few months ago I became an I-Rest Yoga Nidra teacher in training.

Yoga Nidra is a form of awareness meditation you do (mostly) lying down, and after practicing for a while now, I’ve found that instead of lying down being a signal to my body to automatically fall asleep, it has now become a signal to wake up more.

That sounds weird, but it’s true. Hundreds of hours of Yoga Nidra has changed some set of neural pathways in my brain and now, whenever I lie down, my awareness starts scanning the body and noticing what’s going on in there automatically.

After laying down to sleep I nearly always launch into an informal body scan and often fall asleep that way. I often wake up that way too, my eyes open, I look around a little and then start noticing and following sensations in my body as the muscles wake up and I start moving around.

Yoga Nidra is about self kindness, and restoration. It’s also a very physical practice, and has completely changed my relationship to meditation. My meditation practice (sitting or lying) has become much gentler and kinder. That, alone, has been a great gift. There will definitely be plenty of Yoga Nidra inspired posts on this blog in the future, but for today let’s hang out with this idea of lying down to meditate, and what that can offer.

Some Things I learned While Lying Down To Meditate:

If you are exhausted at the end of a busy day and your mind is racing, lying down can be a great way to get grounded in the body and give your mind a chance to settle.


A great way to increase your chances of staying awake is lie down on the floor or on a yoga mat. Lying on the bed makes it more difficult to stay alert and awake.


Guided meditation is a great practice to do while lying down, and especially helpful if you are new to meditation. They were my first experience of meditation, way before I ever visited a meditation group. Think of the instructions as scaffolding for your practice. They help save mental energy that can then used to on simply maintain awareness, rather than worrying if you’re doing it right or if you should change your breathing, or your posture.


You can sense through your back! We spend so much time facing forward, concentrating all of our attention and life energy into the three feet of space in front of us, it’s as if our backs don’t even exist sometimes.


When you meditate lying down on the floor you get to feel how your back relates to the support underneath you. You can feel where your back has tensed up and lifts off the floor for no apparent reason, and the soft parts where it naturally sinks into the floor. And you notice after a while that all of this information is in flux. It’s a whole living system of tensing, and softening, and movement between. Through a regular practice of lying down meditation there is much more awareness of how you can sense things through your back, how this is a living, sensing part of you.


It doesn’t have to make you sleepy. Sometimes it will, but is that really a bad thing. Sometimes you just need to rest, and if you’re not rested enough your mediation is going to be a pretty difficult exercise in staying awake and focused. If your body needs to sleep, let it sleep a little. When it’s more refreshed, let it meditate.

Walking, Standing, Sitting, Lying Down

In Buddhism they talk about the four meditation postures as being walking, standing, sitting and lying down. So there doesn’t seem to be any problem there with lying down to meditate. Any opposition to lying down meditation has mostly been a thing in my own mind, and it’s been a great experience to get past that limiting idea.

The practice of meditation, of cultivating awareness, is more than an exercise in moulding yourself into any particular form. It’s about finding awareness wherever you can, in whatever state, posture, or circumstance you happen to find yourself.