03/14/2014 01:41 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

My Day as a Test Case for Self-Compassion


My day started badly.

I had an important international interview for our mindfulness4mothers project at 7 a.m. My husband was interstate so I had organised for my father to collect the girls before dawn to give them breakfast and take them to school. They were so excited they woke up earlier than any of us needed to, so were dressed and ready to go when he arrived. They left happily giggling and "shushing" each other.

That's when I saw it.

The email from my most anticipated guest expert, enquiring if we had our wires crossed, hadn't we booked to talk today?

Half an hour earlier. Daylight savings in her part of the world had clocked in three days earlier and I had not adjusted my time conversion. I had missed it and she had already moved on to her next appointment. I thought we still had half an hour before we would begin. But I was wrong.

My heart dropped. I felt a lump in my throat and thought of how long it had taken to get to this point where her schedule would allow us this valuable time. Gone. In that moment I understood how people feel when a deal they had been carefully negotiating fell over. Or that golden opportunity they had been eagerly anticipating passed them by. Or a relationship ended.

Disappointment. We all know what that feels like. Our disappointments might be different but the feeling is the same. And just like you, I needed to really slow down and offer myself kindness, not criticism in that moment. What I felt initially was a strong urge to grasp at it, as if I could turn back the clock, make it not true, bring it back to still happening. So used to going straight into problem solving I jumped straight on the email to ask if we could still do the interview later this morning. No answer. Nothing I could do. No solutions available. Only kindness remained. So I had a compassion break, Kristin Neff's "go-to" in the moment practice, that she taught us in her interview for our program. Hand on my heart, sitting in front of my computer, empathising with my painful feelings. Understanding that this was a moment of suffering, however small, and soothing my hurt.

Instead of judging myself, as I would have in the past, feeling embarrassment and shame for messing up so many people's schedules for no reason, I found myself being able to sit with the feelings without being overwhelmed, curious to see what might come up and not resisting that in any way. Yes, it felt raw, yes it was uncomfortable. But it didn't annihilate me. I guess all that mindful self-compassion had built my resilience and my ability to soften towards the feelings rather than try to push them away or rush over them prematurely to make the discomfort pass. And I was simultaneously able to feel grateful and express my gratitude for the understanding of my business partner who also refrained from blame or criticism, even though she missed out, too, and would rather have still been asleep in bed!

A few anxious ideas of what I might DO to change the situation passed through my mind, but they were a lot like clouds passing across the sky. I could recognise them for what they were and just let them go by in their own time. I recalled Pema Chodron's pithy reminder: other people feel this. This was not something uniquely happening to me, I didn't engage in a storyline of being a victim, singled out for a tough lot in life, just one of many people who was going to have to ride the ups and downs of life as best I could.

I still feel as flat as a tack and am hoping like crazy she will be able to talk to us another time but I am moving on with my day, periodically sending myself kindness whenever a little wave of disappointment rises up again. Little moments of sunshine are creeping back in and I am sending others who are suffering compassion too. May they too find relief in treating themselves more kindly and gently in their moments of vulnerability.

Wishing you kindness and self-compassion in your day, today and every day.