Kristin Neff: The Liberating Power of Self-Compassion

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April 28, 2015

Kristin Neff: The Liberating Power of Self-Compassion

Dr. Kristin Neff April 28, 2015

Dr. Kristin Neff is a professor of human development and culture at the University of Texas and a practitioner of Buddhist meditation. The book and documentary The Horse Boy chronicle Kristin and her family’s extraordinary journey to help her autistic son. With Sounds True, Kristin has created the audio program Self-Compassion Step by Step, which includes clinical evidence of the importance of self-compassion along with techniques and exercises for cultivating this pivotal quality. In this interview, Tami Simon and Kristin talk about the vital distinction between self-esteem and self-compassion, three pillars of self-compassion, “self-compassion breaks,” and the importance of recognizing our common humanity during difficulties that feel unique and isolating. (68 minutes)

Author Info for Dr. Kristin Neff Coming Soon

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Founded Sounds True in 1985 as a multimedia publishing house with a mission to disseminate spiritual wisdom. She hosts a popular weekly podcast called Insights at the Edge, where she has interviewed many of today's leading teachers. Tami lives with her wife, Julie M. Kramer, and their two spoodles, Rasberry and Bula, in Boulder, Colorado.

Photo © Jason Elias

Also By Author

Kristin Neff: The Liberating Power of Self-Compassion

Dr. Kristin Neff is a professor of human development and culture at the University of Texas and a practitioner of Buddhist meditation. The book and documentary The Horse Boy chronicle Kristin and her family’s extraordinary journey to help her autistic son. With Sounds True, Kristin has created the audio program Self-Compassion Step by Step, which includes clinical evidence of the importance of self-compassion along with techniques and exercises for cultivating this pivotal quality. In this interview, Tami Simon and Kristin talk about the vital distinction between self-esteem and self-compassion, three pillars of self-compassion, “self-compassion breaks,” and the importance of recognizing our common humanity during difficulties that feel unique and isolating. (68 minutes)

Compassion for the Self-Critic – with Kristin Ne...

As part of The Self-Acceptance Project, Tami spoke with Dr. Kristin Neff, pioneering researcher in the area of self-compassion, from the University of Texas-Austin. Kristin is the author of the Sounds True audio learning series, “Self-Compassion Step by Step: The Proven Power of Being Kind to Yourself,” a six-hour course on transforming self-criticism into genuine compassion.

Enjoy this video dialogue with Kristin and Tami, which opened the Self-Acceptance Project, a free, multi-week video series featuring psychotherapists, authors, neuroscientists, and spiritual teachers, exploring the importance of bringing kindness and compassion to ourselves in service of others.

Kristin Neff: The Liberating Power of Self-Compassion

Tami Simon speaks with Dr. Kristin Neff, a professor of human development and culture at the University of Texas and a practitioner of Buddhist meditation. The recent book and documentary The Horse Boy illustrate her and her family’s adventure with autism. With Sounds True, Kristin has created the audio program Self-Compassion Step-by-Step, which includes clinical evidence of the importance of self-compassion along with techniques and exercises for cultivating this pivotal quality. In this interview, Tami and Kristin talk about three pillars of self-compassion, “self-compassion breaks,” and the importance of recognizing our common humanity during difficulties that feel unique and isolating. (69 minutes)

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5 Tools to Create More Space in Your Mind

Busyness, distraction, and stress have all led to the shrinking of the modern mind.

I realize that’s a strange thing to say. Most of us don’t think of our mind as something with space in it, as a thing that can either be big or small, expensive or claustrophobic.

But just think about the last time you felt overwhelmed, stressed, or out of control. Chances are, you might not even have to think that hard. You might be experiencing that state right now as you read these words.

What happens in these moments? 

First, our mind wanders. It spins through all sorts of random thoughts about the past and the future. As a result, we lose touch with the direct experience of present time.

Second, we lose perspective. We can’t see the big picture anymore. Instead, it’s like we’re viewing life through a long and narrow tunnel. We become blind to possibility, fixated on problems.

Put these two together and you’ve got the perfect recipe for eradicating space in the mind. The landscape of the mind begins to feel like a calendar jammed with so many meetings, events, and obligations that these neon colored boxes cover-up even the smallest slivers of white space. 

So it could be nice for our partner, for our kids, and, mostly, for our ourselves to consider: how can we create more space in the mind?

Here are five tools for creating mental space. If you want to go deeper, check out my new book with Sounds True on the topic called OPEN: Living With an Expansive Mind in a Distracted World.

1. Meditation.

You’ve no doubt heard about all of the scientifically validated benefits of this practice. It reduces stress. It boosts productivity. It enhances focus.

That is all true. But here is the real benefit of meditation: it creates more space in the mind. To get started, try it out for just a few minutes a day. Use an app or guided practice to help you.

2. Movement.

So, maybe you’re not the meditating type. That’s fine. You can still create space in the mind by setting aside time for undistracted movement.

The key word here is “undistracted.” For many of us, exercise and movement have become yet another time where our headspace gets covered over by texts, podcasts, or our favorite Netflix series. 

There’s nothing wrong with this. But it can be powerful to leave the earbuds behind every once in a while and allow the mind to rest while you walk, stretch, run, bike, swim, or practice yoga.

3. Relax.

When it comes to creating headspace, we moderns, with our smartphone-flooded, overly-stimulated, minds seem to inevitably encounter a problem: we’re often too stressed, amped, and agitated to open.

Relaxation – calming the nervous system – is perhaps the best way to counter this effect and create more fertile ground for opening. When we relax – the real kind, not the Netflix or TikTok kind –  the grip of difficult emotions loosens, the speed of our whirling thoughts slows, and, most important, the sense of space in our mind begins to expand.

How can you relax? Try yoga. Try extended exhale breathing, where you inhale four counts, exhale eight counts. Try yoga nidra. Or, just treat yourself to a nap.

4. See bigger.

When life gets crazy, the mind isn’t the only thing that shrinks. The size of our visual field also gets smaller. Our eyes strain. Our peripheral vision falls out of awareness.

What’s the antidote to this tunnel vision view? See bigger.

Try it right now. With a soft gaze, allow the edges of your visual field to slowly expand. Imagine you’re seeing whatever happens to be in front of you from the top of a vast mountain peak. Now bring this more expansive, panoramic, way of seeing with you for the rest of the day.

5. Do nothing.

Now for the most advanced practice. It’s advanced because it cuts against everything our culture believes in. In a world where everyone is trying desperately to get more done, one of the most radical acts is to not do — to do nothing.

Even just a few minutes of this paradoxical practice can help you experience an expansion of space in the mind.

Lie on the floor or outside on the grass. Close your eyes. Put on your favorite music if you want. Set an alarm for a few minutes so you don’t freak out too much. 

Then, stop. Drop the technique. Drop the effort. Just allow yourself to savor this rare experience of doing absolutely nothing.

Nate Klemp, PhD, is a philosopher, writer, and mindfulness entrepreneur. He is the coauthor of the New York Times bestseller Start Here and the New York Times critics’ pick The 80/80 Marriage. His work has been featured in the LA Times, Psychology Today, the Times of London, and more, and his appearances include Good Morning America and Talks at Google. He’s a cofounder of LifeXT and founding partner at Mindful. For more, visit nateklemp.com or @Nate_Klemp on Instagram.

Parker Palmer: Welcome to the Human Race

Why is depression so hard for us to bring out into the open? Why does it stir up so much shame and fear? How can we shift our view of depression from a problem that needs to be fixed to a gateway to empathy, courage, wholeness, and belonging? These are the profound questions explored by Tami Simon and Parker Palmer in this incisive, insightful podcast. 

Join Tami and Parker as they discuss: Being present for those in depression; suffering and empathy; courage and resilience; integrating (rather than disowning) experiences of depression; showing up in the world as who you really are; the vast intelligence of life—and the weaving of shadow and light; embracing paradox; Parker’s metaphor of “living at altitude” (or the level of ego) vs. living from one’s soul; depression as a befriending, grounding energy; how Abraham Lincoln’s depression served as a force of reconciliation for a nation at war with itself; learning to be “hallowed by our diminishments”; and more.

Self-Love is a Superpower

Dear Sounds True friends,

I believe self-love is a superpower.

When we treat ourselves with kindness, it turns on the learning centers of the brain and gives us the resources to face challenges and learn from our mistakes. Transformation requires a compassionate mindset, not shame.

And yet, people often worry that self-love will make them lazy, self-indulgent, or self-absorbed. Science shows just the opposite: people with greater self-love are more compassionate toward others, more successful and productive, and more resilient to stress.

The best news of all: self-love can be learned. We can rewire the structure of our brain and strengthen the neural circuitry of love toward ourselves and others. Each time we practice self-love, we grow this pathway.

My new children’s book, Good Morning, I Love You, Violet!, offers a road map for strengthening your child’s brain circuitry of deep calm, contentment, and self-love.

It is built on principles of psychology and neuroscience and offers a simple yet powerful practice.

As a mother, when asked what I believe is the most important thing we can teach our children, I always answer “self-love.” Learning to be on our own team and to treat ourselves with kindness is life-changing. There is no greater gift we can give our children. There is no greater gift we can give ourselves.

May this book plant seeds of kindness that ripple out into the world.

Shauna's signature

Shauna Shapiro, PhD

P.S. I invite you to download a free coloring sheet from the book, created by illustrator Susi Schaefer, to enjoy with the children in your life.

Shauna Shapiro is a mother, bestselling author, professor, clinical psychologist, and internationally recognized expert in mindfulness and self-compassion. She lives in Mill Valley, California. Learn more at drshaunashapiro.com.

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