In February I had a terrible flu. It was one of the worst flus I can remember and it was a-w-f-u-l. I had strong body aches that felt like I had been hit by a truck. I had a migraine, chills, fever, nausea, and overwhelming exhaustion.
I really struggled with this illness. I was disappointed that I was sick since I take very good care of myself and have a strong immune system. I struggled with the reality that I had to cancel patient appointments, and I hate canceling appointments. But I just couldn’t get out of bed.
What I noticed about this illness is that the flu symptoms were bad enough, but on top of this I added a whole layer of stress and struggle.
I wanted to get over this flu, and fast.
I wanted to get back to work.
I wanted to get back to my life.
While I was sick in bed, I started reading Tara Brach’s wonderful book, Radical Self-Acceptance: Embracing your life with the heart of a buddha. I realized that I was doing what the Buddhists describe as “the second arrow”. When you are hit by an arrow, the first arrow is the original pain (in my case, this terrible flu). The second arrow is what we hit ourselves with by judging the original pain and also judging ourselves.
This judgment actually makes the original pain and suffering much worse.
When I realized that I was adding to my suffering, I took a deep breath and changed my internal dialogue. I started soothing myself with kind, comforting words.
I put my hand over my heart and practiced Kristin Neff’s self-compassion practice:
I’m in pain right now.
It’s part of being alive.
I am not alone.
May I offer myself compassion and kindness.
A gentle shift happened.
My flu was still terrible, but I dropped my resistance to being sick. I let myself be okay that all I could do was sleep and rest. I took my herbs, drank tea, and took hot baths. I stopped the judgements of my situation. I practiced compassion for myself.
It’s such a lesson to realize that we add to our suffering by judging and being critical of ourselves.
What about you? Is there anywhere in your life where you might be judging yourself?
Try practicing kindness, gentleness and self-compassion.
To learn more, I highly recommend Tara Brach’s book and Kristin Neff’s self-compassion practice. Watch Kristin Neff’s Ted Talk, link here.