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From ABC, this is the 10 percent happier podcast. I'm Dan Harris. Hey, gang, we're back with Episode two of our New Year's series, we know there's a lot of pressure at this time of year to make big changes in your life. But our suspicion here at 10 percent happier is that a lot of this New Year's resolution messaging is rooted in self-loathing. As you're going to hear from my guests today, there's often a subtle aggression to self-improvement.


So as you may know, we're kicking off twenty, twenty one with a special series of podcasts where we're counterprogramming against the New Year New You noise.


We're arguing that before you try to boot up an exercise habit or change the way you eat, all of which can be very positive for the record. But before you dive into that kind of stuff, maybe there is an uber habit and upstream habit that you should consider forming. First, the skill of being able to have a warmer, friendlier attitude toward yourself, to give a crap about yourself, to have your own back. The skill is sometimes referred to as self-love or self compassion.


And I know these terms can be a bit off-putting for some of you. But as my guest today will demonstrate, there is a ton of scientific evidence to suggest that this is truly the more effective and wiser path. Before we dive in, though, with my guest, Chris Germar. A few items of business. These will be quick. Number one, if you missed our series kickoff episode on Monday with Jeff Warren and Susan Piver, I definitely recommend you go check that out.


You're going to hear all kinds of useful, practical wisdom for how and why you should love yourself or care about yourself or whatever phraseology you prefer.


Business item number two, if you go and listen to that podcast, you will also get a preview of the free New Year's meditation challenge we are launching in the 10 percent happier app in just a few days. If you want to sign up, just download the app wherever you get your apps or by visiting 10 percent dotcom. That's all one word spelled out. If you already have the app, good for you. Just open it up and follow the instructions to join.


It'll be twenty one days. Every day you'll get a little bit of video, followed by a guided audio meditation from Jeff Warren, Susan Piver to Maricela and other amazing meditation teachers. It's going to be great.


OK, now to today's episode, the aforementioned Chris Guerma is a clinical psychologist and a lecturer on psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. He also co developed a highly impactful program called Mindful Self Compassion, which has been taught to over a hundred thousand people across the world. By the way, his co-founder is Kristin Neff, who has been on the show a couple of times, and one of her episodes, which we entitled Kryptonite for the Inner Critic. We just reposted it in mid-December.


So if you want to go check that out, it's in your feed.


In this episode, though, we talk about the science based case for self compassion, how to put self compassion to practice in your actual life, the dis utility of shame and the connection between self compassion and having compassion for other people. Oh, we also take some listener voice mail. So a lot going on here. Here we go. Chris Girma. Chris Girma, nice to meet you. Thanks for coming on. Thanks then it's great to be here.


I've heard about you for years, so I'm excited to talk to you. I think it makes sense to get you to talk a little bit about how you came into contact with this whole notion of self compassion.


I understand that you share with me some anxiety around public speaking and that that's part of the genesis here.


That's true. And we're right now speaking in public. Isn't that amazing?




So I've been working for a really long time in the field of mindfulness and psychotherapy. I also first learned mindfulness meditation when I was twenty five. You know, now I'm 67 years old. So it's been very much a part of my life. But throughout this period, I really have not been particularly interested in kindness toward myself or in general loving kindness, meditation and so forth, which is really a core part of mindfulness.


But it just wasn't for me. But since I graduated from Temple University with a Ph.D. in clinical psychology for the next 20 years, I really had debilitating public speaking anxiety. It was so bad ones that when I was giving a talk to clinicians about mindfulness, I couldn't even speak.


So someone in the back of the room yells out, Take a breath, because nothing came out of my mouth when I went up to the podium. You know, that was a pretty it was a really a difficult experience. And then in two five colleagues at the Institute for Meditation and Psychotherapy and I wrote an edited book, Mindfulness and Psychotherapy. And it was really the first time that the fields of mindfulness and psychotherapy were brought together in a book. And so after that, I had a lot of invitations to speak.


And in particular, we had organized the conference at Harvard Medical School on this subject. And so I knew I would have to speak. And I was completely panic stricken about this, because most of the time, though, I've been on the faculty at Harvard Medical School, it's always been kind of in the wings. And now I would be sort of more public. And with each passing day and week, I just became more and more petrified about this experience because I expected I would be basically humiliated in front of my colleagues.


And in particular, as you can imagine then, if you're trying to talk about mindfulness and you're so nervous you can't even speak, it really implies that you're for me in any way. It implied, you know, I'm I'm incompetent, I'm fraudulent, I'm stupid.


And I didn't want anybody to have those kind of thoughts.


So I learned loving kindness, meditation for the first time. I was on a retreat and fretting about this and some other things. And the meditation teacher basically in a short interview said, you know, Chris, why don't you sit on your cushion and just love yourself, you know, no matter what's going on, just love yourself. Say kind words to yourself, like, may I be safe? May I be peaceful? May I be healthy like that?


So I did it. And immediately I started to feel better. All the self-absorption and the rumination and the future rising and catastrophizing, it just kind of slipped away because I was just kind of comforting myself, as I might. Somebody else, so I thought, this can't be a bad thing. So when I got home from the retreat still four months prior to the conference, every morning, I just sat on a cushion. I'd meditate, lovingkindness, meditation.


And then whenever I thought about this, you know, horrifying conference, I would just be kind to myself, you know, simply because I was so frightened. But also I had at that time then what you'd call the gift of desperation. I was actually considered and considered myself an expert in anxiety disorders. And I had tried everything under the sun, including beta blockers and certainly mindfulness meditation, exposure, everything. Nothing worked. I felt really just broken.


You know, I'm just sort of disabled in this way and with nothing left to fix me or fix the problem. I just loved myself, you know, just like I was instructed in the retreat. And I did this in the months coming up to the conference. And so what was happening is basically terror, kindness, terror, kindness. And then when the actual conference came and I was introduced, I got up to speak and the usual terror arose with me.


But there was a new voice in the back of my head. And that voice basically was the one that I'd been saying for four months, which was, oh, may you be save, may you be peaceful, may be healthy. And it was just like a rush of warmth that flooded over me and I looked out over the crowd like about 600 people in this posh hotel room. And I just had so much love for the audience. I had the same feeling like, oh, I just hope everybody really enjoys themself, that everybody's happy.


And this, Dan, was really different, OK, because as you know, from having experienced panic in a public setting, when we're in a state of fear, usually the audience is the enemy for me with public speaking. The audience was the enemy. But in this case, they were beautiful to me. So I learned a few things right there. Then the first thing I learned was self kindness. Self compassion very quickly turns into compassion for others.


I saw that instantly right there. The next thing that I learned is that and this came a little bit later, is that public speaking anxiety, at least for me, was not an anxiety disorder that I was trying to. Solve a problem, which actually wasn't the problem. Public speaking anxiety for me was a shame disorder. In other words, behind it was this crippling fear that I'd be considered fraudulent or stupid or incompetent by the participants at this conference.


That possibility was just so awful to me that I. I just couldn't even face it. So what I did is I was basically trying to deal with what was obvious, which was anxiety, but that wasn't the problem. If you lose a key on a path in the dark and you want to find the key delic, look where the lamp is, where the light is, or where you lost the key, you know, so I had lost the key.


I couldn't find it, but. What was quite amazing is that this practice of self compassion. Not only started to solve the same problem without me even knowing I had a same problem, but then I also afterwards discovered that this was what it was. And then I really basically, to be honest, spent the last 15 years slowly chipping away at that. But the main thing that I learned in terms of the professional side of this then was, is that there's a slight difference between mindfulness and self compassion.


Mindfulness is kind of a loving awareness of moment to moment experience like.


Like this physical sensation and or this emotion, self compassion is a loving awareness of the experience, sir, or the person, and what self compassion does is it actually allows us to hold ourselves as a trembling, broken or imperfect person in a way that we actually then have the capacity to hold our experience.


And this was hugely important to me as a clinical psychologist, because in clinical psychology, we're always working with intense and disturbing emotions and we naturally as clinicians are holding emotionally the client. But when we're with ourselves, can we hold ourselves in such a way that we can then hold the experience? So what I learned is to add self compassion to the practice of mindfulness such that we first sometimes hold ourselves and then we can more readily hold our experience. And that's what got me into this whole thing that I met Krista Neff.


And the rest is history.


And Kristin Neff, I should say, just for those who don't know she is she's been on this show a couple of times and she, along with Chris, have really been at the vanguard of driving the scientific research, as well as the popularization of self compassion. I want to do one more clarifying point and then I have a million questions clarifying point is, so it's New Year's. I suspect we may be getting some listeners who are new. So you've talked a lot about mindfulness meditation and love and kindness, meditation.


I just want to take a 30 seconds to just define some terms here for people who are new to the show. So mindfulness meditation generally is you're watching something like your breath. You sit, you feel your breath coming in and going out, and then every time you get distracted, you start again and again and again. And the instruction which I ignored 50 percent of because I share a lot in common with you, Chris, in terms of I was interested in mindfulness, not so much in loving kindness, but the instruction is to view whatever comes up with nonjudgmental but also sort of warm or loving a warm or loving attitude.


I erred on the side of the nonjudgmental, you know, so anger would come up in my mind or, you know, random thoughts or whatever. And I would try to clinically note it. But there was some aversion in there. I wasn't really bringing any warmth or friendliness to my own sort of difficult emotions, et cetera, et cetera. There is another practice that is taught alongside mindfulness meditation classically, but has been sort of underappreciated, I fear, in the modern meditation movement, which is the lovingkindness practice, which is very, very cheesy at first for people.


But you sort of sit and you envision a series of beings off and you start with yourself. Sounds like you were instructed to really just stay with yourself and you repeat phrases like maybe happy, maybe save, may you be healthy, may you live with these, et cetera, et cetera. Again, it sounds very, very cheesy and it is. But there, again, is a bunch of science to suggest it really works. And in particular in conjunction, these two really work together.


As Chris said, it's you can start to really have some warmth and friendliness toward whatever comes up in your mind and some warmth and friendliness toward the mind that is experiencing all of this. So having said all of that, just getting it out there so that people are clear on terms. You mentioned that it took several decades of meditation practice before you got interested in the self compassion or loving kindness side of this. And you said something like, it wasn't for me.


Was the hang up there that you just found it to be inexcusably cheesy or what was the what was why didn't you do this until you were desperate? So I just love the word cheesy, and that's what it was. It just seemed cheesy to me.


But there's also another aspect. I first actually learned to meditate with transcendental meditation. And in that practice, you have a mantra which technically doesn't have a meaning. And so I think in my first exposure to meditation, I developed kind of an aversion to meaningful words. And the idea was that if you have meaningful words, it kind of ties you down and you don't transcend or you don't actually get beyond your own individual story.


So much. So I think this was a kind of an unconscious bias. Plus, I just really loved spaciousness and awareness. For its own sake, and so none of this has to do with, you know, repeating phrases. So I think that was just a kind of partly unconscious, partly conscious of aversion. But the irony is, is that thing that I was feeling aversion toward, like completely changed my life for the better. You know, isn't it often like that over and over in my life?


That has been the case over and over. So how do you deal with public speaking now?


I mean, how are you feeling right now? Oh, well, I've always been OK when there's been a sense of connection, and so I'm feeling delighted, you know, feeling connected with you, but mostly I have to say I really haven't had much public speaking anxiety since then. I can say that when there is a bit, then I immediately practice self compassion. So I might, for example, just realize when I'm feeling anxious and then put a hand over my chest, maybe I hand over my belly and just gently rub my body in that way and actually just make some sounds like, oh yeah.


Oh yeah. And it activates a different state of mind that we know from the research that activates a different physiology. And that's not the physiology of fear, you know, it's the physiology of safety and a sense of safe ness and security, we can and I do in the case of when I have bits of public speaking anxiety or other kinds of anxiety, we can actually change our own physiology for the better.


So I am now an unabashed advocate for self compassion or even for loving kindness and compassion. That's I am also an unabashed advocate of directing it beyond myself.


However, this whole idea of putting my hand on my heart or my belly and making, you know, sympathetic noises, I have not been able to get over that. How Ben and Kristin nephew or coconspirator has shown me the science and I believe her, but I still struggle with that.


You're looking for some advice. And what what would you say, Chris, if somebody said that to you, you could take it or leave it?


If you want to respond, that's fine. I'm just putting it out there.


I don't think I'm alone that this seems like a bridge too far for me at least.


Yeah. And there are so many what we call obstacles to compassion. There are cultural obstacles.


So, for example, in just about every culture I've ever visited and I've been all over the world with this, there's usually some argument for how being kind to yourself is less valuable than being kind to others and is in fact selfish. There there's a kind of a cultural prohibition to self kindness, but also there are lots of personal. Obstacles to it, so, for example. If you're a person who has a lot of ambition, you may have gotten there by pushing through and in fact by denying how you feel.


I'm not saying this is you know, it's definitely me. It was a paparazzi. OK, but so there is a kind of a deeply entrenched habit of, no, I'm not going to stop here and turn around and be kind to myself. I have to just keep going. That's how I succeed. And I also think it's kind of a, you know, a kind of a masculine approach to problems, you know? So there are many there's basically there's a lot of training, which is basically told us that.


To stop, to open to how we're feeling and to respond with some kind of kindness is not going to be good, you know, it's not going to yield the kind of consequences that we want. You know, it's going to make us weak. It's going to make us fail. That's going to make us lose motivation. It's going to make us depressed. It's going to make us more anxious. It's going to there's all sorts of fears. So it's really helpful, actually, to explore when I think about self compassion or when I'm about to give myself compassion, maybe even putting a hand over the heart or something.


What comes up for me, you know, in other words, why is that difficult for me? You know, it's good to ask the question and it's usually not personal. It's usually something we've been told or something we've been trained not to do for some reason. Does that resonate for you in any way then? Absolutely.


I mean, I would encourage people to go back and listen, because we just reposted very recently toward the end of twenty twenty, we posted an interview I did with with the aforementioned Kristin Neff in which we talked about some of the.


Kind of culturally embedded sexism, which would block a lot of people, men and women, from embracing some of this stuff, and I really buy that.


I've noticed in my own life that just this is very recent, actually, that I'm engaged in a bit of a self dialog around like, who cares? And just embrace the cheese, go for it if it works. And I know it works. And so every time I can get over the hump and just be, you know, just convince myself it's no big deal, just go for it. I'm always glad I did. So let's get into New Year's because we're.


This episode is being posted as we enter into twenty twenty one and a lot of people are looking to change things about themselves. But, you know, as I understand it, your argument and this is one I would co-sign on. Enthusiastically, is that the uber habit to change the habit, the upstream habit to all healthy habits would be adopting self compassion because everything flows out of that. Do you agree with what I just said?


Yes, I would. I would. In so far as self compassion also cultivates authenticity. It actually increases motivation.


It really is the foundation, because it helps us to see more clearly who we are, what is doable, and it provides motivation to do it as opposed to because I am speaking from experience and just understanding human nature.


I think a lot of us this time of year are deciding, hey, we're going to lose X number of pounds or we're going to start an exercise habit or we're going to start a meditation habit or whatever it is because.


We're running some script in our mind about how we're deficient and we need to whip ourselves into shape, et cetera, et cetera, there's some hostility behind the resolutions. And it seems like and I know a lot of people fear that if they're nice to themselves, they'll lose motivation. But your research suggests that people have increased motivation, just like having a nice, persistent coach in your head as opposed to a malevolent drill sergeant.


That's precisely what it is. But what I'm really appreciating about what you said then is the subtle intention behind the New Year's resolution. That intention actually, in my view, is the deciding factor over whether or not what we intend to do is going to work. And so if the intention arises out of inadequacy or shame about inadequacy and we kind of try to superimpose some grand plan on that, it has the seeds of its own failure right in it, because it's basically driven by shame and shame is deeply demotivating.


There's a meditation teacher in Australia, Bob Sharples, who talks about the subtle aggression of self-improvement, and that's often what New Year's resolutions are. They are subtle aggressions. It's like, honey, you don't look good enough and nobody's ever going to love you the way you look. So therefore, what you should do is to lose some weight. And then and then before you know it, you know, you're basically. Breaking your heart every day because of some commitment that was made out of the sense of inadequacy, you know, so the alternative then is what would it be like not to commit to something that's good for us, not based on inadequacy, but based on love, based on a deep appreciation of who we are?


You know, and in my view, there's just a little shift, which we need to do in order to get there, and that is to focus not on goals, but on our core values. You know, so that's a whole larger conversation. You know, what's the core value? But core values like, you know, they're basically that which gives our life meaning, you know, such as creativity, adventure, compassion, truth, things like that.


But when it's a genuine core value, it actually energizes us. You know, if it's just a social norm and we're buying into it because we happen to live in the society, but it doesn't resonate deep inside of us. It'll actually suck the energy out of us, you know. So if I'm trying to lose weight because it's a social norm.


It's demotivating, however, if I want to lose weight, because I can kind of feel what it's like to be as healthy as possible, then there's a different foundation for it. It's actually on the foundation of kindness because our core values are as close to who we are as anything, even closer to who we are than our own bodies. You know, our bodies change, but our core values are likely to persist throughout our lifetime. So if we can connect with a core value, that's, I think, a way better approach to New Year's resolutions.


And it's really a difference between a goal and a core value. A goal could be I want to lose 20 pounds. A core value is I want to be as healthy as possible. So on the foundation of I want to be as healthy as possible, then the next question is, OK, so how do I do that? You get what I'm saying then. This is a this is putting the whole New Year's resolution thing on a different footing. Yeah.


Because and if your motivation is. To look like your favorite Instagram influencer, that is likely to drive you pretty quickly into the realm of shame because it's probably impossible and even if it is possible, it may not be sustainable. And by the way, that influencers probably editing his or her images.


Anyway, if your motivation is I want to be as healthy as possible, in my case, it's I want to be as healthy as possible so that I can be around for my young son when I can connect to that. Well, that burns much cleaner and a much more sustainable way. Hmm, I love that metaphor. It burns cleaner, yes, that's what it is. You don't just get choking on the smoke that comes from burning on shame.


You know what?


I think I can see this connection, but I'd be interested to hear from you as the expert. What exactly is the connection between self compassion, having sort of warmth directed towards your own, as you said before, sort of brokenness or fallibility and connecting to your core values?


Well, for starters, in order to be genuinely compassionate with ourselves, we need to know who we are and who we are is what gives our lives meaning. And those are our core values. So, for example, if you go to a funeral and you're listening to a eulogy, inevitably what people are talking about is kind of the red thread that ran through a person's life.


What were the values that, you know, this mishap and that success all pointed toward? So basically, when you're looking at a person's life span. And talking about the person, you're really talking about their core values, so this is who we are, and if you want to be compassionate to that person, you need to know what matters for that person. So and our suffering is also kind of held in our core values, you know? So, for example, if I lose my job and I love free time, it's hoopy free.


But if I lose my job and I'm trying to support a family, it's a catastrophe. So our core values and our suffering is closely related. So when we're going to be kind to ourselves, it's not one size fits all. We really need to know who we are.


And in that regard, it's also a practice in authenticity, authenticity that might be worth saying more about that, because that's one of these words. I have a deep aversion to sort of cliche or a buzz word, and yet I feel the frustrating thing about cliches and is that they're generally true and really powerful. But so authenticity is a word that gets thrown around a lot. What do you mean by authenticity?


Well, to be honest, before agreeing to this interview, I asked my friends, what was it like being interviewed by Dan Harris? And they said, well, he's a very authentic guy. He will talk about his experience in a truthful way. In other words, authenticity, you could say, means when our thoughts, our words, our emotions and our actions are in alignment. You know, like even in the last half hour when we're speaking, I sort of learned to trust that what you're saying is honest or authentic.


And so that creates a kind of trust in me. But also when we are authentic, we frankly trust ourselves. We don't second guess ourselves. You know, it's like, you know, you don't have to believe me if you want. But this is what I think. This is what I know. This is my experience. And this example is this is a story I heard about Martin Luther, the original Martin Luther is that he was so, you know, if there's a historian in the room, I'd love to be corrected if this is wrong.


But he was being tried for his heretical thoughts vis a vis the Catholic Church and the judge prior to. Sentencing said, here's the deal, I'm going to read what it is that you said, and then you have a chance to. Deny it, and if you say, I don't believe this, you can go free, but if you say I do believe this, the punishment is death. Do you understand Martin Luther? And then when this actually happened in the courtroom, Martin Luther, his response was, I know no other.


I know no other so on pain of death, you know, he would have wished to not believe this anymore, but that was the only thing he knew. This is radical authenticity, even on pain of death. And it's the kind of thing, I think, which allows us to be unshakeable.


You know, I think the kids call that keeping it real. So let's go back to. Self compassion as a habit that you would argue and buy, and again, I would second this argument. As a habit, that would be a great foundational habit to form before attacking anything else, I want to ask you one. Skeptical question, and then and then I want to get into some details about how we actually form that habit, but the skeptical question, I think we've touched on this a little bit, but I think it's worth going at directly because I know that you've heard this from a million people.


I've heard it from a million people. I've heard these concerns escaped my own lips. If we're too kind to ourselves, we're going to slide into sloppy resignation. We won't get anything done. We won't lose the weight that we think we need to lose. We won't, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. What is your pushback on that? And is there science to back it up?


It's not kind to ourselves to live a life of resignation. It's not kind to ourselves to be sloppy. It's not kind to ourselves to do anything that is going to diminish the quality of our lives. So if it appears that self compassion with doing that, whatever it is that we are doing, I would say is not self compassion and we should stop it. Fortunately, the research is really quite clear that when one does practice self compassion, that what you've described doesn't happen.


You know, again, when people are self compassionate, they live closer to their core values. When people are self compassionate, they're they usually have more energy to pursue their goals. Interestingly, their goals are just as high as people who are not self compassionate. But there's more, you know, energy and effort, frankly, to achieve them. So I would just like to say that self compassion means caring for ourselves in the deepest way. In other words, to bear in mind that whatever we do has short term and long term benefits and to keep the long term benefits in mind as well.


In other words, you know, sloppiness. Now, if it's going to lead at the end of the day to something better than let's do it. But if it's just sloppiness, why do it? That's not self compassionate. That's just harming ourselves.


So if people are with us thus far, they might be thinking, OK, and Harris, I get it, I'm sold. How do I actually do this? How do I make self compassion a habit? Yeah, so the first thing is to understand that for a lot of us, it's a little bit like redirecting a big ship. In other words, we are a large accumulation of habits. And so the main problem is people think, oh, you know, I'm going to give myself six weeks or six months to be self compassionate.


So we have to be patient. And I can tell you that since I learned self compassion back in the story I described in 2006, I've been. Steadily learning to be more and more self compassionate, so it's been now 14 years and I feel like I'm still maybe one third along the way. So patience is really important. The simplest way there are two really simple ways of answering the question, what should I do? And the first is the quintessential self compassion question, which is what do you need?


What do you need now? People don't usually ask us this question. Frankly, they're more concerned about their own needs than ours, you know. So but how often do we ask ourselves the question, what do I need? So just asking that question of ourselves is a profound, self compassionate act. That's a bold, you know, turn of the wheel on the big ship, you might say, to start putting in a new direction. What do I need?


But usually when we ask this question, we don't even know the answer like need. What do you mean what do I need? I don't know what I need. So then it helps to kind of be a little more specific. So to think of different kinds of needs, what do I need to comfort myself? What do I need to soothe myself? What I need to validate myself? What do I need to protect myself? What do I need to provide for myself?


What do I need to motivate myself? So that's the first question. What do I need? The second question then is when we're in a tough spot and we want to be self compassionate to simply ask the question. How would I treat a really good friend right now, what would I say, what would I do? What would my attitude be if I knew somebody who was in the same predicament as I and I really like that person? What would I say or do?


How would I treat a friend? And that is a really powerful question when we're suffering, because the first instinct that we have when we're suffering is not to be kind to ourselves. The first instinct is to crack the whip. The first instinct is to criticize ourselves. The first instinct is to kind of isolate ourselves, basically shame response. But how would I treat a friend? So these are two, you might say, questions which start the journey to being more self compassionate, and these questions can be asked over and over again.


You can ask yourself the question like, why do I need the moment you wake up, you know? It might be you know what, I don't need coffee, I need tea or I don't need either coffee or tea. These are interesting questions. It puts everything on a new footing.


Yeah, I've noticed myself getting into this a little bit because first of all, to double click on the notion of patients that you mentioned before in my exploration of self compassion, it's been very slow and it's required a lot of self compassion to keep going because every time I notice I'm not doing it, I need to bring some self compassion to bear.


Thank you for that. That is absolutely essential on this journey. What you just said, this cannot be more important. It is hugely important what you just said, to be self compassionate with ourselves on the path to self compassion.


Often I've had to hear it from other people I'll be working with, you know, somebody, a shrink or a coach or whatever, and we'll be working on something. And I'll be beating myself up for not having applied whatever skill they're trying to teach me. And then they'll have to say, well, why? How do you think the beating yourself up helps? And so but over time, I've started to be able to catch myself doing that and sometimes stop it.


But as to this idea of what do you need right now is going to bring up another sort of cheesy expression. But we're in the mode here of embracing the cheese. So I will notice I'll be writing I'm writing a book or I'll be writing introductions for this podcast, or I'll be working on anything difficult.


And sometimes I'll hit a wall of fatigue or some sort of physical physiological resistance. And my old mode was to just plow through all of that, usually with disastrous results like bad work or being crabby with the people around me. And I'm now starting to once in a while, once in a while, like one out of 20 times, I will say, oh yeah, what do I need right now? Maybe I just need to lie down and meditate right now.




And you could probably have much more energy and fun with the same thing ten minutes later after a little nap.


Exactly. Right, exactly. Much more of my conversation with Chris Germar coming up right after this. Everyone likes shopping online, but searching for coupon codes can be a bummer, so make saving online a breeze with Capital One shopping capital when shopping is a free tool that instantly searches for available coupon codes and automatically applies them at checkout, just download Capital One shopping to your computer and let it do the work for you so easy and you don't even need a Capital One card to use it.


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Hey, just a reminder, before we dive back in on self compassion with Chris to help you learn how to actually practice self compassion, we are running a free 21 day meditation challenge in the 10 percent happier app. Starting Monday, January 4th, our teachers will be guiding you through a series of meditations demonstrating the benefits of developing self-love, self compassion, acceptance, whatever you want to call it, and also showing you how to actually do it. Our challenges are specifically designed to help you form a habit they include by interviews with meditation teachers explaining exactly what you're doing and why you're doing it, as well as daily meditation reminders from the app.


You can join the challenge by downloading the 10 percent happier app today wherever you get your apps or by visiting 10 percent dotcom, that's 10 percent all one word spelled out dotcom. And if you already have the app, just open it up and follow the instructions to join. All right. Let's get back to my interview now with Chris Girma.


So back to habits and how we make this a habit, I'm going to extrapolate and you'll tell me if I'm right here from the story you told at the beginning of this interview with your own public speaking fear. What it seemed allowed for you to turn the ship around to stick with your metaphor, was to have a foundation in your meditation practice, by the way, that tracks with my own experience that if I want to do something off the cushion in real life, it really helps if I have a foundation on the cushion in meditation.


So what would you describe we should do in our meditation practice that will allow us to ask ourselves the questions, you know, what do you need right now, et cetera, et cetera? How should we practice meditation so that we're more likely to ask ourselves these questions, is that what you're. Thank you for putting my question more eloquently than I put it. That's exactly right. Well, we're gathering the thing together and merging process, right.


The self compassion really needs mindfulness. We really need to be present to our experience. If we're really exhausted and starting to get crabby, we really need to be able to say. Gosh, I'm really exhausted and I'm starting to get crabby rather than just automatically and without awareness pushing through and becoming more exhausted and more crabby and tormenting our families and so forth.


So so that capacity to step back and to see what we're doing in the present moment is an essential first step toward compassion. That's basically it creates the space to be able to make a choice, such as asking ourselves what do I need or how would I treat a friend or any of infinite ways that we can actually be kind to ourselves. So what do we need for meditation? I think, frankly, just the capacity to meditate. That is to say, no matter what kind of meditation we do, as long as it is an opportunity to stop and to self observe, then we're more likely in daily life to do the same thing and then have room for a compassionate response.


OK, so from what I'm hearing there, though, what you're describing is sort of basic garden variety mindfulness meditation, would you also recommend we layer on top kind of practice that goes directly at self compassion, where we are repeating these lovingkindness phrases to ourselves? Yeah, so there are what you're saying is really important, and that is that not only are we developing awareness moment to moment awareness, but we're also intentionally warming up the conversation. You know, in other words, warmth.


What's unique about self compassion practice as a complement to mindfulness is two things. One is that there's this quality of warmth, intentional warmth, rather than just making space where warming things up. And also we're directing some of that warmth at ourselves, the sense of self, the me, you know. So in meditation, if we can in my own personal meditation, this usually happens after like 20 minutes. Like, usually I just do a straight on breath meditation for 20 minutes in the morning, and at that time I start to feel.


Get more conscious about the uneasiness and the edginess that might be in my life at that time, and then loving kindness makes so much sense. In other words, like, oh, honey, I see you. And then we can start to be kind to ourselves in ways that we would be kind to another person, such as what do I need now? So, for example, I practice loving kindness, meditation. I say certain phrases to myself, usually only after 20 minutes when it actually means something.


It's not sugar coating. It's a healthy and intelligent response to distress, which I usually find after 20 minutes in the morning. So to layer on at the right time, natural warmth in a way that comes most easily. So for some people, it's an image. For some people it's warming up the breath. For some people it's language. For other people it's touch. There are infinite ways that we can warm up our awareness, but that also then, you might say, primes us in daily life not only to be aware of what's happening in our lives, but also to be kind to ourselves.


In other words, it creates before we start the day an inclination towards self kindness.


I'm going to make some recommendations. And you, as the person who knows infinitely more than I do, can correct me if you feel like anything I've said is is off. My recommendation is that, you know, everybody's different. And your meditation practice. You, the listener, your meditation practice may be different from mine and your meditation practices, six months may be different than yours is right now. And so I would recommend experimenting. It may be that you meditate for a while and then at a certain time in your sitting, it feels right to do some self compassion.


I could see an argument for reversing it because a practice of. Envisioning yourself maybe as a kid and then sending phrases like maybe happy may be safe, maybe healthy, may live with these, that is classically a sort of concentration practice and it can five minutes of that before the rest of your meditation can settle the mind as you go into sort of a more breath awareness. I could also see a world where if this is something you're really struggling with, which, by the way, would put you in very good company because I think most of us are struggling with you might actually take a whole chunk of time a year.


I actually took two years recently where all I was doing was loving kindness, not just directed at myself, but sort of in a panoramic way. So I think there are a bunch of ways to attack this in your meditation practice. Chris, does that make sense to you?


Yes, yes, yes, yes. You know, in the larger meditation world, the one of the main questions is, OK, should people first learn self compassion or do they first learn mindfulness? And the answer seems to be depends, you know. So there are quite a few people who learn mindfulness and they are so self-critical that they say, I can't do this. I don't know how to meditate, I should quit. And they do quit because they first need to learn self compassion.


They need to learn to be merciful with themselves when they practice and not consider the thing a test of your, you know, value as a human being. So some people need to learn self compassion for some people. They need to learn mindfulness first. And but also, as you said quite eloquently before, not only is each person different, but we are different from month to month, year to year. And so to really ask ourselves what makes sense, you know, what do I need, you know?


But to know that there are options, you know, in other words, making space for our experience and being aware of our experience is not the only way to meditate. You know, we can also. You know, there are many, many different forms of meditation, but warming up our awareness and including ourselves in the circle of our awareness is a legitimate way to practice with lots of research behind it. And it's been also going on for thousands of years.


Don't be shy.


Agreed. Having said that, though, let me bring in. Some caveats, these are not designed to make you shy. I don't think anybody should be shy about doing this. I think we should all go for it. But and I'm now kind of quoting you here, and I'm paraphrasing something I read from you, which is that this is not necessarily always going to be super pleasant because when we soften around some of the things that are causing us pain.


We're basically going to experience that pain, the pain that allowed us to put up the armor in the first place. So can you give some advice to people who might find themselves experiencing that? Yeah.


So when people practice mindfulness meditation, just making space for their experience, they inevitably experience things they didn't know about, had never felt before or not consciously and often things they don't want to know about and don't want to feel. So this happens just when we direct our gaze inward and make a little time and space for it. But with loving kindness, meditation and compassion, meditation, that happens more and it happens more because the practice of compassion and warmth in relationship to ourselves evokes our personal relationship history.


It drops us into the relational matrix of our lives.


And in the many interactions that we've had with people, all of us have been disappointed, have been hurt. All of us have loved people fiercely who could not love us back. And it has hurt. It may have been an original caregiver or sibling or anybody after that.


So all of us have, you might say, relational wounds.


So the amazing thing about lovingkindness, practice and compassion practice is not only does it expose those wounds, but it's also an opportunity to heal those wounds. So there's a saying that love reveals everything unlike itself. If I say to myself, oh, may I accept myself just as I am very quickly, particularly in the beginning of practice, I will notice these are all the unacceptable things about me. And I've also been treated in a way that I was unacceptable when I was this age and when I was that age.


So we start to basically remember uncomfortable things and when this happens. Practitioners usually, if they haven't heard this conversation before, the one we're having right now, they think, oh, I'm not doing it right. I'm practicing this because I want to feel good and I want to, you know, let the love shine and so forth. And how come I'm getting really bummed out? How come I'm feeling shame and sadness in despair? Now, I don't mean to freak people out who are on this call, but Sharon Salzberg was very clear about this long time ago.


Lovingkindness meditation is not about good feelings. It's about goodwill. It's the intention to be kind to ourselves. That is really what it's about. We are cultivating over and over again the intention. And when we do that.


Uncomfortable feelings will definitely arise, but it is a blessing because when they arise, this is not new stuff, this is old stuff because we've just like stirred up the pot. All the muck at the bottom of the pot is coming up. It's getting stirred up and it's also leaving us. It's leaving us. And the amazing thing is that our minds know for most of us, our minds know when we have the capacity and when it is safe enough to actually bring this stuff up and let it be transformed.


And when we bring consciously kindness into our experience, when we build that muscle of kindness in our experience, then the mind starts to reveal its secrets because it knows that now is the chance that I can be healed. I have the capacity to see this. I have the capacity to hold this. I have the capacity to heal this.


And ultimately, that's what we do when if you have, for example, a memory of being shamed when you were six years old or something, when that's coming up, you can just be super kind to yourself now as an adult, because this experience has been with you for so long and in that kindness toward yourself and then even kindness toward that six year old. And that's also a beautiful part of practice.


In other words, to find those parts of yourself that have been hurt, kindness toward yourself, kindness toward the child that was hurt. We are actually in that moment transforming the experience and reparenting ourselves. So the remarkable thing about this is that these negative emotions that come up are actually opportunities for reparenting and in the clinical language. All of this, in a nutshell, is about how lovingkindness practice activates our attachment styles, our relational patterns. It reveals the wounds, and then it gives us an opportunity to develop what we call secure attachment.


You know, we might have had insecure attachment or avoidant attachment, but we can develop the capacity for inner security, for a secure base within. And in my view, and I say this also as a therapist, this is the most profound opportunity that we have with this kind of compassion and self compassion meditation. It's basically to develop what's called earned attachment or to repair it ourselves.


I've seen a lot of this in my own practice and I did a once a loving kindness Metta meditation retreat with a great teacher by the name of Spring Washam, and she uses a kind of grandiose term. But it really jibes with everything you just said, which is this is a kind of a purification practice that you do this sort of touchy, seemingly touchy feely thing of repeating these phrases. But it's actually it's kind of a baller move because when you do it, lots of difficult stuff will come up because it's the mind knows it's safe for that stuff to come up.


And you can then direct the kindness towards the difficulty. But in that way, you kind of are purifying the mind of, as you say, sort of just taking the trash out in the mind. And that can be really helpful. We do have some voicemail's I want to get to. But let me ask just one last question before we do that.


You mentioned way back at the beginning of this interview that you saw as you got up on stage to deliver that speech at Harvard Medical School, that all of the compassion you'd been sending to yourself on the cushion, it actually seemingly inexorably led to compassion for other people because you loved the audience. And I'm just wondering, is there any science that backs that notion up that self compassion can lead to more other compassion over and over and over whenever.


There's a self compassion training, self compassion and compassion for others are both measured, both go up together. What is interesting is that if a person is by nature, in other words, has trait self compassion, they are not necessarily more compassionate toward others. But when we learn self compassion across the board, people become more compassionate toward others in the research. Yeah, I mean, I've talked about this and I stole this idea from Joseph Goldstein's great meditation teacher, but I've talked about it a lot on the show, the virtuous cycle that I think it could get unlocked here with self compassion, because, you know, as your inner weather improves, you inexorably have more room to see that other people are suffering and you can be cooler to them.


And as your relationships improve, your inner weather gets better and then your relationships improve and then upward we go. It's not perfect. It's not like a permanent efflorescence of positivity for the rest of your life. It's nothing works that way. But I do find that it it can it can be very helpful.


The research is also shows us that by practicing compassion for others, we increase in self compassion, you know, so that's the virtuous circle cycle you're talking about. In other words, I practice self compassion. It leads to compassion for others. I practice compassion for others.


It leads to self compassion because it's all one thing. I mean, love. And again, I'm not talking to love in the romantic Hollywood sense or Bon Jovi songs. I'm to I mean, sort of anything north of neutrality, the human capacity to care. It's omnidirectional. So, yes, I mean, I think once you train one aspect of it, it just it all almost. Right.


It's a it's a state of mind and it's also a physiology, you know, so it takes everything gets absorbed in it. You know, when we're angry, we're angry at ourselves. We're angry at others.


When we're compassionate, usually compassionate with ourselves, compassionate with others, it's a state and and it can become a trait through practice.


So let's get to these voicemail's. People send in questions via voice mail for you. So here's the first one.


It's from a listener named Bob Quidam and 10 percent of your crew. My name is Bob and I teach at the university up here in North Dakota. I just listen to your discussion with Laurie Santos and both of you discuss the value of gratitude. I've been attempting to start a daily gratitude practice. I find out whenever I come up with something to be grateful for, my mind always puts it right away. I end up feeling guilty or shame. For instance, I noted that I was grateful for being able to see a therapist, and I immediately felt shame because my mind flip to others out there who cannot find or afford a therapist and that I wasn't fully taking advantage of my therapy or getting better more quickly.


Likewise, I noted gratitude for having students who are willing to engage with me in the course material. And I immediately felt shame because my mind put to the students who are engaged with the material and not doing well in the class and feeling like a bad educator and that I'm not doing enough for them. I was wondering if there are any mindfulness strategies that can help me to address this immediate transformation of my gratitude into guilt or shame. Thank you very much and I appreciate all that you do.


But yeah. Well, thank you, Bob. And I'm grateful that I don't have to answer that question because I have somebody who actually knows what he's talking about here to answer that question. We're hoping for your sake and mine, right? Yeah, no, I appreciate Bob's observation. In fact, it's quite a mindful thing just to be able to notice that it's also really common. In other words, the way we know anything is, by contrast, if I say, oh, this ceiling is high, then I know what low ceilings are like.


When I say it's a bright day, I know cloudy day and so forth. So the only way we know anything is by contrast. So when I start to say, well, I'm really grateful for this, then often the opposite will start to come up in my mind, like, well, you should be ashamed, you know, something. So this is a really quite natural. It's just how the mind works. I don't blame you, Bob, for feeling a measure of distress about it, wishing that it were not so.


And that's where self compassion comes in. So self compassion has, you know, really three aspects to it, according to Kristin Neff. One is mindfulness. The other is common humanity. And the third is self kindness. So in this case, Bob, you've already got the mindfulness piece down. You noticed that when you are grateful, practicing gratitude, you can feel some shame. So you're aware of this. And not only that, you're also aware of it in a kind of a nonjudgmental way.


And so far is that you were able to make the call and share this and make it also a benefit to others. So you totally have the mindfulness piece done. Then there's the common humanity. And that is to actually understand that what it is that you're going through is a part of the human experience. You know, if you were to do a workshop on gratitude, you would be your participants would be just so grateful to you because you will make sense.


Of their experience, which is that all kinds of other emotions will arise for you. And then there is kindness. So then the question, Bob, would be, huh?


How when you're practicing, how can you practice gratitude or while you're practicing gratitude, if shame arises, how do you want to hold yourself and how do you want to hold the shame?


OK. And so what I would suggest is that you not get too caught up in thinking about this, worrying about it too much and do something kind of radical. And that is find where in your body shame is located. Maybe it's in the throat or the chest or the belly and see if you can just be super kind to that part of your body that is holding the emotion and that is probably been holding that emotion for a really long time. And, you know, you can rub that part of your body, you can talk to that part of your body, you can even Bob, listen to that part of your body.


You can say, you know, you can as if that part of your body was a person. What would that part want you to know? And what would you like to say to, as it were, that part of your body who's holding the emotion or, you know, that part that's bearing what we'd call the burden of shame? So you don't want to get too caught up in your mind struggling with gratitude and then opposite reactions? I would say you're aware of it.


Notice that it's common thing, but drop it out of the mind, down into the body and begin to address that which the gratitude practice has kicked up in a compassionate way. And you will probably notice over time that those contrary responses start to diminish. You know, it's just like a fire. You know, when we first start a fire, it's really smoky. But then after a while, it burns brightly clean burning, as then would say.


So it's a particularly common in the beginning as well.


The practice just to say that this I call this Christian doesn't know that I call it this, but I call this the NEF three step. She describes this as a practice you can do both on and off the cushion. Something difficult comes up first step mindfully. Notice it. Second step. Get some perspective by knowing that millions of other people probably at this very nanosecond, are suffering from something very similar judgment, anger, fear, whatever, third step, bring some kindness in, put a hand on the part of your body where you're feeling it, say some kind words to yourself, et cetera, et cetera.


This I've been practicing with in my own life is a really good circuit breaker on the sort of habitual rumination or shame spirals that come up in my own mind. Let's do the second voice mail. This one's from Sarah. Here we go.


Hey, Ben, this is Sarah, first time caller, long time listener. I am calling you on the road in rural Maine where I'm a hospice chaplain and self-love is so complicated and so difficult. And I know kind of cognitively what I need to do and why it is good for me. But as a recovering perfectionist, I just can't seem to create that new habit of self-love. I'm just super self-critical, even though I offer a lot of love and compassion in my day to day work for assassination.


And, gosh, I just I don't know how to get around it. So I'm really, really hopeful that this new challenge with you all will help me. And yeah, my biggest question is just how do I get this to be at a point where it doesn't it's not just in my head, but it's in my heart as well. So it's important for me, but it's also important. I have a two year old and I don't want him to have the same self-critical habits as me growing up.


So, yeah, I'm sure that's an easy fix. So I look forward to the series. Thank you.


Thank you, Sarah. I have a special affection for people who work in hospice and I also think I could hear your turn signal on there. So I'm glad you're driving responsibly. It's a form of self care. But this actually I'm glad Sarah asked this question because I was something that came up in my mind quickly before and I didn't follow the thread. You had said earlier, Chris, that people who train in one kind of compassion get better at others, you know, so you might train in other compassion and then you get better at self compassion.


But it's quite common, I think, for people to have lives of service by my put my wife in this category. She's a physician, extremely compassionate, but also extremely hard on herself. And so it sounds like Sarah has fallen into this. As you said, this is very common and, you know, I'm a psychotherapist and this is also super common among therapists, that we are just utterly oriented toward working for others and will drive ourselves into the ground trying to do our best.


You know, so this is a familiar scenario. What Sarah was talking about was really the the flip side of self kindness, which is self-criticism. And one thing's for sure, you know, we were talking before about this phenomenon of Backdraft or the way something opposite comes up. So when we start being kind to ourselves, we actually become more vividly aware of all the criticism going on inside of us. And again, this can seem pretty horrifying, but it's actually.


Quite wonderful that we can actually see it like, oh, my goodness, I didn't realize how self-critical I am and frankly, the more self kindness you give to yourself, the more you'll notice yourself critical.


And this experience comes mostly in the beginning of practice. You know, once we basically open Pandora's box, we can see everything in it. And it's like, oh, my God, I'll never be able to do this.


I'll never be a good self love self kind of self compassionate person. So what you need to know is this is actually a pretty common experience, not only for caregivers, but for anybody that's starting to cultivate self kindness. We discover how self-critical we are. So what's really important is, again, this quality of patience. You know, there's a beautiful story from the Torah in which a rabbi was talking to his student about words in the Torah. And the student said, Rabbi, why is it that Torah says to place the holy words on our hearts?


Why doesn't Torah tell us the place, the holy words in our hearts?


And the rabbi responded, because as we are, our hearts are a little closed. From suffering and so we cannot place the holy words in our hearts, so we place them on our hearts until one day our hearts break open and the words fall in, the words fall in. So Sarah is doing the right thing. Sarah is saturating herself with kindness. She's discovering critical voices, but she's probably keeping at it. She's cultivating this precious intention, this good will.


And there will definitely come a time when she is least expecting it, when something happens and she notices that she's so tender with herself. And then she will say, oh. I would never have responded like this a year ago, you know, so we have to have patience. It's all a good thing what Sarah is describing, you know. It just doesn't feel right. Well, speaking of good things, you're doing a great thing in your career and I'm grateful for it.


And you've done a great job in this interview. And I appreciate you. You're doing it. Thank you.


Thanks. I really appreciated the conversation. I liked stretching into this conversation with you then. And also I do, if I may say, really appreciate your authenticity and how you are openly sharing your own journey with everybody else. That's a huge generosity. Thank you, I appreciate that very much. Big thanks to Chris, I really enjoyed that, as you know, Friday marks the start of twenty twenty one, and this Friday we've got a super special bonus we're going to drop in a brand new episode, a conversation with Karabo from Queer Eye will be diving into his complex and inspiring life and learning about how he discovered self compassion and how he operationalizes it every day.


KURAMA We'll also be taking part in the New Year's meditation challenge on the app, which we are incredibly grateful for and excited about.


So to help you apply everything we learned from Chris Girma today and to learn from Karabo and our expert meditation teachers, you can join our free 21 one day meditation challenge by downloading the 10 percent half your app wherever you get your apps, or at 10 percent dotcom. All one word spelled out. If you already have the app, as I've been saying, just open it up and join the challenge. Big, hearty.


Thank you to the folks who put the show together.


Samuel Johns is our senior producer, Jay Cashmeres. Our producer Jules Dodson is our associate producer. Our sound designer is Matt Boynton from Ultraviolet Audio. Maria Wartell is our production coordinator. We got a ton of incredibly useful input from our colleagues such as Jen Point, Nate, Toby, Ben Ruben and Liz Leverne. And, of course, a big salute to my ABC News comrades Ryan Kessler and Josh Cohen. Additional thanks to everybody at the 10 percent happier app who also have been working incredibly hard to make this podcast series and the challenge a reality.


Just a few names here. Maggie Moran, Alison Bryant, Julia Wu, Kimberly McNish, Nico Johnson, Amy Breckenridge, Jessica Goldberg, Jade Weston, Matthew Hepburn, Joshua Perkowitz, Crystal Isaac Conner Donahue, Liz Woodwell, Kelly Castagnetti, Derek Caswell, Eva Breitenbach, Rey Housman, Young O Transgresses and Liz Farmer.


Big thanks to all those folks and thanks again for listening. We'll see you soon. Life is full of possibilities. You just need to know where to look. Now streaming on Disney plus is the movie critics are calling peak Pixar, Disney and Pixar, so it's visually glorious and a joy to behold. People magazine says it's the best movie of the year. Remember to enjoy every minute of Disney and Pixar soul rated PG parental guidance suggested now streaming on Disney plus.