Having a “metta moment”


Welcome to the April Carnival of Natural Parenting: Compassionate Advocacy

This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama. This month our participants have shared how they advocate for healthy, gentle parenting choices compassionately.


By the end of today, you probably have hugged someone you love, looked lovingly at your kiddo, supported a friend who was on the verge of losing it, smiled at a neighbor, and maybe even lent a hand to a complete stranger. But have you looked kindly at yourself, said something uplifting and supportive to yourself, or given yourself a break?

There was a moment last week when I was about to lose it. Just the normal stuff staying home with two little ones. But I was done. Have you been there?!

I called my friend Rachel to tell her that I seriously doubted we’d be over for our playdate. Rachel had this gentle, understanding way of taking in what I said. She herself had just been there this morning. She didn’t try to fix what I was saying or top it with her story, and she didn’t get all caught up in my emotions. She “woke me up” (a mini enlightenment!) and in that moment I realized that I had gone down that path we go down when we are tired, hurt, or frustrated – we feel as though we are the only ones feeling what we are feeling. We harden – our bodies, points of view, and our hearts.

I paused. I paused and took a “metta moment.” Metta means kindness. I softened into my breath and into my heart. And that was enough. It was enough to create some spaciousness, to lighten up, to go easy on myself, and to begin again. I didn’t attack my day with more vigor and determination. I softened.

A classic version of the Buddhist Metta Meditation goes like this:
“May I be safe.
May I be happy.
May I be healthy.
May I live with ease.”

Sometimes, that comes later – after a simple moment of taking a few breaths and softening. And as we send ourselves such kindness, we can send those well-wishes to others.

But how about you? Do you easily soften, give yourself a break, and lighten up? Don’t give yourself a hard time if you haven’t!!! Just realize this…and soften.

More and more these days I’m seeing that the answers to being happy aren’t complicated. Soften our harsh judgments, high standards, impossible expectations, and cruel self-talk. Soften our furrowed brows, tight jaws, and clenched fists. Soften, soften, soften.

Much of my work as a body-centered and mindfulness psychotherapist involves showing clients how to bring in a little dose of self-compassion to their everyday lives – this moment, this breath, this thought, this feeling. Much of my daily “work” as a mom to two little ones involves getting some breathing space and offering myself that dose of self-compassion.

Dr. Kristin Neff, Associate Professor in Human Development and Culture at the University of Texas at Austin and one of the country’s leading researchers on self-compassion, defines self-compassion as “bearing witness to one’s own pain and responding with kindness and understanding.” Instead of going down “that path” of beating ourselves up and getting lost in our emotions, we just pause, lighten up, honor our humanness, and bring in a bit of gentleness. And we soften.

You all know that “softening” is one of my words for this year. In our culture, being soft is seen as a negative thing. Gentleness is often viewed as wimpy. But I am coming to understand that there is great power and strength in gentleness and softness. I am coming to understand the truth of Lao-tsu’s words:

“Softness triumphs over hardness…what is more malleable is always superior over that which is immovable.”

I recently wrote a post about how my husband’s gentle nature has impacted me – my heart, nerves, and spirit. Gentleness creates a sense of expansiveness. It lets in light. It softens taunt nerves and quells anxiety.

Recall the last time someone treated you with gentleness – it probably felt like sweet water for a parched soul. Recall the last time someone responded to you with soft and kind words – it probably felt refreshing and warm.

Gentleness generates warmth – within you and between you and another person. Gentleness and softness infuse any moment with lightness and ground us. They renew a sense of “I am ok, this is ok, all is ok.” Strength, hope, and possibility grow out of that. Now that is power!

I am beginning to see the wisdom of the Dalai Lama’s words: “Love and compassion are necessities, not luxuries. Without them humanity cannot survive.” Every day Brian and I make sure we have good food for ourselves and our kiddos, we take baths, drink plenty of water, and brush our teeth. Every day we do these “basic necessities.” But every day we all need doses of love and compassion – for ourselves and our dear ones. Not as some luxuries or indulgences but as necessities to survive and thrive.

As we give ourselves a break and treat ourselves with kindness, that flows into all we do and all those we encounter. I do believe that whatever we want for this world, we first have to cultivate it within ourselves. I dream of a compassionate world for my children…and my children’s children. One simple act of self-compassion plants the seed to such a world.

And the other day when I lightened up and watered that one little seed of self-compassion?

We all had a better afternoon! I was able to lighten up with my four year old, give up on my one year old napping, and laugh about it (sort of) with Brian when he got home. I also was able to more clearly identify what I needed – a break at my writing desk while Brian took the kiddos outside. I went in to seeing clients that evening with a lighter heart and more acceptance for what it is like to be human and get through a day.



39 Comments (+add yours?)

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  2. Bianca Taylor Bentz
    Apr 12, 2011 @ 20:05:09

    thank you for this…..xoxo


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  5. MrsH
    Apr 12, 2011 @ 20:31:49

    I love this post, thank you very much for sharing it. I have such a hard time with this and am constantly working on it. My husband is so patient and gentle all the time, a true model. One day I’ll get there, it’s one of those things I can’t work too hard on or else it just becomes another striving, buckling down and getting it down. Which kind of is the antithesis of what you’re talking about here!


    • barefootlisa
      Apr 13, 2011 @ 08:16:58

      MrsH – we must have similar husbands! My Brian is sooo gentle and lowkey. I hear you too about not STRIVING toward…anything…including lovingkindness! You are right on. Thank you for this reminder.


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  10. Patti
    Apr 12, 2011 @ 22:34:39

    ” Soften our harsh judgments, high standards, impossible expectations, and cruel self-talk. Soften our furrowed brows, tight jaws, and clenched fists. Soften, soften, soften.”

    Were you talking to me here? How perfect. Just the words I needed to hear.



  11. Zoie @ TouchstoneZ
    Apr 13, 2011 @ 01:44:21

    Thank you. I think I should set my alarm on my cell phone for random times to remind me to practice lovingkindness toward myself. I’m often the last one to receive it


    • barefootlisa
      Apr 13, 2011 @ 08:14:11

      Oh Zoie, what a lovely idea. I actually think there is an “app” for that! :) I don’t have one of those smart phones or iphones but what a lovely idea. Traditionally, for centuries, that’s the purpose of the meditation bell at a monastery or ashram — to bring us back into centering and remind us of our practice. Lovingkindness. Thanks Zoie. I look forward to reading your blog!


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  13. Lori/ Beneath the Rowan Tree
    Apr 13, 2011 @ 08:55:35

    Thank you for this. Much needed!!

    Come and Join the Playdate!


    • barefootlisa
      Apr 13, 2011 @ 17:18:25

      Lori, thank you for your comment — yep, much needed. it’s amazing, too, the research that is being done on self-compassion..it’s like we missed this step when introducing mindfulness and compassion to the West!


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  15. Megan
    Apr 13, 2011 @ 17:00:51

    I am in serious need of a metta moment. I’m going to say that meditation right now!


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  17. Kristen @ Adventures in Mommyhood
    Apr 13, 2011 @ 22:49:25

    Thank you for this! I really needed to read this today. I’m actually glad I didn’t get around to it yesterday, because it probably hit home more for me today. I’ve been telling myself I need to start meditating again, need to be more gentle with myself, etc but it seems I’m always at the bottom of my list. Thanks for the reminder to take care of myself.


    • barefootlisa
      Apr 14, 2011 @ 07:18:58

      Oh Kristen, I so hear you. Me, my friends, and retty much every client I see can use a dose of gentleness — compassion for ourselves. And I hear you about wanting to get back into meditation. I’ve had to totally rethink how I define and do meditation with two little kiddos! Instead of long periods of meditating, much of my focus now is on cultivating mindfulness in the moment — what I like to call “meditation in motion”. Just little doses of “waking up” throughout the day. Love to you.


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  19. Krista
    Apr 26, 2011 @ 01:03:57

    I especially like, “I didn’t attack my day with more vigor and determination. I softened.” More often than not I “refocus” when really I need to let the focus go for a bit and hopefully find a better path.


  20. Krista
    Apr 26, 2011 @ 09:15:51

    I sure am glad that I read this last night…but how to be kind to myself when I’m absolutely disgusted with my poor reactions, my lack of coping techniques on a bad morning? I can find kindness in understanding that being unable to sleep most of the night left me vulnerable emotionally, but I still feel that I should be above falling apart when my child acts in a way that feels unkind. Maybe the kindness for myself today is simply accepting and allowing myself to feel the sadness that I feel…I don’t know…


    • Lisa
      Apr 26, 2011 @ 12:22:52

      Krista, I so hear you. I sometimes think “man, lisa, you should be better now in nonreaction — or in your words “above falling apart when my child acts in a way I feel is unkind.” I can be pretty hard on myself. I think we as moms do that a lot. I guess I am in the same boat as you — allow myself to feel the sadness, disgust, bring in a bit of kindness and breath, and also just asking for grace from the Universe. It’s so interesting that you bring this up b/c just this morning I was laying in bed waaay before the sun came up and I was thinking about my poor reactions to A. – a LOT in this last year w/ C. being born. And I felt a sense of regret and then I felt the movement to soften YET AGAIN. I don’t have any answers either, yes, except just soften, allow, feel it, start again. I’m glad I’m in this with you!


  21. Rachael
    Apr 26, 2011 @ 10:14:31


    I love it. Thank you so much!


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Copyright. 2013. All rights reserved. No portion of any post may be copied without written permission from the author. The advice offered herein does not constitute a substitute for professional psychological treatment, therapy, or other types of professional advice and intervention. The self-help contents are solely the opinion of the blogger and should not be considered as a form of therapy, advice, direction and/or diagnosis or treatment of any kind: medical, spiritual, mental, or other. If expert advice or counseling is needed, the services of a competent professional should be sought.

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