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On the quest to cut open a pumpkin: phrases for self-compassion

Sitting on my counter for the past while has been a beautiful, locally, lovingly, organically grown baking pumpkin. This weekend, it was time to use it, and I opted to make gluten-free pumpkin muffins. One of the first steps, after washing it, was to cut the pumpkin open. Trials with five separate knives later, mission was accomplished.

About one-quarter to one-third of the way through trying to cut the pumpkin open–and likely while I wrestled to pull a stuck knife out of the vegetable–I began to fantasize dropping the pumpkin from a height and gathering the broken pieces to then stick in the oven and roast. I do not know what is the best knife to use to cut open a pumpkin or the best method for cutting. I tried five different knives as I struggled to cut the thing open. I do know that at about the same time the smashing pumpkin fantasy moved in, so did words from Kristin Neff’s book on self-compassion:

This is a moment of suffering.
Suffering is part of life. [All people suffer or have doubts and difficult feelings.]
May I be kind to myself in this moment.
May I give myself the compassion I need.
–Kristin Neff, Self-Compassion: Stop Beating Yourself Up and Leave Insecurity Behind, p. 119, 2011

Self-compassion is many things but one thing it is not is insensitive to one’s experience of struggle or pain. As I tried to cut open the pumpkin, I was struggling (my physical strength was being put to the test)! So it was an opportunity to acknowledge this, to acknowledge other people have struggled to cut open pumpkins too, and to be understanding toward myself in the knife-stuck-in-pumpkin predicament.

Okay, I am being somewhat facetious. Yet at the same time, not so much. Showing ourselves understanding and not judging the feelings that come up is essential for all our moments, not only for the big ones. And practicing the every day kind, and getting comfortable with that, feeling safe with that, will help with facing the harder things, or the times when for some, self-compassion may be terrifying or extremely difficult.

It’s always okay to start with something very small, so starting with the frustration of cutting open a small pie pumpkin is a completely fine place to start.¬†You could also start by repeating to yourself the simple phrases from Kristin’s book — spend one to five minutes a day, once a day when the going is rough, doing that for a while, and then see where you go from there.

This is a moment of suffering.
Suffering is part of life.
May I be kind to myself in this moment.
May I give myself the compassion I need.

Self-compassion can be pragmatic. On the topic of pragmatic, anyone have tips for cutting open a pumpkin?