Soften My Brow

Written by: Madeline McCallum, contributing writer and blogger at

To be quite honest, lately I have had absolutely no clue how to practice self-compassion.

I have felt like a train hurtling forward into infinity, with no end-point in sight and no time to look out the window.

How could I nurture myself when I needed to make sure I was aligning one foot in front of the other in the perfect way? I was treating my relationship with myself like that of disciplining a child – one party clearly knows better than the other, demands things of the other, scolds the other when they want to act differently.

I was explaining this circle of reprimand that plays out all day in my head to my therapist, and I watched as her eyes turned sad and she told me, “That sounds like you are being awfully harsh to yourself.” That made me pause, because up to that point I hadn’t really considered that the way I was treating myself was a choice – didn’t I have to act that way, perform those things, to be the successful human that I wanted to be?

I would never, ever choose to speak the words that I speak to myself to another person; yet, they roll so easily off of my internal monologue. Once I stopped to think about this, I remembered times recently when I would be in the gym and physically burst into tears just because of the bully inside that was screaming at me.

That is powerful stuff. A clear image of an over-bearing, dominating, plain old mean voice, much like the personified “Ed” voice, emotionally beating my authentic self to a pulp. But somehow, I still couldn’t figure out how to exist any other way –  I was pulled in really deep.

I found myself wanting to yell STOP at the top of my lungs – I couldn’t keep going at this pace, this hurtling forward was unsustainable. And let me tell you, I have never believed in the Universe and the way it works out and my Creator’s plan more than I do now – after a particularly grueling weekend, I experienced a severe allergic reaction while on my Monday lunch break.

The experience of anaphylaxis is nothing if not the definition of being out of control. As my lungs closed and ambulance workers shocked my body back to life with a huge adrenaline shot, I had to just close my eyes and believe it would be alright. In tears and with a heart that felt like it was going to explode, there was no choice but to tell my body it was going to be okay. With every needle in my arm and chemical pumped into my veins, I clung so close to myself, telling my body that it was so strong, look at what it could handle!

My body has shut down the week following this reaction, from all of the chemicals and the physical trauma as well as from PTSD and intense emotional trauma and anxiety from the first time I experienced this reaction that had been triggered. I have been forced to rest, to really and truly give myself the compassion I need. My body is so in tune with the world almost on a spiritual level, and it finally put its foot down (no pun intended) and wouldn’t let me get out of bed until I did some serious reevaluation.

I came across a blog post from Mystic Mamma, who writes about wisdom, tuning in, meditations, and astrology, about the New Moon that happened this week. She wrote that this time is “a time of deep self-healing,” a time that has come where she who is dedicated to healing others “must retreat and give some of that healing to herself.” I realized amidst feelings of being paralyzed in my loneliness that I have all of the capability to mother myself within me. I needed to give myself the time and space to heal and “tune into [my] inner Mother and connect with that healing, nurturing energy.”

Once you pull yourself out of the depths of your self-hatred and expand your view, look beyond your body’s capability and into the capability of your heart and your spirit, it becomes a lot easier to pause and see the value and necessity of self-compassion. Your worries don’t all melt away; rather, they become just a thought, not all-consuming, that exists and can either be remedied or worked through.

I’m definitely not an expert at self-compassion yet, but I am getting there. This month I am going to meditate on stillness, on broadening my vision and being anchored deep in the body that knows me better than my mind knows me.

In a section of her new book “Honoring Voice,” Pixie Lighthorse writes, “Soften my brow. Help me hold my gaze.”

In my quest for self-compassion, I hope to soften my brow, to ease the deep tension that has taken up home in my body, and to focus on all of the incredible things that my body has survived and will continue to survive, and the world that is waiting for it once it has rested.

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