Begin and End with Self-Kindness

I hypothesize that the extent to which people can gain awareness skills – with “awareness skills” defined as the ability to, nearly on-demand, engage in emotion regulation, attention direction, and thought management – is the extent to which they can engage in life based on their values and priorities, recover from hardships inherent to the human condition, and gain mastery of problematic patterns of feeling, thinking, behaving, working, and relating.

Although avoidance and distraction logically may provide a short-term break from uncertainty, boredom, or distress, the reality of one’s interiority and the reality of the outside world are present and require addressing. With awareness, addressing reality can be done humanely and strategically.


What do my reviews of research literature and my education, training, and professional and personal experience suggest can support acquiring and deepening awareness skills?

Self-kindness. Self-care. Beginning with the end in mind. A schedule. Practicing skills during slow times so they are readily available during challenging times.  Acknowledging intensity. If not in danger, pausing. Differentiating between possibilities (a range of equally likely outcomes) and probabilities (the likelihood of this outcome occurring over that one). Acknowledging that opposites can both be true. Adjusting. Appreciating. Catching judgment and replacing it with compassion. Learning a new skill. Gaining basic knowledge of how the human heart, mind, and brain work. Gaining knowledge of effective relating with self and others. Self-kindness.

I will add that, in my nearly 65 years on the planet, I have not experienced a time that called for a greater measure of a trait currently difficult to measure by science: courage.

Beginning in childhood, I was keenly aware of my great-grandparents’, grandparents’, and parents’ thinking about life and how to live it well. Of this list of eight events considered by a panel of historians to be the most stressful in U.S. history, my family members or I lived through six of them. I was a history major as an undergraduate. I have studied all national and word events mentioned in the article. I deem my views informed.

I think these times call for nearly heroic bravery, attention, determination, and inventiveness. I would have wished stable times for all of us to explore our strengths and create along the way. Written languages, themselves, were created during stable times! Certainly, possibilities still exist. But I posit that, today, cultivating a quiet, inner fortitude – perhaps unnoticed and unappreciated by others – may need to be the ultimate act of self-kindness.

. . . . .

“Self-care in this sense is an exceedingly radical idea.”
– Daniel Schreiber, Alone: Reflections on Solitary Living (p. 101). August 1, 2023. Reaktion Books. Kindle Edition.

Image: Stolk, iStock

All content is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional advice. Consult a qualified professional for personalized medical, health care, and professional advice.


  1. Laurel Sindewald says

    Thank you for everything you’ve taught me about self-awareness and self-kindness. I appreciate knowing that these times are difficult even by historical standards!