A number of years ago I discovered that not only was I not good at being kind to myself, I was acutely afraid to be nice to myself. Somewhere along the way I had gotten it in my head that being extra tough on myself was the way to ensure I’d be an accountable, productive and worthy person. The painful implosion of that construct led me on a path of re-acquainting myself with something now quite near and dear to my heart – kindness.

Directing kindness towards myself, I discovered, actually resulted in me being more accountable and productive. It helped me to become more creative, reliable and happy as well. And while I was never as harsh with others as I was with myself, in rooting myself firmly on the self-kindness path, my relationships with others also began to shift for the better. Having a more expansive capacity for compassion, and not having my sense of worth constantly on the line, has also grown my capacity to connect.

During a time in our country and city where emotions are raw, fear is rampant and isms are abounding, I’m departing from my usual column to simply offer up resources to nurture kindness within ourselves and our communities.

The following list of books is by no means exhaustive, they are books though that personally help me be more openhearted –  both when that is and isn’t easy thing to do. As always, I love hearing from our community so feel free to email me at ashley@8limbsyoga.com with your favorite kindness tip or resource.

Self-Compassion: The Proven Power of Being Kind to Yourself by Kristin Neff, Ph.D.

If you have an inner critic (or two or three) residing in your head you’re not alone – our country has an epidemic of harsh inner critics. Weaving research, real life examples and simple mindfulness practices, Dr. Neff unpacks how this came to be a theme in our nation and how it plays out in our bodies and relationships. Perhaps more importantly, she also offers compelling evidence for encouraging a kinder relationship with ourselves, along with simple and accessible ways to do this.


Make Peace With Your Inner Mind: How Mindfulness and Compassion Can Free You From Your Inner Critic by Mark Coleman

When we pause to not only listen to but also observe our inner critics, many of us notice they tend to have distinct personalities. In Make Peace With Your Inner Mind, therapist and meditation teacher Mark Coleman takes a close and compassionate look at common inner critic voices and traits. Unpacking how these characters come to be and are fed, Coleman provides guidance for gently defusing our own critics to bring more inner peace and happiness.


Living in Gratitude: A Journey That Will Change Your Life by Angeles Arrien

One way to bring more kindness into our lives is by disarming obstacles to kindness, such as our inner critics. Another route is to direct attention towards that which is uplifting and inspiring. This book embraces the latter. In Living in Gratitude, gratitude guru Angeles Arrien maps out a comprehensive and nuanced way to both understand and feel gratitude. Drawing upon traditions from around the world and structuring in a practical month-by-month format, this book fosters conditions for everyday kindness through generosity and connection towards oneself, others and life.


Loving-Kindness: The Revolutionary Art of Happiness by Sharon Salzberg

Considered a classic, Loving-Kindness gets at the heart of what it entails, and feels like, to relate to others and ourselves with empathy and love. A founder of the Insight Meditation Society, Salzberg bridges Buddhist philosophy and wisdom traditions with Western culture as a way to understand and work with modern day struggles in accessible, insightful and impactful ways.


Hardwiring Happiness: The New Brain Science of Contentment, Calm and Confidence by Rick Hanson, Ph.D.

The human brain has been hardwired towards a negative bias. As a means to survival, we’re built to recognize and imprint harmful and unsafe experiences. What neuroscientists have more recently come to appreciate is the ways in which current lifestyles often encourage an over-triggering of this wiring. The resulting surplus of fight-flight-freeze states can take its toll on our well-being. In Hardwiring Happiness, Neuropsychologist Rick Hanson talks readers through easy and practical ways to turn this trend around, restoring a kinder, calmer and happier balance.


Meditations on Intention and Being: Daily Reflections on the Path of Yoga, Mindfulness, and Compassion by Rolf Gates*

Through a series of short essays (one for every day of the year), Yoga Teacher Rolf Gates gently illustrates the subtle but powerful impact of committing to not simply practicing yoga, but practicing yoga over time and with compassion. Gates demonstrates how turning yoga in on ourselves both on and off the mat paves the way for kindly tending to our tough and tender spots and thoughtfully recognizing our shared humanity.


The Way of Tenderness: Awakening Through Race, Sexuality and Gender by Zenju Earthlyn Manuel

This short, sweet and deeply insightful book is one that a few of us behind the scenes at 8 Limbs have been reading and rereading. Manuel deep dives into the limitations of relying on conventional and intellectual capacities to understand issues of identity and privilege. Moreover, she crafts a courageous invitation to draw upon tenderness as a way to awaken, grow and connect within our communities and ourselves.


How To Love by Thich Nhat Hanh

In a culture that often fetishizes romantic love and drama, this pocketsize book is refreshing in its simplicity, groundedness and easy-to-digest wisdom. Based on an understanding that true love consists of loving kindness, compassion, joy and equanimity, renowned Zen Teacher Thich Nhat Hanh shares concise and relatable insights about how returning to the basics of love can profoundly grow our hearts and relationships.


Posted By: Ashley Dahl, 8 Limbs Executive Director

Ashley, and Senior Teacher Tracy Hodgeman, will be further exploring kindness directed towards onseself in their upcoming workshop, “Self-Compassion: A Radical Path April 2nd. Click here for more details and to register.

*Rolf Gates will be coming to 8 Limbs March 24th & 25th. Click here for more details and to register.

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