If we want to be compassionate to others we first have to learn how to be compassionate to ourselves. It is not uncommon for people to quote these kinds of statement when someone is being overly hard on himself or herself. There is a certain amount of truth in these statements because it is difficult to be really compassionate to other when we are being hard on ourselves. I said there is only certain amount of truth in that statement because we can train ourselves to put others needs before our own or if we operate from a competitive orientation where winning is all important we may end up ignoring our needs at the expense of winning. One may not even be aware that by doing that they are harming themselves and those close to them.
When we are harsh or violent towards our selves it is genuinely hard (as I said ) to be compassionate towards others. When we are taught to be judgmental towards ourselves it prevents us from seeing the beauty in ourselves. We lose connection with the divine energy that is our source. If we can learn moment-to-moment evaluation of ourselves without being violent to ourselves, we can then learn from our mistakes and make choices that serve us without ever losing self-respect. Unfortunately the way we have been trained to evaluate ourselves often promote more self-hatred than learning. We can all recall an incident when we done something we shouldn’t have done or made a mistake; immediately afterwards it is not uncommon for us to treat ourselves harshly and tell ourselves “that was stupid”,” how could you do such a stupid thing” or “what’s wrong with you”, “you are always messing things up” or “that was selfish thing to do.” We have been taught to evaluate ourselves in a way that’s not very helpful and leads to devaluing ourselves. What if we evaluated the situation in a way where we can learn from our mistakes and gain new insight; wouldn’t that would guide us towards growth? We can do this by being compassionate to ourselves.
What is it to be compassionate and why is it important? Compassion can be defined as a deep understanding of ones difficulties or suffering without judgment and then helping skillfully to relieve that difficulty or suffering with the sole purpose of enriching life. Being compassionate is important because it pattern our brains in such a way that our behavior and way of being in the world becomes a catalyst for healing and enriching life for others and us. The practice of being compassionate overtime will generate in our minds’ and bodies’ experience of well-being because how we view the world and ourselves in that world would have changed to one of nurturing and caring rather than one of fear and aggression. The compassionate behavior requires a number of different skills and attributes. It requires us to have sensitivity, sympathy, tolerance for distress, empathy, non-judgment and care for well-being. This will allow us to direct our attention compassionately, to think and reason compassionately, to generate compassionate images and imagining, and to work on creating a bodily sense of compassion. These skills and attributes will infuse our attitude with warmth rather than cold detachment; thus generating nurturing, healing, happiness and contentment within others and us. It becomes a way of being which allows us to connect to others and ourselves that enhances life. It allows us to identify our human feelings and our human needs; then compels us to behave or act strategically in such a way that both ours and others needs are satisfied. If we practice being compassionate to ourselves first then we can be compassionate to others. With practice it becomes our natural way of behaving as our brain pattern for behaving and seeing the world becomes profoundly different. We are less likely to be influenced by the old primitive patterns we inherited through evolution and our popular cultural.
In the words of Mahatma Gandhi “Be the change you want to see in the world.”.
In the next post more on developing compassion.
Nonviolent Communication: a language of compassion by Marshall B. Rosenberg.
The Compassionate Mind by Paul Gilbert
- Being Compassionate Towards Yourself (dragonandrose.wordpress.com)
- Being Compassionate (gettingatwhatmatters.wordpress.com)
- Can the brain be trained to cope with suffering and bring about feeling of contentment? (drchana.com)