Self-compassion is the opposite of being selfish! It turns on your brain’s capacity to offer caring actions. Moving beyond Empathy to Compassion and learning self-compassion can change our human responses to each other, to ourselves, and to our Earth.
THE RESEARCH ON COMPASSION AND EMPATHY
Richie Davidson and Daniel Goldman in their brilliant book showing their research on Mindfulness called Altered Traits state: “Brain research tells us of three kinds of Empathy. Cognitive empathy guides us to understand how another person thinks and see their perspective. With emotional empathy we feel what the other is feeling. And, the third, empathic concern or caring, lies at the heart of compassion.” They define Empathy as “feeling with” coming from the German word Einfuhlung, introduced into the English language in the early 20th Century. They state that our typical empathic response is that caring and feeling with someone often upsets us, so we turn away.
Isn’t that what we all are struggling with right now? Turning away, shutting down, because our empathic response is not helping us move into action? We feel saturated, frozen, disconnected in our pain.
Compassion is accepting what’s happening and not turning away. It is bringing in care when someone is suffering. And this refers to ourselves as well. So the term Self-Compassion has been recently offered as a powerful process of learning how to do this for ourselves — to take caring action towards ourselves instead of turning away from our suffering in judgment, criticism, self-reproach.
Research on Compassion and Self-Compassion is showing us that by practicing Loving Kindness Practice or Metta we light up different brain circuits, those for loving concern, that create positive feelings and create resilience. Tonia Singer, Ph. D, Kristen Neff,Ph.D, and Chris Germer, Ph.D, are all working alongside Richie Davidson in this process of researching in order to distinguish which kinds of mindfulness practices create specific results and how to activate more compassion into our lives. Research from all of these shows that compassion practices such as Loving Kindness specifically, boosts warm thoughts, warm positive feelings that generate love towards oneself and others. Over time, the brain begins to generate more warm capacity for caring for others and a better resilience for staying present in a compassionate way. This allows us to take more compassionate action for ourselves, our loved ones, and beyond.
SELF-COMPASSION TOOLS CAN HELP YOU MEET YOUR OWN PAIN
I’ve been trained by Kristen Neff and Chris Germer at the Center for Mindfulness in San Diego to teach Mindful Self-Compassion. This program, based on their research, teaches Loving Kindness Practice and well as 3 other key practices that help you cultivate this capacity for compassion for yourself, first, and slowly, more for others as you continue to do these practices. This course and teaching it has changed my ability to be present to my own struggles and has helped me expand my circle of caring. I can hold more compassion for myself and my clients when I go up and down in my daily waves of life. I feel lighter, happier, and more available to meet my pain and others’ pain, and I want to share these tools with you.
I will be teaching this class on Zoom starting in September — and you can also learn these tools at my Women’s Mindfulness Retreat this November.
WIDENING OUR CIRCLE OF CARING
Would you like to expand your ability to deal more compassionately with the challenging events happening right now in our country? I don’t know about you, but the painful ways we are talking to each other and treating each other is really hard to be with each and every day. I believe it starts with us – each of us inside – to develop this capacity to be more self- compassionate. As we learn to do this with ourselves, we can slowly begin to change our communities, our families, and all humanity.
The Dalai Lama says our strategy as human beings is: “To recognize the one-ness of humankind, even groups we dislike, and so realize that all of them, like ourselves, do not want suffering; they want happiness.”
I see this as the prescription to save our Earth, and our existence on it together. Won’t you join me in learning these tools so that we can widen our circle of caring in our world?