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Gillian Sanger

How do you practice compassion?

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This week's question asks: 

How do you practice compassion?

There are infinite ways to practice compassion. Some methods are inward (i.e. metta meditation) while others are tangible (i.e. listening with an open heart/mindful communication). If you have any favourite practices, let us know or share a link to what helps you to cultivate greater compassion. 

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I have recently learned that empathy is the identifying with the feelings of others, while compassion is being called to help.  This has helped me reframe compassion for both myself and for others.  Viewing compassion as something actionable has made it more concrete for me.  I, like @Gillian Sanger am regularly drawn to metta  and tonglen styles of meditation.  In both, the concepts of helping, wishing, meditating in the interest of increasing the well being of others is, to me, the action of compassion.

I also really like the self-compassion work of Kristin Neff, who taught me about the shared humanity of suffering during a very fragile and difficult time in my life.  The idea that self compassion can be the tiny act of placing a hand on your heart or holding your own hand to alleviate your own suffering shifted things for me.  When I am feeling self critical or shaming myself, those things continue to bring. me some small places of ease.

Lastly, I heard Pema Chodron speak of something in a recent interview called Compassionate Abiding.  You can take a listen to the conversation (I have listened 4 times!) at the link below.  Tami Simon from SoundsTrue is a wonderful interviewer.  I learned so much from this podcast and use compassionate abiding daily.

https://resources.soundstrue.com/podcast/pema-chodron-compassionate-abiding/

 

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Beautiful offerings Rachel - thank you! Yes, even just placing a hand on our own hearts is deeply nourishing. Even if it doesn't take away the pain or suffering of our experience, its a gesture that says, 'It's okay. I'm here for you.'

Similarly, something I try to practice when I get caught in streams of negative thoughts or difficult emotions, is to speak to these energy currents with care - to let them know it's okay that they are present. It makes me think of Brach's work on radical acceptance - opening our hearts to everything about our experience without judging or condemning them - and without having to act upon them.

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I love the idea of compassion and aspire to be a truly compassionate being.   Learning self compassion has made a great deal of difference for me in my every day life and I could not have gotten this far on my self growth journey without putting it into practice, and often.  Giving to others and being generous and helpfulI is something I deeply enjoy doing and look forward to finding opportunities to do so.  However, I do struggle with the non-judgemental aspect of it.  I can show kindness and generosity and help others and be glad to do so, but not without a brief moment of judgement crossing my mind.  And something I find extremely curious about myself (and I assume in some way is related to my ego) is that it feels more natural and less judgmental on my end, to help strangers or acquaintances than people that are close to me.

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Thanks for the reflection @JillianZ! I think it's wonderful that you're able to note that momentary judgment that arises, and I also believe this is entirely human. Sometimes it's there and sometimes it isn't. I don't think it's something we can control per se, but what we can control is the attention we give it and what we do with it when it arises. I think humour is sometimes helpful with this. Silently grinning at ourself with an energy of humour when our ego arises can help to dissolve it.

I also think for many it is natural that it is more challenging to have this same open-heartedness to people who are close to us. There's probably many psychological reasons for this, but one for sure is that we often have a lot of undealt with dramas and emotions with certain people. Sometimes, it is hardest for us to be fully open with the people we are closest to - to, for instance, share ways in which we've been hurt in the past. These emotions then fester, which I think can lead to us feeling less open with some people that we really love. Just an idea 🙂

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