Compassion: The Mainstay of Mindfulness

One of the quickest and most effective way to start being mindful is to invoke compassionfor yourself and for others. If there is one thing you can do immediately it is to become more compassionate.

Here are some ways that you can be compassionate:

Compassion Puppy Hands

  1. Being reflective (gentle) & responsive (feeling) instead of reactive (angry)
  2. Being sensitive to others’ suffering as well as your own suffering
  3. Changing critical attitudes (greed, hatred, delusion) into compassionate attitudes ( generosity, love, awareness)
  4. Taking responsibility for mistakes instead of blaming & defensiveness
  5. Invoking “right speech” – instead of complaining about others
  6. Cherishing (loving) your partner/spouse instead of criticism, defensiveness, contempt, and stonewalling (withdrawal)
  7. Having the grace to love and be loved instead of withdrawing
  8. Thinking about the impact of your behavior on others.

Compassion for Self

“Progress not Perfection.” – Alcoholics Anonymous Proverb

Progress involves recognizing, embracing, accepting, seeing clearly without delusion, and having compassion for your own misperceptions, as well as others’ imperfections. Progress means learning, moving forward, not blaming yourself, hurting yourself, and becoming the “dragon sitting in the corner eating your own tail.”

When people define compassion it is usually defined as being understanding, empathetic and caring towards others suffering, while ignoring the importance of being self-compassionate. This requires active training and an inner resolve to recognize and express our “true goodness”.

Lighten up…Give yourself a break…learn from mistakes…

Life is difficult enough without beating yourself up. There is an underlying assumption that if you get angry with yourself, punish yourself as undeserving, even harm yourself for mistakes, that you deserve such self-treatment and it will prevent you from making future mistakes. You beat yourself because you forget to embrace your “inner goodness”, and feel like you do not deserve to experience joy and happiness.

“All beings want to be happy, yet so very few know how. It is out of ignorance that any of us cause suffering for ourselves or for others.” – Sharon Salzberg, Lovingkindness

Even now, you might be doubting the efficacy of having compassion for yourself. We have grown up with the model of punishment as a deterrent to prevent future mistakes. Parents who punish with shame (i.e. the message that there is something inherently wrong with their children) cause children to feel that they are inadequate and flawed. Parents who parent with love, kindness and understanding, while acknowledging the inner goodness and wisdom of their children, and promote feelings of capability. It is not that mistakes do not have consequences and suffering, but it is not a mistake that causes the individual to approach their world with fear, anxiety, depression, and self-loathing. Instead it is something to be aware of “in the now”, with the choice of making it worse, or learning and growing.

Photo courtesy of Toronja Azul

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