Welcome to October, a month all about Compassion!
According to Wikipedia,“The etymology of ‘compassion’ is Latin, meaning ‘co-suffering’." More involved than empathy, compassion commonly gives rise to an active desire to alleviate another's suffering. This is about going beyond just having pity for someone (sympathy) or even being able to feel someone else’s pain (empathy). Compassion is when we sense such a pain and are motivated to actively give our help.
ABOUT THE ARTIST
Vincent Lai is the founder and creative engineer behind Skinny Vinny, a Brooklyn-based design studio that creates functional bags, ties and other accessories that bring forth a sense of urban sophistication with tailored craftsmanship.
There are different ways to look at compassion, and we dug up a number of these examples in the links you'll find below. For right now, we are choosing to focus on self-compassion, because really, that is where it all starts.
The self-compassion method below is by one of our favorites, Leo Babauta of zen habits.
- Notice your suffering, in one of its many forms.
- Turn towards the suffering, see it as it is, feel it fully, experience it mindfully and in the moment.
- Accept the suffering, instead of trying to ignore it, avoid it, push it away, kill it. Accept that it’s a part of life, a part of you, but temporary.
- Wish yourself happiness, wish for an end to your suffering. Give yourself a mental hug, comfort yourself.
- Let go of what’s causing the suffering. Just release it, or put it aside. The cause is likely something you wish were different. Instead, appreciate things as they are. Be present with reality.
- Be grateful for the reality that’s happening right now.
Kristin Neff, Ph.D and author of Self-Compassion (the excerpt in the Inspiration & Resources section below is from her book as well), has designed a number of writing exercises on this topic, include this great one:
- Part One: Which imperfections make you feel inadequate?
- Part Two: Write a letter to yourself from the perspective of an unconditionally loving imaginary friend.
- Part Three: Feel the compassion as it soothes and comforts you.
After writing the letter, put it down for a little while. Then come back and read it again, really letting the words sink in. Feel the compassion as it pours into you, soothing and comforting you like a cool breeze on a hot day. Love, connection and acceptance are your birthright. To claim them you need only look within yourself.
Want to print this? Download the Action List (PDF).
- Read: Self-Hugs by Leo Babauta via zenhabits
- Watch: Self-Compassion via The School Of Life
- Listen: "I am the son of a terrorist. Here's how I choose peace." via TED
- Watch: Boundaries, Empathy & Compassion via Brené Brown
- Listen: Conversations on Compassion with Eckhart Tolle via Stanford University
- Read: Excerpt from The Proven Power of Being Kind to Yourself by Kristin Neff, Ph.D:
“You can’t always have high self-esteem and your life will continue to be flawed and imperfect—but self-compassion will always be there, waiting for you, a safe haven. In good times and bad, whether you’re on top of the world or at the bottom of the heap, self-compassion will keep you going, helping you move to a better place. It does take work to break the self-criticizing habits of a lifetime, but at the end of the day, you are only being asked to relax, allow life to be as it is, and open your heart to yourself. It’s easier than you might think, and it could change your life.
As I’ve defined it, self-compassion entails three core components. First, it requires self-kindness, that we be gentle and understanding with ourselves rather than harshly critical and judgmental. Second, it requires recognition of our common humanity, feeling connected with others in the experience of life rather than feeling isolated and alienated by our suffering. Third, it requires mindfulness — that we hold our experience in balanced awareness, rather than ignoring our pain or exaggerating it. We must achieve and combine these three essential elements in order to be truly self-compassionate.”
Dr. Kristin Neff received her Ph.D. in 1997 at UC Berkeley, studying moral development. She is currently an Associate Professor in Human Development at the University of Texas in Austin.