Oct 10, 2013
A lot of people have difficulty practicing self-compassion, but some people have difficulty with the concept of self-compassion. I’ve had very experienced Buddhist practitioners tell me that while they think it’s good to have compassion for others it’s not desirable or even possible to have self-compassion, or that self-compassion is just self-pity. It’s a shame there’s so much confusion over such a crucial practice.
But in some ways it’s not surprising that this confusion exists. The Buddha just took it for granted that we love ourselves — he said we should love others as we love ourselves, which for self-loathing westerners seems the wrong way around — and as far as …
Sep 19, 2013
We were three days into a weeklong meditation retreat when one of my students, Daniel, came in to see me for his first interview. He plopped down in the chair across from me, and immediately pronounced himself The Most Judgmental Person In The World.
“Whatever I’m thinking or feeling when I meditate … I end up finding something wrong with it. During walking practice or eating, I start thinking I should be doing it better, more mindfully. When I’m doing the loving-kindness meditation, my heart feels like a cold stone.” Whenever Daniel’s back hurt while he was sitting, or whenever he got lost in thought, he’d rail at himself for being a …
Sep 09, 2013
Self compassion is essential if we are to have compassion for others. It is also a powerful tool for transforming our own lives, freeing us from fear and resentment and unleashing a more joyful and creative approach to life.
On this retreat we’ll explore, step-by-step, how to become more compassionate toward ourselves. We’ll learn to become more mindful of our own suffering, and to accept it without reacting. We’ll explore how to hold our suffering in mind compassionately, and how to imbue our minds with …
Aug 30, 2013
Self compassion is essential if we are to have compassion for others. It is also a powerful tool for transforming our lives, freeing us from fear and resentment and unleashing a more joyful and creative approach to life
On this retreat we’ll explore, step-by-step, how to cultivate self-compassion. We’ll learn to become more mindful of our own suffering, and to accept it without reacting. We’ll explore how to hold our suffering in mind compassionately, and how to imbue our minds with a compassionate awareness.
Self-compassion is something that’s been absolutely …
May 31, 2013
A couple of times people have contacted me saying that self-compassion is not possible. Both times they’ve quoted dictionary definitions that present compassion as something that’s inherently directed toward others. For example:
com·pas·sion n. Deep awareness of the suffering of another coupled with the wish to relieve it. [Emphasis added]
And the etymology of compassion — “[to be] with suffering” — has also been cited as a reason for rejecting the notion of self-compassion, because that’s taken to suggest that we be with the suffering of others.
But it can be misleading to insist that the etymology of a word defines or exhausts its present meaning. Sure, com- means with …
May 26, 2013
I’ve often written about how experiencing compassion for ourselves can naturally spill over to experiencing compassion for other people. When someone says something that you find hurtful, that hurt is a form of suffering. Often what we do is try to become angry, ultimately in an effort to rid of the “cause” of the suffering (the other person) and thus remove the hurt. This is a kind of double aversion, because not only are we experiencing aversion to the person whose words gave rise to the feeling of hurt, but we’re turning away from the hurt itself.
A compassionate approach to dealing with hurt, on the other hand, is to …
May 19, 2013
We can be very hard on ourselves, can’t we? It’s as if, sometimes, we’re watching out for any tiny hint of a mistake, and then we pounce on ourselves, getting angry, or frustrated, or ashamed.
I suspect it’s because we can be. When people are allowed or encouraged to be cruel, they often will be. There’s some inherent cruelty in all of us (to varying extents) and this is kept in check by social norms. Change the social norms so that cruelty is encouraged, and it soon emerges. The Standford Prison Experiment and other similar studies shows that that cruel streak is there and can easily be brought out to …
May 13, 2013
So far I’ve just been advising people to do the metta bhavana (development of lovingkindness) practice while bearing in mind the sufferings of others, but karuna bhavana (the development of compassion) is a practice in its own right. I thought I’d take an opportunity to geek out by looking at an early source of instruction on this practice.
The “Path of Liberation” (Vimuttimagga) by Upatissa is the oldest meditation manual that I know about. It was probably written in the 1st century, several hundred years after the Buddha’s death. It’s from India, but the text has only survived in Chinese translation.
The scriptures of the Pali canon, which contain records …
May 11, 2013
Yesterday I wrote about the complexities of the “near enemy” of compassion, which is the grief that arises from attachment. So we might feel bad when we see someone suffering, but not actually have any empathy for them. That’s not compassion. It’s “grief” at having our normal experience disrupted by someone who’s inconsiderate enough to suffer. Or we may spiral into despair and sorrow (which is called “failed compassion”) because we’re unable to bear the discomfort of knowing someone is suffering. This is all rather tricky for people to get hold of, sometimes, and it’s potentially undermining because we can end up doubting, in an unhelpful, self-hating kind of …
May 10, 2013
The other week I was walking to work after it had rained hard all night. The sidewalks and roads were covered with worms, who like to migrate when the weather is wet (no, it’s not because they would drown in their tunnels).
Now, almost exactly twenty years ago I made a promise to myself that I wouldn’t walk past a worm without moving it to safety. Why? Well, I just don’t like the way I feel when I ignore another’s suffering, even if the other is a slimy invertebrate. And the sun was out, the sidewalks were starting to dry out, and it was obvious that many of these …