Last month I was honored to be a guest of Leo Babauta of Zen Habits, who had asked me to talk about and to answer questions on self-compassion.
It was supposed to be a video, but unfortunately my camera decided to stop talking to my computer just as the webinar began. But Leo kindly send me the audio of the conversation, and I invite you to listen to it below.
I discuss the practice of self-compassion in terms of a very useful Buddhist teaching extracted from the 12 nidanas (links) that illustrate dependent origination, or paticca-samuppada. These are (in a slightly adapted form):
- Contact: the mind’s filtered and interpreted contact with the world
- Feeling: the mind’s labeling of perceptions as pleasant, unpleasant, or neutral
- Volition: our cognitive and emotional responses, indicating how we should act in response to those feelings
- Action: our actual responses, created by the acting out of our volitions
As far as I recall I mainly discussed the first three of these as points where we can act to create a more compassionate response to ourselves.
I hope it’s beneficial to you. I’d love to hear what you think, and what your experience is.
This was an informative and enjoable talk, the question and answer part was particularly valuable. The questions read out were all the ones I would have asked and then, strangely, the scenarios you used in your answers were also relevant to me. Such as dealing with time pressures and my 6 year old daughter, particularly when doing school run. Also I have back pain now and again… never thought of being grateful.
Planning to implement your ideas and see what happens- thanks for sharing them.
As somebody who has had a pain in the stomach for almost 6 weeks now, I was very interested in your neuroscientific analysis Bodhi. It is so amazing how just thoughts can generate so much physical discomfort and as you observe, how many of those thoughts are about one’s inner world and nothing to do with outer reality.
I struggle with the metta bhavana practice, often because I am unwilling to extend that love to myself initially. However, it is so important that I am going to have to come out of my comfort zone and do it even when I am not “feeling it”.
Do you have any information or guided meditations for the Loving Compassion practice. I think I might need to start with compassion and work up to well wishing.
Nice talk man.
Sorry for the embarrassingly long delay in my reply. As you know, I’ve had a crazy summer, and the comments have been getting seriously backed up.
Traditionally, lovingkindness practice is the foundation for compassion practice, so what you’re suggesting is technically back-to-front. But that’s not necessarily a problem. When we’re dealing with a lot of suffering, any lovingkindness practice we do is automatically going to become compassion practice anyway, since the definition of compassion is lovingkindness meeting suffering.
I don’t have a compassion section on this site, although I’ll get around to creating one at some point. Most of the teaching on compassion that I’ve done has been on our two “100 Days of Lovingkindness” courses, and in our online course, The Power of Mindfulness. The 100 Days material has been put together as an ebook, so I’ll send that along to you by email.