Monday, 19 January 2015

Why Compassion?

There is much scientific research available these days to show the positive effects of compassion on mental and physical health.

When we feel compassion we are changing our inner world from the stress-activated defence state to an open, relaxed state. This relaxed state is more pleasant because it allows our mind and body to function at optimum levels. There is less pressure on our nervous system, muscles and organs so they just feel better.

There is an unshakeability that comes along with feeling compassion. This is because it puts us in touch with a very fundamental truth of nature: that we are all interconnected. When we feel compassionate towards another, or something within ourselves, a barrier falls away and we see life as it truly is - infinite and precious.

All the above can also be said of mindfulness. Compassion and mindfulness overlap and interlink. They are part of the same way of being in the world. You can't have one without the other.

So, if it makes us feel so much better, what puts people off compassion?

There is an old interpretation of the word 'compassion' that a lot of us grew up with. It is the same interpretation that puts people off the word 'forgiveness'. Back then, compassion came along with a lot of guilt about so called 'bad' feelings and a lack of clarity around people taking responsibility for their actions. This idea of compassion was very ungrounded and often lead to greater suffering for all concerned.

When we allow ourselves to feel through to the other side of hurt, anger, hatred, fear and resentment, what we arrive at is what compassion means in mindfulness terms. Compassion, far from weakening us and permitting bad behaviours, actually strengthens us to make wiser decisions. How we choose to proceed from feeling compassion is entirely up to us, in the moment. Sometimes it will mean walking away, sometimes re-engaging, sometimes taking strong action.

 

Com-passion

The word compassion means to 'suffer with'. Or more simply to 'feel with'. We can be compassionate with someone else's joy and well as with their suffering.

When compassionate we are present and not divided from our present moment experience, whatever it is.

Compassion for ourselves is the beginning of healing. When we can stay present to our own suffering and don't abandon ourselves into judgement and resignation, we can intimately know the healing power of compassion.

How can you be compassionate with yourself and/or others right now?

Give it a go and see what happens.

 

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