Last month we covered various forms of compassion on a Podcast. Following up with this blog, I will mostly be covering self-compassion since it seems to be a more difficult practice, (both personally and noticeably through working with others). An intricate part of my own journey has been the following insight - by coming into a place of compassion for others, especially with those whom I had struggles with, supported my journey with self-compassion. You may notice that some of the following practices involve being compassionate towards others… perhaps even wonder well, isn’t this about self compassion? For me, it’s all interconnected. Part of my insights were; well, if I can genuinely have compassion for someone whom I have difficulty relating with, then I can surely practice this with myself too! I grew tired of being my own worst enemy so I decided to dedicate some time to delving deeper.
I learnt about how the differences between people was what made the world beautiful. I also learnt that human beings have many things in common too across the entire planet, no matter what country one lives in or what language is spoken. Recognising the differences and the commonalities has allowed me to experience, perceive and empathise from both sides of the spectrum.
1. Celebrating differences
This to me is important for a number of reasons; celebrating differences in perspective, celebrating differences in my and other’s gifts, talents and the way we navigate through life and so on. Not everyone is going to agree or see things the same as I am, in fact, I like hearing other viewpoints because it often adds new insights. This is because everyone has their own life story, perspective and awareness. Although I may be stating the obvious, it’s amazing how one can forget this. On many occasions, I have observed how people’s differences have caused chaos, barriers and hostility. Even though I may feel very different from someone else about a situation, I can still appreciate their perspective given the experiences or upbringing they may have had. For me, it is ok to have a different point of view, as long as I am not trying to force it onto others. I do my best to see through their eyes, even if I do not agree and accept that sometimes, that's just the way it is.
Practice in Action: a simple example: with a friend share what your favourite seasons are. If yours is winter and your friends is summer, celebrate the differences! If you like your coffee made with 1 spoon of sugar, and your friend likes 4, celebrate your difference in taste. It’s a playful exercise that you can try with many things, yet it can be quite powerful especially with more 'serious' topics. At the very least it will put a smile on your face!
Acknowledging what we have in common is a practice where I feel more connected to my fellow human beings. I have not met anyone who didn’t want to feel loved, valued, heard or seen. Who didn’t want to be happy and experience joy in their life. There is a story behind people’s behaviours, there is always a reason why people do what they do. Looking beyond someone’s behaviour, and remembering that they may just be looking for love in that moment when they were reacting from fear, helps me stay more present to what is happening in the moment. They just may have a strange way of going about it and… it’s a very common human condition!
Practice in Action: If you and your friend both like the same season celebrate your commonalities. Experiment and ask yourself and your friend what is it you value the most in life (love, happiness, etc). Celebrate the common values/feelings/beliefs/experiences.
I aim to be as honest as I can, especially with myself. When I have a judgmental thought, I am aware of it and I have learnt not to judge myself for that judgment of another. Rather, I acknowledge it and let it go. I recognise that judgment is more than likely about myself not the other person. What is it that I’m judging? It may be the way they are relating; perhaps they are being disrespectful. It may just be a reminder that I might be disrespecting myself in some way, or maybe I need to stand up for myself and to be mindful of not disrespecting others while doing so. I never underestimate the power of thought - it has an incredible affect on one’s inner world and can dramatically affect one’s outer world. If my inner dialogue consists of criticism of others and myself, that energy can turn pretty toxic. My inner critic might need some attention :)
Honesty is a wonderfully empowering and often difficult thing; and it can set one free.
Practice in Action: Do an inventory of your life and the things you may not be very proud of, anything you feel ashamed of, embarrassed about, even things that you may not like about yourself. This will require a lot of honesty. Then share this inventory with a trusted, loving friend. If there are certain actions you feel moved to do (e.g. make amends) proceed compassionately. You also may want to do a ritual to let it all go and come to a place of peace.
4. Empathising with one’s own life journey
When I take an honest inventory of my own life, (and that can take quite a lot of time and energy), I am able to understand my own behaviour better. I am less likely to ‘beat myself up’ because it makes sense why I might do things a certain way. There are a lot of ‘ah-ha’ moments where I begin to soften my perspective. There were a lot of times when I was just trying to survive. I disassociated to survive and created ways to navigate through stressful experiences. It may feel uncomfortable revisiting these incidences, yet, as the adult, it brings me more of a depth of understanding and compassion. I become my own best friend.
5. Self Worth
Finding situations, people and things that support my sense of (self) value is also empowering and healing. It may just be something very straightforward - a walk in nature, a swim in the ocean. It could be overcoming a fear with the support of a friend. It could be spending some time alone, this for some is uncomfortable; where it’s just you and the unknown.
Self-worth for me is something I discovered inside myself. It has been very similar to the journey of allowing love into my life, into my being; defining it and experiencing what it means. This goes hand-in-hand with self-worth. Having support from friends and/or family is also very important.
Practice in Action: Do something loving towards yourself; have a massage, go on a retreat or a holiday, spend time in nature, hang out with your best friend, etc.
I feel that part of compassion is discernment because compassion can be practiced different ways depending on the circumstances. I may not need to talk to anyone in particular, in fact, for me I’ve found it mostly a private or internal practice. It promotes inner peace and the hope that others will find that inner peace within themselves also.
Written by Laura Naomi
© Laura Naomi 2018
Blogs are inspired by transformation of the human spirit, by love, wellness and the journey of the soul. The writing is to inspire and raise awareness.