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Cultivating Compassion

The quality of the content of the mental continuum, our inner discourse, or the mind-stream, directly influences the quality of compassion we bring to ourselves and to others.

Usually when we think in terms of compassion and what that means, what it looks like and so on, we tend to look outside ourselves first and view compassion as something to project onto an external situation or person. We may have never considered the idea of self compassion and what that would look like. In fact, some may even consider it as selfish. But here is something to think about:  “If I am not being compassionate with myself, how genuine, really, would any compassion be that I may have for others?”  For the purpose of this inquiry, let’s define genuine compassion as an authenticity of intention, rather than pity; a profound empathy and ability to see oneself in another,” rather than sympathy or, “oh, that poor person” type of thing.

Consider this idea: if I can only see others through the lens through which I see myself, then what I am actually seeing in others – defining, labeling, interpreting them as – might only be a projection of how I really feel about myself. In other words, my ability to show compassion to others may be, not only equal to but limited by, my capacity to show compassion to myself (at least at a level of authenticity).

If it is my tendency, when I pass by a mirror and see myself, to become critical about the way I look – my weight, my height, my eye color and so on – it is not too far from logic to conclude that, since the first thing I evaluate in myself is a judgment about my external appearance, then the first thing I will evaluate in others (whether I am conscious of it or not) will be a judgment about their external appearances. That will be the point of view from which I will see every one, every time, even as I may argue my case either way. If I know there is much more to me to evaluate than my external appearances, I can easily accept the idea that there must also be much more to others than their external appearances.

Self inquiry

As I begin to explore the deeper dimensions of myself – my personal depth – the way I think, the way I react, the way I feel and what impels those elements – the conclusions at which I arrive, what moves me, what drives me, what fulfills me and so on – it becomes clear how my own self compassion informs and influences the quality of my presence when I am in consideration of another. In other words, the quality of my presence, or the quality of my demonstration of compassion for others, will be different when I interact with myself in a critical, fault-finding and blaming way, than when I interact with myself in a kind, respectful and loving way. It is therefore, not only logical, but of necessity, that we are compassionate with ourselves.  

Take responsibility for the energy you bring to the moment you are experiencing.

Respect

First, this means being respectful to ourselves – we respect the way we see ourselves, the way our bodies are changing, and how we choose to feel about that. We become more respectful of our journey – the lessons we’ve learned along the way, the easy ones and the hard ones. We respect ourselves by knowing that we are doing the best we can at our present level of understanding. We think about the level of respect we have in the care we take of our bodies – how we dress them, keep them fit; the way we care for our skin and teeth, the food and drink we choose to ingest; we think about the depictions of reality we choose to watch for entertainment, the conversations we are participating in on social media and so on – we take the time to consider the quality of the data that we are allowing into our experience, understanding that the quality of data we allow into our experience informs the value we have to offer. So this first element of self compassion is RESPECT.

Support

The second element of self compassion is support – supporting the development of our bodies, our minds, our choice of environment, etc., by understanding that these are all we got, and if there are still things on our to-do lists, we need to cultivate an awareness of self support and self reliance. Support includes being a good custodian of finances and credit, and most of us learn this by experiencing various degrees of supply and demand; and support about planning for our futures and the futures of our loved ones. This type of thoughtfulness creates space for solutions for when the unexpected arise – and the unexpected will always arise. That’s just the way of it. So, SUPPORT is the second element of self compassion.

Silence

The third element of self compassion is SILENCE – giving ourselves a few moments of absolute silence every day – at least five minutes of silence. There is so much information constantly flowing by, as if the mind even needs these extra thoughts to think about, and many are so buzzed-up that there is no way to hear the beckoning of their own intuition. Silence is like the number zero – it cannot be divided. Divide zero by zero and you’ll get zero. Try to cut silence in half, and you’ll only end up with silence. Now if you will, take my mathematics analogy and juxtapose it with this truth: silence is infinite.

Try to wrap your head around that without using words. Really, contemplate the infinity of silence. As you do, you’ll notice that the deeper you go, the greater the sense of peace, of stillness, of bliss, of that which can’t be named. The essential YOU. In practicing the contemplation of silence you will observe a paradox: the greater the silence you are able to enter into, the greater the wisdom-information you will be able to access. This is not something that can be explained, you must cultivate it through practice in order to know it for yourself. So the third element of self compassion is silence. Give yourself permission to sit in silence.

The quality of the content of the mental continuum, our inner discourse, or the mind-stream, directly influences the quality of compassion we bring to ourselves and to others, and to life – to the planet. As we expand our perceptual openings and raise the quality of how we interact with ourselves at every conceivable level, we will naturally show up at that same expanded level for others.

Self compassion is a necessity to ease the tension of chaos and distraction and return one’s baseline state of being to a calm and peaceful state of aware presence. 

Consider spending time today contemplating where you are as to the level of respect you give yourself. Contemplate the quality of your inner dialog and the thought you put into your self care and support, and contemplate the infinity of silence. Set aside time every day, and hold that appointment with yourself inviolable, to intentionally remain free from distraction and the endless barrage of information. 

And then enjoy the spacious, peaceful results of a more expanded, more thoughtful, way of interacting with yourself, with others, and with life.

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People look for retreats for themselves, in the country, by the coast, or in the hills . . . There is nowhere that a person can find a more peaceful and trouble-free retreat than in his own mind. . . . So constantly give yourself this retreat, and renew yourself.

- MARCUS AURELIUS

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