When we practice mindfulness and/or meditation with an attitude of compassion − that is kindness to ourselves − we embark on a life-long voyage of discovery that is rewarding and immensely satisfying. If we don’t adopt this attitude, we run the risk of using meditation like a drug: getting a buzz, an escape from our lives, a way of momentarily feeling better. If this is all we seek, we will soon tire of our practice and find an excuse to stop.
Compassion is not feeling sorry for someone; that is called pity. It is not “feeling” for someone; that is called empathy. Compassion is to recognise the suffering of another creature and a desire to do something to help relieve that suffering. We could say that empathy is about feeling something whilst compassion is about doing something.
For your compassion to be complete and effective then your sense of compassion must include you. Most of us will experience resistance to this idea as it goes against what we are taught as children: that we should always put others before ourselves; to do otherwise is selfish.
It is a fact that you could search the entire world and you will not find another being that deserves your love and compassion more than you do. Think about that…It is entirely true.
Experience has shown me time and time again that the best way of taking care of others is to also take care of myself. By taking care of myself I am able to be present for others with a sense of equanimity; I am able to listen, to see, to understand and respond more appropriately. If I don’t then I live in “autopilot mode”; my perceptions, reactions and actions are unconscious and automatic.
Being kind to yourself is not at odds with achievement. Your motivation can come from a place of love, acceptance and kindness rather than from a place which demands harshness, perfection, and merciless self-criticism.
We all have aspects of ourselves that we do not admire or even like. Perhaps we see such aspects as weakness or that they make us bad or unlikeable and so they must be supressed, avoided or rejected. But this strategy of aversion, of rejection and avoidance is precisely what keeps us trapped in unsatisfactory repetitive thoughts and behaviours. This judgemental perception of ourselves and the “get-me-out-of-here”, reaction it generates closes the door to learning, to change and wisdom.
If we simply learn to observe what is going on: our perceptions, our feelings and emotions, how they manifest in our bodies, even when they feel uncomfortable then we get to understand. We open the door to choice in our response instead of unconsciously reacting in “autopilot mode” recreating situations that we would rather not have.
Do not confuse “important” and “serious”. Just because something is important does not mean you have to be serious. Kindness (to yourself and others, together with a sense of humour, can help us see more clearly and act more effectively.
Our attitude in meditation and in life should be one of open curiosity, kindness to ourselves and wherever possible a sense of humour recognising the fundamental magnificence and absurdity of our existence.
Author: Geoffrey Molloy