The Benefits of Compassion - Part 1
A Whale of a Birthday
Hello dear reader. I hope this finds you well. Summer is flying by. August 13th marked the second year of my Father’s walk across the rainbow bridge, and the day following was my birthday. I am living on the Oregon Coast, and yesterday, quite by accident, I got to see whales! It was amazing. I watched them surface and got to see their backs and tales and watch them spouting water. The child in me lit up like a Christmas tree, and my whole being felt alive with awe and profound gratitude for the presence of these majestic beings in our world. Whales are known to be the ancient record keepers of the Earth. The light dancing on the water was like nothing I have seen; it was like something from a fairy tale or a Disney movie, except it was real! I would describe it almost like glitter, or the light around fairies, or the light of fireflies, but much much larger. As we continued to witness these miracles of life, I felt very thankful for my own. It was the perfect birthday present and truly a surprise.
I am unsure if you are aware of the multitude of atrocities being committed against marine life at this time. From pollution to sonic bombardment via bomb detonation, once again, at the hands of man, sacred life is being attacked, destroyed, and dishonored. As on land, many fish, whales, and other sea life face extinction as we speak. I invite you to think about how you can become a part of the solution for these challenges in any way you can. These creatures deserve our care and compassion.
Creators of New Earth is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.
Who is Candace?
Speaking of compassion, years ago, before I had my own blog, my friend Candace asked me to write a piece for her blog. At the time, having a blog of my own was a dream that I was not ready to give birth to yet. And now here we are - it’s so exciting to be publishing a blog every week! In any case, today’s blog will include the piece I wrote for Candace a couple of years ago.
Candace is the brains behind my passion, meaning that she helps me get my content online. From building a website to creating an Etsy store, from helping me navigate modern technology to navigating my own fear, she has been there for me. Candace wears many hats. Whether you are looking to grow an online business or you want a Tarot reading, Candace can help. To learn more about her, you can visit AetherCandace.com.
All that being said, below is the post I wrote for her. Part two will show up in your inbox next Wednesday. In the meantime, enjoy! Thank you to all who have purchased paid subscriptions, as it helps me to pay to have these published every week and to keep doing what I do. Thank you, dear reader, and we shall be in touch next week. In the meantime, be sure to practice compassion for yourself and others. It is important to remember that people do not need our concern and control; what they need are our care and compassion.
In these turbulent times, compassion may be one of the most valuable resources we have. Let’s take a look at compassion and its benefits.
Compassion Amidst Harsh Daily Realities
Compassion starts with ourselves, for ourselves, and is then practiced with the people we come across daily. Compassion can also be practiced for people you have never met that live on the other side of the globe. We are seeing suffering in almost every direction we turn, both locally and globally. It is overwhelming. When we are exposed to some of the harsh daily realities, we can experience a myriad of emotions and mental states, from depression to despair, from anger to grief, from passion to numbness. Compassion keeps our hearts soft and our minds open. It keeps us from becoming a victim, a judge, or emotionally numb. It also contributes to a healthy immune system.
Benefits of Compassion
The Dalai Lama says, “ Love and compassion are necessities, not luxuries. Without them, humanity can not survive “ There are many definitions of compassion. The Buddhist definition of compassion is the wish for others to be free from suffering and the causes of suffering. In other words, it is a genuine desire for others to be free, happy, and peaceful.
What is interesting and exciting is that as we practice compassion for others, we in turn, benefit ourselves. Practicing compassion quite literally benefits us physically and mentally. “ More than just a feel-good practice, compassion meditation leads to improved mood, more altruistic behavior, less anger, reduced stress, and decreased maladaptive mind wandering, according to research. “ (1.)
Spiritual Practices Proven By Science
Today’s world is a ripe environment for studying the overlap between science and spirituality. One organization that does just that is called Mind and Life Institute. MLI was the brainchild of His Holiness The Dalai Lama, scientist and philosopher Francisco Varela, and Adam Eagle ( lawyer and entrepreneur). The institute studies contemplative wisdom using scientific methods to explore how these practices affect us as individuals and as a society.
‘In 2006, Ph.D. Helen Wang, a fellow of MLI, received a grant to study the impact of contemplative compassion practice on the brain and prosocial behavior. Using neuroscience and functional magnetic resonance imaging(MRI), she set out to explore how “inner practice translates into outer changes” Study participants were asked to generate compassion towards pictures of people suffering. For two weeks, each practiced for 30 minutes a day. “ The results were amazing! People were able to attend to suffering in a more equanimous way because their amygdalas were not getting triggered. The common reaction to being sad or having a desire to turn away was replaced by a desire to help ease the suffering of others. The study also found that participants were more generous in an economic exchange game after the two-week practice. “The more generous they were, the more their brains changed in response to pictures of suffering in regions associated with empathy and emotion regulation” (2.)
It is an awesome wonder that we live in an age where we have the technology and science to demonstrate to us the power of our minds. When we change the way we use our mind, it alters the way our brain responds. We can literally change the way our mind responds to different stimuli and affect a physical change in our brain. We quite literally can re-hardwire our brain, and we don’t need an Elon Musk neural link chip to do it! We can, through practice, focus, and willingness, increase our capacity for compassion.
Practicing compassion not only affects the brain but the immune system and heart as well. A study published in Clinical Psychological Science shows that university students who engaged in exercises focused on self-compassion had lower physiological arousal relative to peers who engaged in other exercises.
“These findings suggest that being kind to oneself switches off the threat response and puts the body in a state of safety and relaxation that is important for regeneration and healing” ( Hans Kirschner of the University of Exeter) (3.) In an article on practicing loving-kindness the results demonstrate that “Our brains have positive psychological reactions with even simple acts of kindness. Chemicals released during the act of helping someone else help reduce stress and anxiety, improve mood, decrease blood pressure, protect our hearts, lessen aches and pains, strengthen our immune system, and slow aging. “ (4.)
In closing, I wish to remind you that compassion is an important tool that can help you stay healthy both physically and emotionally. I would posit that compassion is the new vitamin “ C.” Please return for Part 2 as we explore the practical applications of practicing compassion for ourselves and others. In the meantime, I invite you to apply the practice of compassion for yourself and others and note the way it makes you feel physically, mentally, and emotionally. Your practical application of compassion and loving-kindness just may be the immunity boost that you or someone else needs today. The best part - is it’s absolutely free!
Whether you are new to this blog or have been following for a while, I always leave questions at the end for you to contemplate or write about. This is a way of further engaging the reader to seriously consider each post and how the information pertains to your life directly. The blog posts then become like a weekly exercise for you to engage in that deepens your reflection and engagement in your own life as well as with the world at large.
What is the difference between care and concern?
Which do you think is more helpful, care or concern? Why?
Do you feel you show yourself the same compassion you show others? If not, why?
Does compassion always require action?
Does your compassion include overextending yourself?
How might you increase your compassion for yourself?
How might you increase your compassion for others?
Have you ever confused control and compassion? Please give an example.