The Benefits of Compassion - Part 2
Greetings, dear readers. 8 you for being here once again to exchange energy and share the things which make the world go round. In the last post, I discussed compassion and some of the science behind it, including physical and mental benefits. Today we are going to have a look at the practical application, meaning how we work with compassion as a verb. As with anything, it is entirely different to commit our knowledge to action than it is to merely know about something.
There are a myriad of articles and books written on compassion, as well as many videos out there, which means that humanity agrees upon its inherent value. The question is: how do YOU practice compassion? At the end of last week's blog, I asked the reader to consider the difference between care (an element of compassion) and concern. In terms of the dictionary definition, the two are similar, but energetically the two are very different, at least as I observe them.
Care Vs. Concern
Care, as I sense it, is a connection from my heart to whatever it is I care about. It could be my cat, a plant, a friend, or Mother Earth. I feel a spaciousness in my care, as though I hold room in my being for something. Concern, to me, feels more contracted. It feels like a worry or anxiety that I project onto something or someone. If someone asked me if I would rather that they care for me or have concern for me, I would choose care. I believe it is important to hold this notion, not only in our day-to-day life but especially when we practice compassion.
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I live with someone who tends to form their thoughts in relation to concern, though he believes he does it because he cares. Nonetheless, his “concern" is often received as an unwanted projection. Though I can not think of any of his statements verbatim at the moment, I know when he offers me his concern, it most often feels like a gift I would rather not receive. It is a sort of care, wrapped in gloom and doom like something bad might happen at any turn and that I should be careful.
It is one thing to care for someone and have a spacious connection to that person in your heart. It is altogether different to hold a person hostage with your worry, anxiety, and projections about what ‘might’ happen to them. Which would you rather hear from a friend as you leave the house: "Enjoy your drive "or “Be careful of those crazy drivers, you don’t want to get in any accidents?”
Words Become Reality
When people speak to us, they are speaking “into us;” they are adding their words to our energy field (an already existing field of information). It is the same when we speak to ourselves, either aloud or in silence. When we speak words, we are casting a spell (not as in magic) which is why spelling is called spelling. Words carry energy, frequency, and vibration.
In their jointly written book, Words Can Change Your Brain, Dr. Andrew Newberg, a neuroscientist at Thomas Jefferson University, and Mark Robert Waldman, a communications expert state, “a single word has the power to influence the expression of genes that regulate physical and emotional stress.”
Furthermore, according to these two experts in their field, exercising positive thoughts can quite literally change one’s reality. The entire article can be found here.
Mining For Gold
Words and thoughts are only one way we exhibit self-compassion and compassion for others. Just yesterday, I was watching a YouTube Video on compassion by Tara Brach. Though it is half an hour long, I highly recommend saving it in a YouTube folder for further exploration. You can find it here:
Meditation: Awakening Self Compassion, with Tara Brach
Compassion is sometimes needed in moments, or over longer spans of time, such as during an ongoing illness, during a grieving period, or when moving through something that is ongoing for a period of time. In her video, Tara offers practical applications you can use when practicing compassion for yourself. The highlight for me was the somatic experiencing portion of her offering.
She offers us to embody our emotions, to let them have a presence and a voice in our body. I found this to be quite profound. Often we try to run from our emotions, push them away, or stuff them. This only leads to their reappearance later. Not only that, but we miss out on what our emotions are trying to tell us. Life isn’t soft and fluffy all the time. I have found sectors of the New Age Movement that seem to lack a certain depth in that they seem to avoid any difficult emotions or working deeply with pain, wounds, and trauma.
Other sectors of the New Age Movement, however, seem to really understand the importance of the visceral embrace of the shadow. What do I mean by this? I mean that when we face our shadow (fears, traumas, wounds, the roots of harmful habits, etc.) and give it a voice and cease to fear it or to run, we can evoke deep healing and evolution within ourselves as well as in our ancestral lineage. The places we fear to go most are truly where the gifts are.
What is a Miasm?
A miasm is an inherited weakness or an underlying predisposition to chronic illness. In other words, it is a generational susceptibility to an ongoing pattern of disease.
Miasms are specific energy frequencies that affect the entire person – they affect body systems, emotions, chakras, cells, and cell surface receptors.
A miasm can be thought of as a vibrational field or frequency that underlies – or gives energy to — disease patterns in a person’s life.
These underlying energy frequencies perpetuate a pattern of illness (which could be physical, mental, emotional, or spiritual) even after all known measures have been taken to correct the individual’s health issues.
How do you practice compassion for yourself and others? It seems an important place to start is to define for yourself what compassion means to you. I have to say that I think most dictionaries miss the mark in attempting to define it. Compassion is more than just sympathy. Sympathy has a more sentimental quality to it for me personally. Empathy seems to contain the capacity to “feel with” rather than “feel for" or to “feel sorry for another.”
Empathy allows our heart to be with the pain of another, while sympathy is more akin to feeling sorry for someone. So how do we practice empathy for ourselves and for others? I must mention here that part of the art of compassion is to realize that overextending yourself is codependency, not compassion.
Somewhere between detachment and overextension is a middle path. I think the friends you can take with you into your compassion practice are: spaciousness, tenderness, care, presence, and allowance - these friends work together to provide clarity. Deep, active, present, and undistracted listening is also a form of compassion. It doesn’t mean you hold three hours of space for a person to rant and emotionally vomit on you, though.
A hug, eye contact, holding space, being present, bearing witness, touch (depending on the person and situation), and active listening; all of these are extremely helpful for someone in distress. They are important for YOU too! Look at yourself in the mirror, talk to yourself, hug yourself, lie down and hold yourself, be present with yourself, and do not distract yourself from your feelings.
It’s so simple, yet easy to forget that what you extend to others are the very things that would be helpful to extend to yourself in your time of need. Soften, be gentle, and ask your inner child (or any part of you) if there is something they want to say. You can ask your teenager, yourself at any age, yourself from a past life - whatever is relevant to what you are experiencing. You can even pose questions to your emotions. “Hello, fear, what do you need? Hello sadness, is there something you would like to tell me?“
You will be surprised by the wisdom that comes when you allow yourself to dialogue in this way. You do not grow up being told that you are a multifaceted (multidimensional even) being, but you ARE! The more of yourself you can access, the more fully expressed your whole being will be. The more fully expressed your whole being, the more whole you become. The more whole you become, the more potential you can access. The more potential you can access, the more you can fully live your life. That is a win, win, win!
What Compassion Is Not
Again, compassion does not mean overextending. I have learned the hard way by being an over giver, I gave too much time, energy, and money to people and situations that only ended up leaving me in a deficit of those things, and meanwhile, at a root level, nothing changed for the people I thought I was helping.
That last paragraph is worth gold! If you only knew how much time, energy, and money I spent, to be able to say that like a boss! My mastery of that cost me a lot in ways that are still affecting my life to this day. In any case, it’s all part of mastery. We are here (or at least I am) to master energy and alchemize spirit and matter. Sometimes the lessons we set up for ourselves along the way are challenging; once set in motion; however, you don’t get off the ship until you have mastered the lesson, whether in this life or another.
Compassion As A Way Of Being
I do not think of my life in terms of age. I think of my life in terms of large swaths of time in which my soul evolves and migrates. Each life is a rite of passage and within each life are also many rites of passage. I have only recently had this realization, but now that I do, it sure does take the pressure off. It is a deeper level of compassion still. There is no race to a finish line, and there are no mistakes, only opportunities for growth. Things happen for us, not to us.
Compassion can be practiced as needed, for oneself, or for others. Compassion can also be a lifestyle that you cultivate moment by moment:
Compassion for life’s challenges
Compassion for the long journey of the soul
Compassion for water as the river beds run dry and corporations dump their endless chemicals into life-giving bodies of water
Compassion for species on the list of extinction
Compassion for the elderly, the sick, the animals, and the air that is being polluted
Compassion can go anywhere your imagination can
It is a light that shines in the dark, delivering your love and your care, your witnessing and your awareness, your loving kindness, and maybe most importantly, your spacious presence with all that is.
Compassion is not merely attention to struggle and suffering but also a celebration of triumph and resilience. The flower that grows in a crack in the sidewalk, the newborn baby who made the journey from the realm of formlessness into the physical realm of form, the Mother that nearly merges with death in order to give life - these are all chances to cultivate our compassion and celebrate the sheer will and determination of life to announce itself.
What is Tonglen?
Tonglen is a practice of breathing in suffering, transmuting it, and breathing out light, love, or the remedy to the suffering. For example, if you are practicing for a population of starving people, you breathe in their suffering, you transform it in your heart, and as you breathe out, you imagine them having all the food they need and desire. Traditionally, you breathe in the suffering as a thick, heavy, almost tar-like smoke and breathe it out as white light, having transmuted it in your heart.
There are many ways to practice Tonglen, but the basic premise is that you are inhaling suffering, transforming it in your heart, and sending out the remedy as you exhale. Traditionally it is a Buddhist practice, but there is no dogma here. It is a simple practice of transforming suffering that has nothing to do with religion or belief systems. Anyone can practice Tonglen. Literally translated, Tonglen means giving and receiving. Here are a couple of short videos you can watch as examples of practicing Tonglen. There are many more if neither of these tickles your fancy.
In reality, you do not need a video; you only need your imagination and your breath. You can also practice Tonglen for yourself. If, for example, you are experiencing pain, you can breathe in the pain, transform it into the heart and breathe out, sending your breath to the area of pain. Imagine the breath as having the power to literally transform your pain.
An Invitation To Practice
I invite you to contemplate care in contrast to concern. I invite you to notice when and for whom you practice compassion. I invite you to cultivate deeper compassion for yourself first so that it is strongly rooted as it extends out into the world. I invite you to use your imagination to inform you of all the ways you can paint your life with the color of compassion.
After writing this article, I found a video my friend posted. It was short, and I knew it was important, so I listened. It is a video by Brene Brown on emotion and connection. I simply can not, in good conscience, not include it here. I believe what she is saying is a vital thread to the subject matter of this blog, and I would be remiss not to include it. The link is here. The video is ten and a half minutes long.
Once again, dear reader, thank you for being here and for taking the time to read this. If you have gained insight, wisdom, or anything of use here, my prayers have been answered. Feel free to save these links in your own YouTube folders for future reference. As always, if you enjoy participating in the Creative Activations, they are there awaiting your engagement.
If you enjoy these blogs, I invite you to share, spread the word, make a donation, or consider a paid subscription. This will allow me to cover all costs related to publishing these posts on a weekly basis. For now, I will continue as long as I am able. It is a pleasure to serve my community in this way.
I also want to let you know that next week’s blog may be posted on Thursday or Friday due to travel. I will not have my computer with me, but I will do my absolute best to have it out as soon as humanly possible upon my return. Thank you again, and may you be well.
As time permits, watch the three videos included in this blog. You may want to save them in your own YouTube account for easy access or in your online journal if you have been using one for these weekly activations.
Do you feel inspired to deepen your compassion for yourself and others?
How might you accomplish this, and what are some tools from this post that might assist you in your endeavor?
Do you feel it would be beneficial to incorporate compassion into the educational curriculum?
Do you tend to overextend yourself when trying to practice compassion? If so, how might you create better boundaries for yourself as a means of extending compassion to yourself?
How might the world be different if more people practiced compassion for themselves and for others?