“If your compassion does not include yourself, it is incomplete”. – Jack Kornfield
When we feel vulnerable, troubled, when there are any kind of difficulties, pain and sorrow, fear or anger, compassion is the natural arising of our aware heart and mind. It is a natural response. When we see another in pain or anguish, we naturally want to help in some way. We feel ourselves in them and there is an empathetic connection. In Buddhism, the response to suffering is called “the trembling or quivering of the heart in the face of suffering”. This is a universal experience. It was compassion for others that caused the Buddha to teach.
“To learn to live with sympathy for others without hesitation” – The Buddha
The first step in developing true compassion is to recognize, acknowledge and be open to the fact that pain and sorrow exist – that suffering is present. Then one must have the courage to feel what they feel and the tenderness to be open and to be vulnerable rather than hide from suffering, avoid it, run away, and bury ourselves in distractions.
The goal of practice is to be able to look directly at what is happening in this life and to allow us to connect directly to ourselves and others.
Many of us have grown up thinking that suffering is a dirty word, that we must hide our pain, grief, limitations. How can we show compassion for ourselves if we see suffering as bad or wrong? Sometimes being ill, getting old, making a mistake, being alone can be things we believe we need to be embarrassed about, to feel shameful of.
When I am not well and I strive to keep pushing, I am not accepting of my own suffering. The practice is really to allow whatever I feel to penetrate me and tenderize me – to let me be what I can’t change. The path is to work with my belief system, allow what is arising and open to my goodness. I can also tell myself “I care about this suffering, I care about myself”.
To be healthy, well and happy, please practice self-compassion.