“Compassion is an action word with no boundaries.” -Prince
We humans are a complicated creation with many layers and levels. Take a moment and observe what occurs inside our minds and bodies. For most of us, we are a collection of competing and contradictory thoughts, feelings, impulses, priorities, motives, and behaviors. We want to lose weight, but that [fill in the blank] looks so good. “I am saving money for [blank], but this [fill in blank] I cannot resist.” “Should I or shoudn’t I….” “This year I am going to get better grades and focus on school.”
We lose site that every single human being shares this common struggle and this is tragic. These inner layers and our individual histories/experiences are what influences relationships, determine in part our daily behavior and priorities, and ultimately lead to our health and wellness. Most of us go through life on auto-pilot not even aware of these dynamics or forces.
Compassion. Anything that takes ourselves off of autopilot and fosters awareness helps us. Compassion is a strong feeling of sympathy for those who are suffering… This means compassion for ourselves and for others. It does not matter how or where we start, we just need to practice.
Often compassion for ourselves is the most challenging. Compassion for mistakes, failures, disturbing thoughts, quirks, and suffering. Compassion for being judgmental. The “seriousness” of whatever causes suffering does not alter the need for compassion toward ourselves. Compassion toward oneself and conflicting feeling, emotions, thoughts, actually promotes a more effective way of dealing with all of life’s hurdles and also facilitates our recovery from challenging and dangerous circumstances. Over time it is one of the best ways to reduce our anger.
Extending compassion toward others is another practice. Please do not misunderstand this as having to like someone, or remaining in an abusive relationship, or making yourself vulnerable to a dangerous or hostile situation. Some form of compassion toward another also does not take away from you or in anyway diminishes the other complicated or not so complicated aspects of a relationship or situation.
In my opinion, our society and each of us individually would benefit from taking time everyday on the thought and action of compassion. It is not easy, we may not want to do this exercise and actively avoid it. I encourage you to try it and observe if it promotes health and wellness, alters your level of suffering, or improves the important relationships in your life. Work this into your life on a regular basis and overtime it will shape you in a positive way.
Todd Christiansen, M.D.