Hello my fellow human Beings:
With November coming to a close and US Thanksgiving next week, we enter into a time when we are reminded to give. Shopping centres pipe Christmas jingles continuously during operating hours to remind us to buy gifts to give to others. Charities start their push to ask us to give more fundraising dollars to various persons and organizations in need of help. We are asked to GIVE, GIVE, GIVE.
But, before we can truly give with compassion and understanding to others, we must first give compassion and understanding to ourselves.
Vietnamese Buddhist monk and Zen Master, Thich Nhat Hahn, in his book, Peace Is Every Breath, reminds us:
“The key that opens the door to loving-kindness and compassion is our capacity to understand our own suffering and difficulties, and the suffering and difficulties of others. If we can see and understand our own suffering, then we easily can see and understand the difficulties of the other person, and vice versa.”
So we start first with understanding and dealing with our own suffering, rather than suppressing it and burying it deep down within us ready to explode in a fury of raw emotions if that pressure point is triggered.
We are still and present with ourselves. We embrace the child within us. We sit with that vulnerable child and gently stroke its heart as we recognize its imperfections, scars and wounds. We are kind to that suffering child, we hold that vulnerable child within us as we sit with and hear its painful emotions without judgement, accepting them just as they are. We embrace the child within us and show it compassion, understanding and love.
Kristen Neff, Ph.D., associate professor at the University of Texas, who practices Buddhist mediation, writes about how to be compassionate and understanding with ourselves in her book, Self-Compassion, and her audio program, Self-Compassion Step by Step,. She remarks:
“Why does it feel so natural to be compassionate and kind to those we care about – yet so hard to treat ourselves the same way? Our culture teaches us to use self-criticism for motivation and to build self-esteem by constantly measuring ourselves against everyone else. We need to re-learn the essential skill of being genuinely nurturing and supportive toward ourselves. …
“We often become our own worst critic because we believe it’s necessary to keep ourselves motivated, but in fact the research shows that healthy self-compassion increases our inner drive, our resilience to setbacks, and our ability to excel at work and in every aspect of life.”
She describes three components to self-compassion:
- Self-kindness – how actively comforting ourselves activates our physiological systems designed for soothing and safety;
- Common humanity – recognizing the imperfect nature of the shared human experience; and
- Mindfulness – meeting our moments of suffering with balanced awareness rather than ignoring or exaggerating our pain.
Through this practice of self-compassion, and nurturing and understanding our inner child, we can learn to show more loving-kindness to ourselves, by truly understanding and dealing with our own suffering and difficulties. Once we are able to effectively do this, we will then be better equipped to understand the suffering and difficulties of others and give to others from a place of understanding and love.
So I encourage you this week to be still, meditate and connect with your inner child. Be compassionate to yourself and embrace the child within you. Give yourself kindness, love and understanding, so that you can give kindness, love and understanding to others. Live abundantly and give to create an abundant life for others.