The key for me in all areas where I either want to improve my life or must admit I have fallen short: self-compassion. It doesn’t always come easy, but when I feel the most out of balance or wanting, self-compassion is my go-to intent. As a consequence, I have read a good deal on it and practiced many guided meditations. The audiobook that has my attention now is The Science of Compassion, by Kelly McGonigal.
McGonigal teaches at Stanford Medicine’s, The Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education. She has dedicated her professional career to helping people experience hope, joy, and meaning, even when things are difficult. This is a skill that is perfect for the times we are living in.
The audiobook I mention above is based on research and provides practical insights for increasing your ability to be compassionate. One that was particularly illuminating to me was the distinction between empathy and compassion. Empathy is feeling what another feels. Compassion is being with them while intending and doing what you can to help them relieve their suffering. Compassion starts with an empathy response. If it is not converted to compassion it can become a disincentive for helping others, because you don’t want to go where they are; i.e., you don’t want to take on their suffering. By understanding the difference and practicing the techniques McGonigal and her fellow researchers have identified you can increase your ability to be compassionate.
Where might some compassion make a difference in the coming week?
“My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor, and some style.”
– Maya Angelou