Compassion Begins With You: Compassion for Yourself is Not Being Selfish (Part 1 of 2)
Oftentimes, we find it easy to feel compassion for others, and so difficult to feel it for ourselves. In this respect, we are quite often our own harshest critics.
Frequently, when it comes to showing ourselves compassion, we don’t even know where to begin.
In reality, our ability to fully cultivate and express quality of compassion toward others is relative to our ability to feel it and express it toward ourselves. Quite literally, actual compassion begins with you.
Is Self-Compassion Being Selfish?
Compassion for yourself begins with the recognition that expressing self-compassion is not being selfish. Over the years I've come to realize that it is, in fact, just the opposite. The people in this world who act selfishly or are self-absorbed are those who have never really learned how to be genuinely compassionate toward themselves. These types of people tend to be what psychologists refer to as “egocentric”, not only lacking in compassion for others, but only seeing their actions in relation to themselves. They are emotionally crippled, incapable of understanding how their actions are effecting those around them. Most often lacking even the concern to understand the meaning of their actions toward others and the world they inhabit. I believe that we are living in a time when egocentricity is an epidemic in our world, but I also believe we realistically have within our means a viable cure. Showing compassion toward ourselves actually teaches us how to be unselfish, more giving, more compassionate to others. By taking the time and energy to really care for ourselves in a healthy way, we enable ourselves to be truly giving to others.
How Do I Show Compassion For Myself?
The wonderful spiritual teacher, meditation master and Buddhist Monk Thich Nhat Hanh counsels us, “Go back and take care of yourself. Your body needs you, your feelings need you, your perceptions need you. Your suffering needs you to acknowledge it. Go home and be there for all these things.”
Compassion for ourselves means that we do just that, we take the time to properly care for ourselves physically, emotionally and spiritually. We show ourselves compassion by taking the time out of our busy lives to truly care for our physical, emotional and spiritual needs. Time management in this modern world is essential to our ability to care for ourselves compassionately. For some of us it is not really a matter of time but of priority. We may not see ourselves as important enough to care for properly. In fact, we may simply be allowing the many distractions of life in our modern world to crowd out any time for us to do what is truly needed for us to compassionately care for our personal needs and emotional hygiene. For those of us who live in the West, this matter of distraction is a major problem. Next, let's examine some specific ways in which we can incorporate compassion for ourselves into our daily lives.
Compassionately caring for ourselves physically is a good place to start. Doing so means that we take the time and care to ensure we are eating healthy (eating to live, not living to eat), sleeping properly and exercising regularly (making time to rest and restore, getting off the couch and going for a reflective walk). Caring for ourselves physically will have deep ramifications for us emotionally and spiritually. Modern science has proven that all aspects of our overall health is interconnected. Emotional health is impacted by physical health and the reverse is also true. Spiritual health also contributes to both. This does not simply mean being religious, it means taking the time you need to honestly examine your life, your state of being in the world -- taking time and making changes to find a sense of meaning and purpose in your life. Ultimately you are in control of these things.
Yoga is "One Stop Shopping"
This is specifically why I believe that
a regular Yoga practice is so beneficial and a reasonable avenue to a compassionate form of good health in our modern world. Yoga is truly a holistic approach to good health. When practiced in accordance to its ancient tradition which would include a regular meditation practice, yoga is a yoking together of mind, body and spirit. Regular practice of Yoga Asana along with a seated meditation practice has an extremely positive effect on one's total state of being.
Yoga's self-nurturing effects have been historically and philosophically proven over time as a way to show one's self-compassion, resulting in a positive way of opening up one's innate doors of perception to the feelings and needs of others. This is "one stop shopping" for us that is time-sensitive. This is exactly the process we're discussing, in it’s most dynamic sense -- the nurturing effect of self-compassion leading into the self-realization of one's needs and ability to express that compassion to the world.