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A Compass for Compassion

Compassion means "to suffer with." When people feel compassion, they are motivated to alleviate or prevent suffering in themselves and others. Contrast that with empathy (feeling another's pain) and sympathy (feeling pity for another). Unlike those two, compassion involves action and genuine concern, not just emotion. Furthermore, it is linked to better interpersonal relationships, increased longevity, enhanced positive emotions, and less mental illness and bodily inflammation. The world needs more compassion, and thus the following blog post will gently walk you through Tara Brach's RAIN: A Practice for Radical Compassion.

Recognize what is going on; Allow the experience to be there, just as it is;

Investigate with interest and care; Nurture with self-compassion.

R—Recognize What Is Going On

After a triggering event, take a few moments for self-reflection. Go to a quiet space, if possible. Focus your attention inwards with eyes closed or journaling.

Consciously acknowledge your present moment experience. Consider your STUFF (Sensations, Thoughts, Urges, Feelings, Fantasies).

Be careful not to get bogged down at this stage. Instead, select one or two components of your STUFF and proceed.

A—Allow The Experience To Be There, Just As It Is

Allowing means giving permission for your thoughts, feelings, and sensations to simply be there without judging, ignoring, or rejecting them. It does not entail considering those thoughts and feelings to be good. Rather, it demonstrates courage and an openness to learning more about your Self.

Allow your present experience with a mental whisper: I see you. You can stay. I welcome you.

Keep in mind: "The curious paradox is that when I accept myself just as I am, then I change." (Carl Rogers)

I—Investigate With Interest And Care

Curiously explore your present experience. Observe your primary thoughts and feelings and discover what lies beneath them.

You might ask yourself: Are they there to protect something vulnerable, frightened, or wounded within you? Might their presence indicate that something is hurting inside of you? What does that hurting or helpless part most need from you?

N—Nurture With Self-Compassion

Compassion is the antidote to mental and emotional pain and naturally arises once you recognize the suffering deep within you. Practicing self-care makes it easier to manifest compassion for yourself and others.

Offer your hurting or vulnerable part a kind gesture that may address its need. For example, send it love, knowing how deeply it suffers. Or maybe it seeks forgiveness, reassurance, or companionship. Mentally whisper a message of care: I accept you as you are. You are so strong. I'll always be here for you. You are mine, and I love you.

In addition, Tara Brach suggests gently placing a hand on your heart or cheek or visualizing being enveloped in clear light. And, if giving yourself love is too difficult, imagine receiving it from a loving being—a spiritual figure, family member, friend, or pet.

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