What Blocks Compassion & Why We Benefit from Developing Compassion

Compassion and self-compassion are the new trend in psychotherapy, and help with healing, and a better way of living. It is said that mindfulness has two major benefits: the ability to be more compassionate to oneself and others, and added wisdom (Germer & Siegel, 2012). The process of healing that leads to compassion takes time and can be affirmed when one is able to let go of anger, resentments, blaming, criticism, judgments, and impatient behaviors. This allows one to work on oneself while invoking the serenity prayer:

 “….grant me the serenity to recognize the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”

As healers and service providers our mission is not to change the world, but to serve our clients’ change and assist them in developing more self-compassion for their own suffering and the suffering of others.

“You must be the change you wish to see in the world.” ~Mahatma Ghandi

So why is it so hard to develop compassion? Some of the obstacles to a more compassionate life include (as outlined by Paul Gilbert, Ph.D., 2011):

1.       I often wonder whether displays of warmth and kindness from others are genuine.

2.       People will take advantage of me if they see me as too compassionate.

3.       There are some people in life who don’t deserve compassion.

4.       Being compassionate toward people who have done bad things is letting them off the hook.

Certainly these are genuine concerns. However, they are often used as rationalizations for avoiding embracing a more compassionate life. The benefits of compassion are both for the person being compassionate and for the person receiving compassion.

Compassion doesn’t mean we accept rude behavior, betrayal, violations, or systemic injustices, or downright cruelty and personal and criminal offenses. However, it does mean that we accept that these things happen. It does mean that we recognize that people can cause suffering and often avoid their own issues and suffering by taking advantage and violating others. It doesn’t mean I am justified in adopting the same reactive behaviors – anger, criticism, and blame – in a hurtful way that escalates these emotions and causes even more harm to myself and others.

The mission of our field has moved more toward compassion because we recognize that self-blame, shame, and resentments keep us stuck and prone to reactive responses instead of healing. Yes, we set better boundaries, but we also open up to our own suffering and the suffering of others with more understanding, while recognizing our interconnectedness. As John Briere, Ph.D. has said, “we are all riding on the same bus together”.

Part of the FACES Conferences mission is to help people develop compassion and self-compassion, so we developed and are publishing a new book A Year of Living with More Compassion: 52 Quotes and Compassion Practices. A number of our FACES Conferences speakers picked their favorite compassion quotes, explained the compassion lesson for that quote, and gave readers a compassion practice for the week.

Contributing authors include: Jack Kornfield, Ph.D., Daniel J. Siegel, M.D., Tara Brach, Ph.D., Paul Gilbert, Ph.D., Roshi Joan Halifax, Ph.D., Kristin Neff, Ph.D., Chris Germer, Roshi Marsha Linehan, Ph.D., John Briere, Ph.D., Thupton Jinpa, Ph.D., Emiliana Simon-Thomas, Ph.D., Ronald Siegel, Ph.D., and many others.

These leaders in the psychology, mindfulness, and compassion fields joined together, taking time out of their busy schedules to help bring compassion to our field and the general public.

A sample quote from Roshi Joan Halifax from the new book reads:

“Love and compassion are necessities, not luxuries. Without them humanity cannot survive.” ~His Holiness the Dalai Lama

Theme: Compassion is a Necessity

Compassion is a precious necessity for all of us. We all need to cultivate compassion in our lives. It is one of our most treasured social assets and nourishes the human heart and is good for others. What would our world be without compassion? How could we live without compassion? What would our world be with more compassion? Compassion in our schools, in our government, in our hospitals, in our media? Why don’t we vote based on compassion? Why don’t we train our kids in compassion? I want to live in a world where compassion is valued, don’t you?

Compassion Practice for the Week

First, find a quiet moment, a quiet space. Let your heart and mind settle. Then recall someone to whom you feel especially close, someone who you deeply wish to be free of suffering, whether the suffering is physical, social, mental, or spiritual.

As you experience how this might feel, breathe deeply into your belly and track whatever you are sensing physically.

Recall that person’s humanness and good qualities, as well as the suffering that he or she has been through or is going through.

Now internally repeat simple phrases of compassion toward the person you have visualized. With your breath, silently say to him or her:

“May you be free from this suffering…May you be safe…May you find peace.”

Continue to visualize this person as you breathe and silently say to him or her:

            “May you be free from this suffering…May you be safe…May you find peace.”

And for a final time, visualizing your friend or relative, silently and sincerely say to him or her:

            “May you be free from this suffering…May you be safe…May you find peace.”

Let your wish for this one person help strengthen your aspiration to help others.


To order this new book online, visit www.facesconferences.com or call us at 1-877-63FACES.


Register Early for Upcoming Compassion Conferences & Mindfulness Workshops

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