Compassion and Self-Compassion


I have always said that a healer must take care of him/herself first in 
order to best care for others. Many health professionals are 
temperamentally “Fixers” and “Pleasers” and sometimes will put their own 
priorities last. Girls in our society are often socialized to be “Givers” 
more than boys are, and encouraged to help others first, even if it’s to 
their own disadvantage. This is changing in the 21st century but not fast 

With the findings of quantum physics about the interconnectedness of the 
universe, with the world’s globalizing economy, and also with global 
problems of climate change increasing annually, recognizing the common 
humanity and interconnectedness of people is increasing. We must all have 
compassion for others, for our precious planet, and for ourselves. 

All the great world’s secular traditions and religions have included 
kindness, compassion and love as precepts for living a good life. 
Compassion means having kind and loving thoughts for another’s happiness 
and well-being (including their physical, mental, emotional and spiritual 
health) whether or not they are suffering — and for yourself, in self- 

Sometimes people find it hard to do self-care, to believe they deserve 
happiness, to receive love. Some have harsh superegos, judging themselves, 
comparing themselves to other people, being afraid of failure. Underlying 
all this is the potential for mindful awareness and the potential for 
creating or recognizing love and kindness. As previously mentioned, care 
of oneself is the precondition for being kind to others in the best way 
and for healing.  One must accept, acknowledge and enjoy the goodness in 

Science is finding biological roots of compassion. One component may be 
the Vagus nerve, one of the cranial nerves which affects many parts of the 
body and influences the parasympathetic branch of the autonomic nervous 
system. The parasympathetic system slows heart rate, and influences 
digestion, speech, sexual behavior, and nurturing behavior.  The Polyvagal 
theory suggests that the vagus nerve is involved in social affiliation, 
empathy, sympathy and compassion. Studies have shown this.  It affects how 
you handle feelings evoked by others’ suffering and whether or not you’ll 
feel motivated to help 

There are three main components of self-compassion: 

1.    Mindfulness (being aware of your suffering); 

2.    We share common humanity:  we all fail and suffer 

3.    We can be kind to ourselves 

PRACTICE: SELF-COMPASSION BREAK:  recognize a moment of suffering and 
bring kindness to yourself. 

Pick a challenge in your body, medical or non-serious like muscle aches, 
for example. Recognize this is a moment of suffering. Put your hands 
across your heart, feel self-compassion, repeating “May I be kind to 
myself” for a couple of minutes. This is not to get rid of pain, rather to 
meet it with kindness because it’s a struggle. Then take your hands off 
your heart area. You can return to this practice any time. 

ASK YOURSELF THIS QUESTION: What would it feel like to not need anything 
to be any different in this moment? (There is no particular answer.) 

ASK YOURSELF: In the presence of suffering, could I have enough clarity of 
mind to ask myself “What do I need?” 

PRACTICE: COMPASSION MEDITATION (adapted from Sharon Salzburg) 

1.    Appreciate your own goodness. Think of things you’ve done out of 
good-heartedness and take joy in those memories 

2.    In silence, think some phrases asking what you want most for 
yourself. Examples: * May I have Mental Happiness (or Peace or Joy);   * 
May I live in safety;  * May I have physical happiness (or Health or 
Freedom from Pain); * Or choose any other phrases that work for you. 

3.    Do one phrase at a time, repeating it slowly in a gentle rhythm 

4.    If your mind wanders, bring your attention back to repeating the 
phrases with no judgment or criticism. 

5.    After a few minutes, visualize yourself in the center of a circle 
surrounded by people who have been kind to you or who have loved you and 
given you inspiration. Feel yourself receiving their attention and love. 

6.    Then let the circle dissolve, and keep repeating the phrases for a 
few more minutes. 

7.    You may find that you slowly transform your old critical 
relationship with yourself to one more filled with loving-kindness towards 

And you may find that your healing activities for others or for the world 
increase and give you a better sense of your purpose in doing them. 

PRACTICE: YA MUID (moo-eed’)(restoration)-YA MUHYI (moo-hee’ with guttural 
h)(regeneration). This is a Sufi healing practice to return to the 
pristine state and heal, making things better than they were before. Can 
do 11 times out loud, 11 times silently inhaling Muid, exhaling Muhyi. 

Thank you,

Alia Eileen Yager