Compassion and Self-Compassion
COMPASSION AND SELF-COMPASSION: ESSENTIAL FOR HEALERS
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.
Alia Eileen Yager