Try Some Self-Compassion For A Change

Those of us who pay attention to the spiritual dimensions of life know about compassion, one of the most important forms of loving-kindness. Validating modern psychotherapy’s latest findings, the Dalai Lama reminds us that compassion can positively re-wire the mind.

Simply put, compassion is feeling and expressing loving-kindness for people going through troubles or suffering. Obviously, there’s certainly no shortage of suffering in the world to feel compassion for. In fact, all types of suffering—physical and psychological—seem to be multiplying right before our eyes, not only in impoverished societies, but including a growing dispossessed homeless population everywhere you look.

Indeed, according to Buddhist logic, we will all suffer—even the rich and comfortable—because suffering is built in to the ego’s strategy of ever pursuing pleasure and avoiding pain. The very fear of suffering begets extra anxiety—even more suffering, as we criticize ourselves for being anxious to begin with! We often shame ourselves as if there’s something wrong with us when we don’t understand or can’t cope with feelings.

We don’t have to suffer the crippling effects of anxiety, however. There are healthy ways to cope with stress and anxiety, instead of engaging in self-criticism and negative judgments or the abuse of addictive substances and behaviors, which only leaves us feeling empty and worse off. Self-compassion is the royal path of the heart. It is the art of directing a loving, forgiving energy towards yourself, with new perspectives on your old dissatisfactions, perceived failures, and frustrations.

It is soothing and helpful during times of stress to focus your conscious mind on personal images of kindness, understanding, and love, in order to cultivate those feelings within yourself. Find some sacred images that appeal to you and move your soul. Print them out and post them around your space. You will train your mind to combat anxiety-causing thoughts and emotions with the powerful presence of love and acceptance. You will become happier.

Self-compassion is coming to the forefront of psychotherapy, as per an excellent book by Dr. Dennis Tirch called The Compassionate-Mind Guide to Overcoming Anxiety: Using Compassion-Focused Therapy to Calm Worry, Panic, and Fear. Dr. Tirch writes about how treating ourselves with compassion has a huge impact on the quality of our lives and our ability to deal with inner difficulties, such as anxiety, fear, shame and depression.

In his book, Dr. Tirch writes, “Compassion begins with a deep understanding of just how tricky our brains are and a recognition that they are not that well put together! Once we recognize how difficult our emotions can be, we can stand back from them and feel compassion for the difficulties we experience.”

As we learn how to not take life’s challenges so personally, and to forgive ourselves for our imperfections by cultivating self-compassion, the uncomfortable effects of anxiety will diminish in our lives.

According to Dr. Tirch, “If you’re able to tolerate your anxiety-related distress and accept that anxiety is a part of life, then you’ll also be able to work with it and around it—in short, you’ll be better able to function in your life.” Just reading Dr. Tirch’s book and interviewing him for my Pathways podcast helped me enormously. (Now please excuse me while I take a deep breath and give myself a hug! 🙂

Your Grief is Your Own

Candyce Ossefort-Russell is the author of the e-book, Your Grief is Your Own: Dispelling common myths about grief. She is a psychotherapist, grief advocate, writer, therapist trainer, and speaker. She has actively lived, studied, and trained in psychological, spiritual, and scientific perspectives of suffering and transformation for over 25 years and has extensive experience living through, working with, and writing about trauma, grief, and life transition. Known for her warm and emotionally engaged therapy and teaching style, Candyce is a contributor to the forthcoming book, “Clinical Applications of The Polyvagal Theory: The Emergence of Polyvagal-Informed Therapies”.

Overcoming Disappointment

As we all know, life is full of surprises that are not always the kind we would wish for. While these kinds of disappointments are a normal part of the human experience, we all have something to gain by learning from disappointment rather than just attempting to get rid of it, get over it, or wallowing in misery. Christine Hassler, author of the new book, Expectation Hangover: Overcoming Disappointment in Work, Love and Life, left a successful career as a Hollywood agent to share her passion to ease suffering on the planet as a speaker, retreat facilitator and life coach.

The Secret of Your Immortal Self

Guy Finley is the author of the new book, The Secret of Your Immortal Self: Key Lessons for Realizing the Divinity Within. Open the doors to self-understanding and let go of suffering. Guy discusses how to seek a deeper relationship with the Divine and provides powerful insights on how to find a guiding light in any dark moment.

Constructive Wallowing

Our guest today on Pathways is Tina Gilbertson, author of the new book Constructive Wallowing: How to Beat Bad Feelings by Letting Yourself Have Them. Tina is a licensed psychotherapist whose practice here in Portland includes individual therapy and non-traditional career counseling. A popular blogger and workshop leader, her first book cuts to the chase and teaches people how to accept and feel their feelings instead of stuffing them and teaches the value of having a little self-compassion for our own lives.

Dancing with Life; Buddhist Insights for Finding Meaning and Joy in the Face of Suffering

Phillip Moffitt presents his book, Dancing with Life: Buddhist Insights for Finding Meaning and Joy in the Face of Suffering. Phillip walked away from his highly successful post as chief executive and editor-in-chief on Esquire magazine 1987, in order to focus on his inner life. He is the founder and president of the Life Balance Institute, a non-profit organization devoted to the study and practice of spiritual values in daily life. Phillip teaches vipasana meditation at retreat centers around the country and holds a weekly meditation class in Marin County, California. More information is available at http://www.dancingwithlife.org

Open to Desire

Mark Epstein discusses his book, Open to Desire: Embracing a Lust for Life. He is a psychiatrist in private practice in New York City. Mark lectures frequently about the value of Buddhist meditation in psychotherapy. His previous books include Thoughts Without a Thinker, Going to Pieces Without Falling Apart, and Going on Being. He is a contributing editor to “Tricycle: The Buddhist Review” and has written many articles for “Yoga Journal” and “O: The Oprah Magazine.”