“Exceptional.” It was startling, and moving, and completely unexpected. On the very first evening of a 3-day seminar on Self-compassion in Ireland, participants were exceptionally honest and vulnerable as they shared their insights into how their lives would be different if they lived with self-compassion.

I’ve never seen anything like it. And this openness continued throughout the course, which enabled us to witness each other with great kindness and tenderness. We could share our struggles while at the same time affirming our potential to re-connect with our true self, essence love.

Self-compassion is learning to be as kind to our self as we would to a good friend. While the words are easy to read, it’s hard to change the habit of self-judgment that’s been running the show like a virus program hiding in the background all these years. Yet while we learn to listen to another person with openness and kindness, these qualities mirror back to our own hearts and minds that we can relate to our self with openness and kindness.

And it’s such a relief!

We can’t really learn something new if there’s a big boulder in our way. First, we have to check out the boulder – the obstacles that keep us from feeling compassion for ourselves. It’s funny, but when you are part of a group of people sharing their biggest obstacles to self-compassion, you start to see the bigger picture. One participant wrote: “Now when I hear how hard it is for men to experience any vulnerability or gentleness while growing up, I think we need a #metoo movement for men to connect with self-compassion.”

Ah, it’s a miracle we all survived until now. And no matter how many struggles we’ve had from our habits and inner critic, there’s a huge shift when we realise: they served a purpose, so they’re not totally bad! In fact, our inner critic can transform into something life-enhancing!

I started the seminar by sharing a lot of struggles I’d experienced in recent years, which brought me to want to learn about self-compassion. There were a lot of losses, an almost unmanageable sorrow, and shock, that I had to endure. It’s taken a long time, and a lot of learning and working with the meditations for self-compassion, to overcome the shock and ease the sorrows. And something is shifting. There’s a gentleness in my life, and much more understanding of how these patterns and struggles came to be here.

When you start to really see and understand your life, then compassion for yourself naturally dawns. And even more radical: as you begin to understand yourself, you can’t help but understand others. You can’t help but find that your former judgment or blame of others melts into compassion.

I love the poem ‘Kindness’ by Naomi Shahib Nye, in which she writes:

Before you know kindness as the deepest thing inside,

you must know sorrow as the other deepest thing.

You must wake up with sorrow.

You must speak to it till your voice catches the thread of all sorrows

and you see the size of the cloth.

Once we find the courage to see our life with kindness and understanding, then we can catch the thread of all sorrows, and “see the size of the cloth.”

Why do I define self-compassion as a heroic journey? Because we’re willing to take risks to rescue that wounded heart of ours from the rubble; and we’re finding the courage to connect rather than hide, so we can meet ourselves, and others, with sincerity and kindness.


Photo: ©2018. Christine Longaker: Dzogchen Beara Meditation Center, Ireland

Christine Longaker

Hospice and spiritual care pioneer and author of "Facing Death and Finding Hope: A Guide to the Emotional and Spiritual Care of the Dying," Christine Longaker is writing a book on Self-Compassion, and developing trainings and an online course based on the book.

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