Mindfulness and Compassion Go Hand in Hand

look within2

Photo courtesy of Adriel Socrates

Mindfulness is a way of living in which you learn to become attentively aware of yourself in the present moment. Generally speaking, learning to live more mindfully allows calmness and acceptance to prevail over more reckless or negative emotions. For me, the practice of mindful living has helped alleviate physical pain and many of the negative emotions that I used to associate with pain.

Myself included, most people take strides to live more mindfully in order to improve their sense of self-awareness and self-esteem, along with getting more enjoyment out of life. Ultimately, many of us set out to live more mindfully to improve how we feel.

It’s true; I was turned on to one of my favorite mindfulness authors, Jon Kabat-Zinn, by my own therapist.  I’ve been a huge fan of his work and his theories ever since. Kabat-Zinn says that, to him, the concepts of mindful living allow us to embody and embrace who we already are rather than construct some identity for ourselves that may not be authentic.

In fact, there is an entire realm of psychotherapy based on something called ‘mindful self-compassion’. Psychologist Christopher Germer, PhD says, “the foundation of emotional healing begins by being aware in the present moment when we’re struggling with feelings of inadequacy, despair, confusion, and other forms of stress - and responding with kindness and understanding toward ourselves.

Studies completed by the psychology department at UC Berkeley strongly suggest that, along with self-compassion, within us lies empathy for others; we have compassion written into our DNA. Practicing mindfulness meditation and mindful living is simply taking a look at what’s already within you and setting it ‘free.’

As it turns out, this theory is far from new! A century ago, academician Albert Einstein himself suggested that we as humans are imprisoned by thinking of ourselves as separate from the rest of the Universe.  He went on to say that, although we typically restrict our compassion to ourselves and those closest to us, that the ability to be compassionate toward others is already within us.

All we have to do is set it free by being aware of it.

Perhaps Einstein was an expert on more than the theory of relativity!

Another important point made by Kabat-Zinn is that the focus of mindfulness should be on living it rather than talking about it all the time. So I leave you with this:

“Perhaps the most “spiritual” thing any of us can do is simply to look through our own eyes, see with eyes of wholeness, and act with integrity and kindness.”

- Jon Kabat-Zinn

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