Mindful compassion or empathy begins with self-compassion. I had many role models in my life who were the most compassionate people you could ever meet. They taught me not to be so hard on myself sometimes when things got rough. It is not easy to send yourself positive and compassionate messages when you truly feel culpable about something. When a dear friend committed suicide I felt I should have been more observant of the signs. It took me a long time to realize that there probably was nothing I could have done. I did not know about mindful compassion then but one of my teachers had this innate ability to make us see things about ourselves that we had never seen.
It takes a lot of practice to get into the rhythm of mindful compassion and self compassion. This mindset was developed by Dr. Kristin Neff. The idea is to learn to “offer yourself peace of mind” when something in your life goes wrong.
We must understand the pain and overcome the effects. We must learn to forgive ourselves before we can forgive others. Mindful compassion develops awareness. We put ourselves in someone else’s shoes. But we must also be careful not to be compassionate on auto pilot. I know caregivers that put themselves first and forget their own needs. When a caregiver burns out it becomes a difficult situation for everyone involved. There has to be a healthy balance.
The tangles in the drawing kind of illustrate how unbalance locks us into a place where we can no longer help another successfully.
Some Steps to Take:
- Save some compassion for yourself first.
- Ask yourself about what your goals are for helping someone.
- Remember that self-compassion and self-care are basic to mindfulness.
- Take a break for yourself when caring for others
- Be clear on your purpose for being compassionate.