Start With Compassion

Place of Serenity | Start with compassion

Your Inner Critic

It is an easy default-setting to listen to your inner critic, the voice that attacks you for your failings. Almost like self-flagellation, we berate ourselves for not behaving differently – when we experience fears, old mindless habits and less than generous thoughts towards others.

We tend to think that attacking ourselves for our failings will remove them. Actually these attacks make us cling defensively all the harder to old familiar ways.

~ Roger Walsh

Compassion not Condemnation

Condemnation does not liberate, it oppresses

~ Carl Jung

So with loving acceptance – known as compassion, it really is possible to shift your thinking, to ‘cultivate emotional wisdom’ (Roger Walsh).

One way into a feeling of tender compassion is to imagine yourself as you were as a child. That little child within is innocent and pure.

You will remember if you experienced teachers, parents and others, who picked out the negative traits they saw in you. They could only perceive things in you to be critical of.

And you may also have been lucky enough to remember individuals who encouraged and supported you. A gentle ‘well done’ or a show of genuine interest in you, made you feel ten feet tall. It encouraged you to want to do better. It nurtured your self-confidence for adult life.

And so with your own adult self. Berating doesn’t help.

Remember yourself as a little child with compassion, kindness and tenderness. Your inner critic may even be a bully. Remember as a child how the experience of being bullied made you shrink and feel small. Or ignited the flames of anger even further. As an adult it is all the same process.

Wrap your arms around you as though you are hugging your inner child. Shift your inner language from self-condemnation to self-love. If it’s difficult to visualise yourself as a child, or it is not helpful, perhaps access your self-compassion in other ways:

  • Imagine your own child, or close family member, when they are feeling sad or upset.
  • Or a good friend whom you sit with kindly and patiently.
  • Imagine cradling a duckling, kitten or baby rabbit in your hands. It feels genuinely natural to hold any of these sentient creatures with compassion, gentleness and warmth.

As you access the compassion within you, this starting point allows difficult experiences to lessen their impact. Gradually, with a meditation practice where you are wholly present and accepting, you can learn to hold yourself with love and compassion.

You can stay in the present moment and allow difficult feelings to arise and move on.

The work of healing emerges.

Compassion Towards Others

Place of Serenity | Start with Compassion

We can also widen out our self-compassion towards others, knowing that mistakes and failures are all part of the human experience – our common humanity.

Compassion can be described as letting ourselves be touched by the vulnerability and suffering that is within ourselves and all beings. The full flowering of compassion also includes action: Not only do we attune to the presence of suffering, we respond to it.

~ Tara Brach

It is a natural interaction between self-compassion and compassion towards others that lets us re-direct our focus. It is of benefit to others as well as to ourselves when we open our hearts to kindness, love and compassion.

Because we are conditioned to pull away from suffering, awakening a compassionate heart requires a sincere intention and a willingness to practice. It can be simple. As you move through your day and encounter different people, slow down enough to ask yourself a question.  “What is life like for this person?  What does this person most need?”    If you deepen your attention, you’ll find that everyone you know is living with vulnerability. Everyone is living with fear, with loss, with uncertainty.  Everyone, on some level, needs to feel safe, loved and seen.

~ Tara Brach


Useful further blog post: The Power of Heart Coherence

Dr Kristin Neff who specialises in Self-compassion, includes a ‘Test Your Level of Self-Compassion’. Follow link here.

The Work of Tara Brach

Essential Spirituality by Roger Walsh

Carl Jung

Yvette Jane

Place of Serenity | Place of Serenity






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