Compassion for oneself and others

Posted by Karen in Life Coaching tips | Personal Development

It can be hard dealing with negative feelings so don’t forget to  to show yourself a little compassion during these times. It’s not weak or self-indulgent, indeed self compassion can help you understand and be compassionate to others.

I recently came to the realisation of just how much resentment and anger I’ve been holding on to from my relationship with my sister. Our relationship has always been difficult and very painful but I had come to believe that as we got older, we’d calmed down, moved on.

But just the other day, during a conversation, I became conscious of just how harshly I was talking to my sister. My sharp, judgemental tone of voice; my unwillingness to listen to what she had to say, combined with an expectation that she wouldn’t understand me, that she just doesn’t get me.

Why this enlightened moment came about I’m not sure, but it is most likely the result of my interest in getting to know myself better along with my mindfulness practice.

“If your compassion does not include yourself, it is incomplete.” Jack Kornfield

Needless to say I was shocked by myself. I always knew that I didn’t get along well with my sister, but I had never realised quite how strongly I reacted to her. The way I spoke to her so disrespectfully; I thought ‘oh, my gosh, if people could hear me; see me like this.’

Perhaps you have relationships which follows a similar pattern to that of my sister and I?

Paying attention to uncomfortable feelings

When I feel resentful, unforgiving and angry about my sister with both my head and heart, it manifests itself as tension in my chest. A physical tightening which I try to push away. This physical pain comes from an aching, toxic heart. A heart that holds uncomfortable feelings of resentment.

Many of us will have held onto feelings like anger, inadequacy, self-loathing and sometimes even rage and hatred towards ourself and others for a long time. Like me, you may have tried to push these feelings away, but the more we push, the stronger they become until we finally pay attention and turn towards those uncomfortable feelings.

When we turn towards ourselves, pay attention to the uncomfortable feelings and try to understand them, we begin to love ourselves, to show compassion towards ourselves and ultimately acceptance. And only when we do this for ourselves can we bring the same compassion to others.

We often think that showing self-compassion is somehow self-indulgent or self-centred. Indeed it means quite the opposite.

Showing self compassion enables us to ‘suffer with’ ourselves, helping us to be kind and gentle to ourselves and to accept when we don’t feel good enough, when we think we are failing, when we feel grumpy, resentful; when we are angry, miserable, annoyed, impatient – just uncomfortable within.

Self compassion – easier said than done?

So how can we possibly turn towards ourselves when life sucks, when we struggle, when we feel low, when we want to hide, think we can’t cope, when we feel let down or feel we are letting others down – when life feels out of control…?

Here are some tips which come from my own practice which you can do sitting or walking:

  • – Find a comfortable space or take a walk in quiet green space. If you are sitting, have your feet firmly on the ground, if you are walking become aware of your feet touching the ground with each step.
  • – Bring your attention to the area of your chest and heart.
  • – Take a few deeper breaths into your belly, taking a little more air in and allowing the breath to flow a little deeper into the body. Often when we grapple with uncomfortable feelings or stress, we tense in our body and our breath becomes shallow. It helps to put one hand on the belly so you can feel the breath going a little deeper. With each in- and out-breath allow yourself to relax a little more into your body – let your body be heavy.
  • – Begin to feel your heart with each in-breath; and then with each out-breath begin to open your heart.

Do this for a few minutes every day and particularly when you feel emotions arise that you would ideally like to push away.

Breathing into and opening up your heart is a way of acknowledging and accepting difficult feelings and ultimately letting go of them.

Notice the change in your heart, how your heart feels when you are able to be with, rather than push away what feels uncomfortable.

In my experience, my heart feels a little softer, more spacious, more relaxed and I can see myself and others more clearly, I am able to bring understanding to myself and others.

You can do this powerful practice anywhere and at any time. All you need is a willingness and commitment to turn towards yourself, to be with yourself without judgement. This is compassion in action.

This practice has allowed me to open up to my sister and to see all of her, not just all the things I don’t like about her, that annoy and irritate me, but also my sister the human being who struggles too and who wants to be loved – just like me.

As always, I’m interested to know how you are getting on. You can also email me to book a free life coaching taster session outdoors in east London’s Victoria Park or by phone or Skype.

Warmest wishes,



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