Monday, March 17, 2014

The Third Step ~ Compassion for Yourself

It's time to think about ourselves.  Not as in "I'm the most important, so give me everything I want."  Having compassion for self means the same thing as on a plane, where you're told to put on your own oxygen mask before trying to help others.  We must take care of ourselves *so that* we can spread the compassion to others.  Okay, I'll go read the chapter now and see if my analysis comes anywhere close to what Karen Armstrong says in Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life.  Just so you know, I'm not teaching this book to you, but studying it alongside you.  We're learning compassion together.


1. How has a lack of self-compassion affected your life?  When are you least compassionate toward yourself?  What traits do you most criticize yourself for?

2.  We are all imperfect.  We are all influenced by our reptilian brain that reacts instinctively to real or imagined threats and can cause us to behave badly.  We are all influenced by environmental factors that affect our behavior toward others.  And we all have a "dark side" (pp. 78-79).  How does knowing this help or hinder your ability to cultivate and practice compassion?

3.  Armstrong discusses how suffering is a part of life, yet "in the West we are often encouraged to think positively, brace up, stiffen our upper lip, and look determinedly on the bright side of life" (p. 81).  Think about your experience navigating a difficult or tragic time in your life.  What would have been most helpful to you at that time?  How important was having someone just listen to or be with you?  What is your experience offering help to others in difficult times?  What helps or hinders you from being fully present when those around you face difficulties?

4.  "When people attack us, they are probably experiencing a similar self-driven anxiety and frustration; they too are in pain.  In time, if we persevere, the people we fear or envy become less threatening, because the self that we are so anxious to protect and promote at their expense is a fantasy that is making us petty and smaller than we need to be" (p. 88).  What does it mean to remove yourself from the center of your world?


1. Make a list of your positive qualities, good deeds, talents, and achievements.

2.  Our own suffering often increases our compassion for others.  Acknowledge the difficulties and suffering you've endured and how you used or might use your experience to help others.  For instance, if you've experienced a serious illness or took care of someone who did, consider volunteering to help others navigate a similar circumstance.

3.  Practice the Buddha's meditation on the four immeasurable minds of love, on page 85.
"...while he was working toward enlightenment, the Buddha devised a meditation that made him conscious of the positive emotions of friendship (maitri), compassion (karuna), joy (mudita), and 'even-mindedness' (upeksha) that lay dormant in his mind.  He then directed this 'immeasurable' love to the ends of the earth."
4.  Visit and make a commitment to compassion — perhaps self-compassion.

[Bonnie's NOTE:  I've re-worded this 4th one slightly because the link, which had /join tacked onto the end, didn't work.  I've linked us to the Charter for Compassion page, where you can sign the Charter and read all sorts of interesting stuff.]

Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life ~ by Karen Armstrong, 2010


Bonnie Jacobs said...

When you read this 3rd Monday comment, think of MaryZorro and Bonnie meeting today over lunch to discuss compassion with Terry and maybe Donna (AuntyDon), if her doctor appointments allow even a few minutes.

Shirley said...

Wishing you a grand St. Patrick's Day discussion! Sounds like fun.

I found this chapter especially thought provoking as I have difficulty with accepting myself. When I read the book's suggestion of listing positive attributes of myself, I couldn't even think of any. Obviously, I have work to do.

Bonnie Jacobs said...

Shirley, right off the top of my head, I can provide you with one answer for your list:

1. Make a list of your positive qualities, good deeds, talents, and achievements.

Shirley = talented quilt maker!

Bonnie Jacobs said...

Shirley, after posting that comment just now, it occurred to me that it would be PERFECT if you used a photo of one of your quilts as your profile photo on Blogger. Then every time you comment, your quilt would be there on our blog! Maybe you could even change the photo every once in awhile so we could enjoy several of your magnificent creations.

Shirley said...

I'm not that talented in quilt making, but I do enjoy making quilts and seeing the quilts that others have made.

I think that I was able to change my profile to include a quilt photo. This was the last quilt that I finished and was made for my nephew.

Bonnie Jacobs said...

Thanks, Shirley. I like seeing the quilt as your profile photo. If you book buddies want to see it bigger, click on the photo. It's beautiful.

Bonnie Jacobs said...

I see I never did share what MaryZorro and Donna/AuntyDon and I talked about with Mary's daughter and a F2F friend named Terry. I enjoyed our long talk, but nothing in particular stands out, this long after the date.

Even though I don't have an eReader, I want to share a link to a free eBook about compassion I ran across. It's called Compassion: Bridging Practice and Science:

Shirley said...

That's neat that you were able to get together to discuss compassion with each other.

Thanks for sharing the link--interesting that Karen Armstrong is not alone in efforts to encourage compassion.

Available free ebooks are always amazing. I don't have a designated eReader, I have downloaded some eBooks to my computer using the free Kindle download for PC's from amazon. I have read a couple of them, but still prefer traditional books so opted not to take advantage of this offer.

Zorro said...

I love this past month of showing compassion for yourself. I am able to realize even more how I take good care of myself, which is so important if you want to care for others. I will tell you about my positive qualities, using the Myers-Briggs personality type that I always get when I take the test.

I am an INFJ meaning Introvert, iNtuitive, Feeling, Judging person.

Introvert - On the graph of my personality type, I am only slightly an I so that means I am a friendly introvert. I like/need to spend lots of time by myself, charging my 'battery' while being alone. I like to read, meditate, stay in one spot, and not be busy, busy all the time. I do this to take care of myself and my needs. I don't mind meeting new people in small groups, but would not mind it if I never went to another party!

iNtuative - I respond to people and situations by understanding with my intuition, not by directly being told how someone feels or what they need. I just do seem to 'know' without being told. This helps me be able to show compassion to myself and others without having to know all the details of what they are thinking or saying.

Feeling - I often base my actions on how I 'feel' about a situation on person. This seems to have a connection to the intuitive part of my personality.

Judging - I am organized and can handle situations in a reasonable, straightforward manner. I like lists and schedules, and I like to handle things in a timely manner.

I wonder if my description matches what you all have learned about the Myers Brigs Personality Types??

Shirley said...

I didn't remember (becoming an all too frequent problem) discussion about the Myers-Briggs personality test so googled it, took the test and received the following score:

Introvert(100%) Sensing(1%) Thinking(25%) Judging(56%)
•You have strong preference of Introversion over Extraversion (100%)
•You have marginal or no preference of Sensing over Intuition (1%)
•You have moderate preference of Thinking over Feeling (25%)
•You have moderate preference of Judging over Perceiving (56%)

It is good to get 100% at something I suppose. The test was interesting, but the requirement in the test of just a yes or no reply forces one to judge things as black or white even when the truth is more gray. The dilemma of multiple choice tests.

Bonnie Jacobs said...

INTJ was my result after taking the Myers-Briggs personality test in 1979. It was administered and explained by a professional, who was there to help our work group understand our interactions. On three of the "letters" I was almost right in the middle, which explains why I have occasionally had different letters after taking the online tests, which are short and not always accurate. Usually, though, even those show I'm INTJ. But I always test as extremely INTUITIVE, the "N" or second letter. Always highly intuitive.

The score for Introvert/Extrovert was actually exactly in the middle, so I asked why the consultant "gave" me INTROVERT. Because someone that close is probably an Introvert, she said. When I'm tired, would I want to party to rev my engines? Or would I rather be alone with a book? You buddies can probably guess I'd rather spend time with a book. So that means I'm an iNtuitive Introvert.

If you want to know more, Wikipedia explains INTJs well, saying that "INTJs are one of the rarest of the sixteen personality types, and account for approximately 1-2% of the population":

Shirley said...

It doesn't surprise me, Bonnie, that you are a rare soul.

Bonnie Jacobs said...

Thank you, Shirley.

Bonnie Jacobs said...

I just added a picture of the Buddha with a saying that fits this chapter of the book:
"If you compassion does not include yourself, it is incomplete."