WEEK 4 – Loving-kindness for yourself
The reason that this week and last week’s sessions are both given to cultivating kindness, acceptance and compassion for yourself is because this can be very problematic – and transformative! The phrase ‘cultivating compassion’ can really take on meaning in these weeks; before you even plant a seed you must care for the land and choose the right time and place. A lot of time may pass with little happening, or seeming to happen – and there will undoubtedly be surprises and setbacks along the way.
The theme this week is cultivating loving kindness for yourself. Loving kindness is sometimes referred to as the soil in which the seeds of compassion can thrive . You could also think about this week as an invitation to become a deeper friend to yourself. There are culturally conditioned notions that loving kindness (or caring) for yourself is self-indulgent, selfish or ‘blowing your own trumpet’. CCT suggests quite the opposite is true. By truly understanding your self, and taking care of your own deepest needs you may be less likely to suffer from obsessive self-focus (and unskillful attempts to meet those needs), more realistic about yourself, and even more able to understand, value and meet the needs of others.
I mentioned the Buddhist concept of appreciative joy (or empathetic joy) which is seen as supportive to cultivating loving kindness – for yourself and others. The fact that there is no English word for this may be instructive as to why it can be challenging. Schadenfreude is borrowed from German to describe something roughly opposite. Buddhism sees this kind of joy as close to a ‘natural’ state of the human mind, and that the impulse to happiness can be seen as an impulse to regain this state. Perhaps the reason that it can be so heartbreaking not to experience this joy, is because it is so fundamental to us, and can have a kind of lifting, resourcing or restorative effect, inextricably coloured with gratitude. The video on nature, beauty, gratitude might that we watched might speak to this.
We talked about the almost dance-like way we seem to move from discussing self and others in our sessions. We may get into this more in the coming weeks, but there’s something in this relational perspective which clearly connects us on a very deep level to others, and tempers a potential for self-focus.
Kate and others importantly brought up the fire at Greenfell tower. Thank you to Joanna for following up with links of ways to offer support for the Greenfell community. Happily these have been shared widely in London, and the stories of people across London offering support are heartening. Joanna importantly highlighted the active quality of compassion. There are also essential questions demanding an understanding of the systemic failures that may have led to this, and we may chose to explore the relationship between the role of compassion, mindfulness, wisdom and action in the following weeks rather more deeply given this tragedy – as well as ways to helpfully support ourselves against debilitating overwhelm.
- Download the file here or play it directly below:
Ryan, Richard M., Veronika Huta, and Edward L. Deci. “LivingWellEudaimonia.” Journal of happiness studies 9.1 (2008): 139-170.
Fredrickson, Barbara L., et al. “open hearts build lives” Journal of personality and social psychology 95.5 (2008): 1045.
Find a quiet moment in the day, and ask yourself ‘in my heart of hearts, what do I really want in my life? What do I want to find? How would I love to grow as a human being?’
Love_after_love by Derek Walcott