At first, many of us come to self-compassion training in deep emotional pain, desperately searching for relief. We may not know exactly what we need, but we know that life can’t hurt much worse than this. And so we take the risk of trying something different. With time and practice, we find that the cultivation of self-compassion is a personal act of mercy and a way to labor ourselves into spiritual rebirth. It is a doorway to our lives that can never be shut again.
We don’t have to rely on others to fill us up so often, because we’re learning to do it for ourselves. We have a freshness, a clarity about our personal worth and lovability. For some of us, we’ve found new and fierce expressions of our voice and unmet needs, once buried. With this fresh way of seeing, we may transition out of punishing jobs or relationships. We may gain the courage and the belief in ourselves to finally walk a new path or pursue a long-held goal. And our personal lives are made richer for all of this.
But there’s more.
Taking our practice into the world — making it about more than ourselves — arises naturally from a deep sense of self-compassion. This can’t be thought into being. As self-compassion matures and ripens over time, the rest blossoms. By grace or accident, we gain a new understanding and respect for the causes, conditions, and people who brought us to where we are today. We also gain a greater appreciation for the good things in our lives. Lack takes a back seat to abundance.
Finally, our self-compassion practice is an act of love for those whose paths we have yet to cross in the world — whether family, friends, the barista, the meter reader, the little box turtle trying to cross the busy road, or the dead glaciers in Iceland. Because once we have learned to hold ourselves in tender awareness, that same tenderness can more naturally arise for other beings around us. Ripples are inevitable. Understanding, respect, and mutuality take deeper root, and at long last, we get a glimmer of understanding that we are never as alone or separate as it may seem; rather, we see that we ourselves are just a part of the same vast ocean of life as everyone else. No more and no less. And as such, the way we relate with ourselves directly impacts those around us.
Seen through this wide-angle lens, it’s easy to see that self-compassion isn’t just a gift to ourselves; it’s a deeply practical, radically counter-cultural state of being which directly benefits the world at large.
It helps us push our roots deep into the earth so we can hold steady and do the important work of loving each other into fullness.