CMSC Blog

What Self-Compassion Is

by CMSC

March 4, 2019

By Sunita Alves

CMSC Guest Author
March 11, 2019

Imagine you drive through your daily life, the same path more or less traversing the neighbourhood of your habits. One day you unexpectedly end up at a house in a part of the community you had no idea existed. Kind strangers welcome you into their home. You enter the house and feel that something is different here, and curiosity bubbles up; you know that you’re in the right place. If you were a tuning fork, you’d be vibrating.

You look into the eyes of someone who mere seconds before was a complete stranger, and in the quiet energy of seeing, a connection is uncovered that must have always been there. For how it could appear out of nowhere like that? The warmth of this kind of human existence you thought was not possible on earth – it’s just a nice dream. Isn’t life supposed to be a struggle?

Holding space for struggle

From the first to the last labored breaths, life is filled with working and striving, trying to find love and then fighting not to lose it. In this house, though, there is something different about the relationship with the struggle. There’s no need to avoid it. Instead, the struggle inside is held in warmth and kindness, just as you would hold a sick child or a hurt puppy. The struggle outside is allowed to be as it is.

That’s profoundly different to anything you’ve been taught.

A radical declaration of kindness

Suffering shows up, big or small, in the body: Ground Zero. “Let’s be kind there — right there — where the hurt shows up,” the family you meet says. “Whether it’s the heart hurting, the gut clenching, the throat tightening, the jaw tensing, or the eyes aching.”

“Let’s learn to gently hold these places, murmur soft words and just say, ‘This hurts.’, ‘This is a moment of suffering.’ And ‘I will tend to it right now with compassion and mindfulness.’”

This is how you know this is family.  

You’re connected in common humanity of hurt moments, and they are teaching you it’s okay to take a few moments to clean and dress the wound with gentleness.  

You feel in these people an integrity that says, “When I know how to be kind to the hurting I feel, I know how to be kind to the hurting others feel.” This integrity is quiet, but it speaks to your bones.

You know you’re with someone who has warmed up their heart so it radiates kindness. They’ve somehow stopped adding struggle to struggle, hurt to hurt, hate to hate, coldness to coldness. They are adding kindness to struggle, compassion to hurt, love to hate, and warmth to coldness.  You’d prefer to traverse this path if you had a choice, for it’s much easier. You can see that. So you made a choice to learn this and practice it. You learn the power is built on repetition in the Ground Zero of the body which is the training ground for self-compassion and loving kindness. Your heart, your breath, your phrases, your visualizations, your hands and the soles of your feet — they are your tools to transform the struggle that flows in as part of life.

So you carry your tools at all times —  in the car, in the line at the grocery store, in the shower and everywhere you go. They help generate loving energy that soothes the distraught inner child who wants loving-kindness, and the fierce inner warrior who craves safety, and the lonely inner searcher who seeks a tribe.

Self-compassion is being welcomed home.

It’s hard to accept but easy to understand: You can’t give what you don’t have. If your cup is empty, what is it that you’re really giving to the world? Fill your cup in this house of self-compassion. Tend your inner fire of humanity, connection and awareness. Then every connection you have, every living being you meet will also feel the warmth you cultivated within you like a radiation that passes between bodies and bones and sinks deep into the universe. Whether a tree in the forest, a pet whose tail wags when they know you’re coming, a child whose eyes light up for you, a lover who awaits a tender touch, the homeless man on the street corner with his cup out begging for money.

This is the house of self-compassion, and it is welcoming you home.


Sunita Alves is a life coach, mindfulness student, and works a day job as an IT project manager. She is passionate about raising her teenage daughters to be kind to themselves and others, about having land (RV) and air (small plane) adventures with her husband, bringing compassion to the workplace, and living each day as mindfully as possible.