I just read this wonderful book by Thupten Jinpa- A Fearless Heart and it seems so helpful during this challenging time we’re in.
This book was a wonderful read. In it, the author explains how empathy is our ability to understand other people’s feelings including a resonance with a feeling and a cognitive understanding of their situation. And that this empathy is critical to elicit our compassion, but that true compassion, by contrast, is a more empowered state and less likely a place where we burn out. Compassion, in essence, is wishing that others be free of suffering. Just like me- I wish for YOU to be well and happy.
He shares how compassion lowers blood pressure, cortisol reactivity, and increases heart rate variability, endorphins and oxytocin, strengthens the tone of vagus nerve, helps us dissolve the barriers of loneliness.
The author also writes about the importance of self-compassion which allows us to see our difficulties within the larger context of shared human experience and relate to ourselves with understanding.
“Self-compassion is a gentle, caring non-judgemental orientation of our heart and mind toward our own suffering and needs. Self-hatred comes from caring a lot but being unable to accept or forgive our imperfect selves. With self-compassion training we learn to reconnect with the part of us that still cares, purely, tenderly, and vulnerably”
One way I like to think about self-compassion is being a good parent to yourself. But what I was struck by in the book was how he also acknowledges that it takes tremendous courage to take care of ourselves and make decisions based on our interests. I loved, as well, how he shared the importance of learning to simply be with our moment to moment experience as it unfolds (which is one of the premises of Spiraldance Breathwork).
In the book, he help identify how when we see gaps between the intentions we have for ourselves and our behaviors it’s important to not negatively judge or criticize ourselves, but to simply acknowledge the difference and resolve to try again the next day.
And he shares how when we wish for someone else and ourselves to be happy it’s like the Pali word- Anukampa- which can be translated as caring for, trembling of the heart, moved.
Some of the questions the author ends with is- What would it feel like to relate to our own suffering with more openness and acceptance rather than self-pity and denial? I love this.. And I also love remembering “Just like me, others want…”
For me, the idea that through regular practice we can change our brain patterns (neuroplasticity) and even perhaps change our genes (epigenetics) is fascinating. And that we can actually become more compassionate over time seems worth investing in.
“A fearless heart embraces the fundamental truth of our hearts wide open to pain- and joy- of being human on this planet. It’s through connecting with other people actually making a difference to others, and bringing joy into their lives that we make our lives matter, that we bring worth and purpose into our lives. This is the power of compassion.” Thupten Jinpa, A Fearless Heart