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Compassion

Why train? These qualities are natural? 

Yes, they are in our DNA, deep rooted in our mammal evolution, in survival via parenting,  via pair bonding and group bonding and cooperation abilities.  These human virtues are studied iin higher mammals. Bands of related female elephants cooperate and coordinate together to simultaneously boost and drag a baby elephant from a slippery gully,  in a beaurifully filmed study by Franz DeWahl (credentials).

Our human brains expanded in size by a third with the advent of tools and early agriculture.  These complex group projects gave an enormous survival advantage to neural equipment for cooperation.

Today we need all the kindness and compassion we can get--- for ourselves and for others, including others who like ourselves are stressed, others who can be 'difficult ones." . We are multitasking, high speed communicating, in coordination with people across the nation, managing complex work relationships and balanciing family and social life....including relating to other often stressed people, who can be “difficult” for us at least some times. (Compassion is a necessity") the Dalai Lama.

We all know this, but why train? 

Because, neural reactivity to physical threat survived in our DNA. And neural reactivity to rivalry.

Our ancestors competed for between group status ("us vs them")  and within group status, (who's iincluded, who's on top) .  These were survival advantages for safety, food and mates. We inherited the instant neural arousal against threats.  

Unlike other mammals, who relax when the immediate threat is past, we humans continue to think about what is wrong or might go wrong.

More than any other species, humans evolved high sensitivity to social safetyt vs. risk (Porges) , including our own level of safe inclusioin in social  heirarchies. All this equipment these days sometimes gets in the way of the wide mindspace for Compassion and Kindness to arise and do their work. 

Our mindspace gets crowded with struggle. What neurologists dall our 'default mode network" is often preoccupied with rehashing and planning and prepping for an anticipated 'difficult conversation" with someone who feels almost 'against us."   This mentation triggers the circuity that is preps for struggle.  This arousal is mostly  low grade, But is  too chronic. 

Again, ironically certain  habits of our own  minds  re-trigger our own distressing  feelings (anger, irritability, worry, discouragement, embarrasment, rivalry, envy, anxiety), along with the stress neurochemistry.  All this is automatic, almost subliminal, even.  We sometimes self ctiticize repetitively, ( 'what's the matter with me?!” Why'd I do that?!)  Or we may criticize the difficult others – ('what's wrong with her?!”)  We could use a dose of calm, but when we tell ourselves 'calm dosn!"  it may be with criticism and impatience. Either way, it's stress chemistry.

The mindspace for calm allows a broader spacious view of things, reduces threat and rivalry focus.  It is in this space that we access the mindset of compassion and kindness. It turns out these are not threat/arousal emotional states, but calming spacious ones. As stress activation recedes our vision may clear!  Where there was a wall, we may notice a window.

Mind trainings?  We can employ specific mind trainings that  change our thinking patterns, or orienting patternns.  We deliberately re-envision our diffficult others, for instance.  We develop alternatives mindsets.  Trainings and ease our transition out of unnecessary but often repetitive distressing (tunnel vision or rumination), , and into  to the wider mindspace that opens even further with compassion and kindness.  We live better and work better and have happier relationships when we have attunement with ourselves and others. As stress chemistry recedes and tunnel vision relaxes, we see clearer. Where we previously saw a wall of difficulty, we may see a bit of a window.

 

Interestingly, crucially, we are not training for what the Buddhist trainers would call 'stupid compassion."  Not a blindness that indulges wrongdoing or destructive habits of others -- or of ourselves!  We are not rejecting our assessment of risk....but learning to modulate it's impact better.  In fact, it turns out that the mind of kindness and compassion permits wiser less reactive assertiion when we need to draw on assertion, which is not rarely.  It is taught thatmind of  compassion traiins an innterresilience and confidence. This makes us more , not less, effective.  that reduces our ability to take focused assertive action for ours safety. Or actioin for the greater good.  

Your Practice of Compassion is Incomplete Unless It includes Your Self, attributed to Siddartha Gautauma, the Buddha

We start with the Mind of Kindness and Compassion toward ourselves.  As with training the mind of  compassionate kindness toward others, mind training practicesin self compassion make a deep difference. These are extrapolated from Buddhim's extensive repertoire.

Conceptualizing is useful,but practice too. As with a golf swing or a piano piece with practice we 'know it by heart."  Neuroopsycholgical research, we know now that mind training works the so called circuits of attunement (research).  Just exactly as scans show that  mental imagery of playing a piano piece actually trains the brain circuits for this fingering. (see Brain section). 

Not surprisingly, respectful kindness and compassion in our mindset toward our selves helps us lookat opurselves less defensively, more steadily, widely, deeply, with more interest and less reactivity and thus see more spacious wiggle room for generating perspectives, options, and skills.

It turns out that It turns out that compassion and kindness are warm emotional states. Happy ones.   How useful. 

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