I am back from a 5-day Mindful Self-compassion training with Kristin Neff and Chris Germer. This completely changed my view of the subject and I will be pursuing this topic for some time. The surprising effect of self-compassion practice was that I felt the outpouring of compassion to others.
This was an experiential learning program, when I send kindness towards myself, with a soothing touch, such as hands on my heart, there is an immediate relief in the midst of a difficult situation. Dr Dacher Keltner of UC Berkeley, who spent years immersed in the science of touch, has come to the conclusion that the power of human touch is far more profound than we realize. It is our primary language of compassion and we can clearly communicate compassion through touch.
The fundamental question that self-compassion helps us to address is, what exactly do I need? What do I value most in my life? These are core values, deeply held ideals that guide us and give meaning to our lives.
Core values are different from goals: goals are something we do, that is a destination. Core values are something we are, they are the direction. These can be concepts such as honesty, generosity, service etc, or relational values – how we want to be treated and to treat others, or for some they can be of more of personal nature, such as freedom, spiritual growth etc.
For me, one of my core values is finding the balance between caring for my family and dedicating time towards my other passion: preparing for my classes and learning ways to improve human potential. I feel I could spend infinite time dedicated towards learning, but then feel bad when I see dust and cobwebs in the corners in my house. This does not make me happy.
When we are not living in alignment with our core values, we suffer. Therefore it’s imperative to identify them and figure out whether we are living in accord with them. This is essential to live a happy life and alleviate suffering.
Imagine that you are elderly, sitting in a lovely garden as you reflect on your life. Looking back, you feel a deep sense of satisfaction, joy and contentment. Even though life hasn’t always been easy, you managed to stay true to yourself to the best of your ability. Which core values did you live by that gave your life meaning? For example spending time in nature, travel or service to others?
Now are there any aspects of your life in which you are not living in accord with your core values? Or ways in which your life feels out of balance with your values? For example you are too busy to spend time in nature even though connecting with nature is what you love most in life.
“If you want to identify me, ask me not where I live, or what I like to eat, or how I comb my hair, but ask me what I am living for, in detail, ask me what I think is keeping me from living fully for the thing I want to live for.” ― Thomas Merton