Self-Compassion, A Bridge To Understanding
by Andrea W. Doray
In December 2016, the Dalai Lama spoke during the Emory-Tibet Symposium of Scholars and Scientists at the Drepung Monastic University in India. According to Atlanta-based Emory University, “the ultimate goal of the symposium is to build a bridge between two complementary systems of knowledge.”
In an interview with CNN, the Dalai Lama was asked about what was happening in the United States at that time. His Holiness said that although he considers America the “leading nation of the free world,” he also acknowledged that the U.S. is a democracy where the “power is divided.”
Indeed, America is a country that mirrors societies around the world: divided – rather than shared – in which many people are angry, many other people are angry at the people getting angry, and civility seems to be a veneer stretched too thin on both sides to conceal the contempt and derision below.
His Holiness offered some advice for finding equilibrium in these times: self-compassion. As opposed to self-esteem or self-respect, self-compassion is defined by some scholars as open to and touched by our own troubles, worries, or fears, and yet not avoiding them or disconnecting from them. An important piece of self-compassion is to be nonjudgmental about what is causing us pain.
In our divided world, people are beyond judgmental with each other … vitriolic in name-calling, shaming, senses of entitlement. Some people are so certain of their own beliefs that anyone who stands for an opposing viewpoint becomes a target of scorn and hate. The divisions are sharp, wide, deep. No wonder so many of us feel a bit battered, bruised.
Each of us does face our own battles, every day. And this means that everyone else we meet or interact with is also fighting some sort of battle, that may or may not have anything to do with political divisions. Personally, I’m not sure which needs to come first, though – compassion for self or compassion for others, in which we are touched by someone else’s suffering, we are aware of their pain, and we are not judging them. Clearly, neither is easy.
Is it possible for us to “build a bridge between two complementary systems of knowledge?” Can we practice compassion, including self-compassion, for better understanding of the other sides of the divide?
For my part, starting this weekend – oh, mercy, starting right now! – I’m going to practice self-compassion. If it’s good for the Dalai Lama, it is definitely good for me.
Andrea W. Doray is an award-winning journalist, author, poet, and essayist in Denver, CO, and is a columnist for The Denver Post through their Colorado Voices panel. Her weekly opinion column, Alchemy, which appears in Colorado Community Media newspapers, has received a first-place award from the Colorado Press Association.Learn more about Andrea and her work here.
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