Tag Archives: compassion

Do you have TOO much empathy and compassion for others?

boundaries

 When someone hurts you, do you immediately imagine where they’re coming from and see their point of view in an effort to forgive and forget?

I was raised Catholic and when I was about 5, I had the very odd ambition of wanting to be a saint. Ideally a martyr (I blame having read waaaayyyyy too many Lives of the Saints books).

As I got older, I stopped going to Mass but hugely admired fictional characters like Atticus Finch (in Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird, NOT Go Set a Watchman) who turned the other cheek.

While still very pro peace, a key aspect of my work (and I was my first client) is encouraging clients and students to look after themselves first.

When people have experienced interpersonal trauma, been in any kind of minority group or have been bullied, it’s easy to automatically connect with the needs of more powerful people than your own.

But by recognising you deserve so much better, you can set healthy boundaries and maintain them even when people are taking the p.

It’s another practice (progress not perfection) but so worth doing.

Next time you notice yourself being compassionate and empathic towards someone you’re struggling with, ask yourself if you’re also being compassionate and empathic with yourself.

The more we can be whole ourselves, the more we CAN extend that compassion and empathy towards others but now it won’t be in a way that gives mixed messages or leaves us vulnerable to abuse.

Being boundaried is a practice – I have been working on it for decades and still get sudden crash courses which remind me I’m still vulnerable to getting hooked into old habits – but it’s so worth getting better at.

And now, when I get triggered, I’m a bit better at saying, ‘Thank you, Universe, for this new opportunity to practice setting and maintaining healthy boundaries’. Not immediately. I still often shame spiral wondering what I’ve done to attract the situation but not to the same degree.

Have you ever sided with a bully, abuser or oppressor over yourself?

What helps you turn your compassion and empathy spotlight back onto yourself?

 Feel free to comment below.

love,

Eve

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Safety pins and self-compassion

safetypin

What a week!

Apart from here, the floods in Ghana, attack in Turkey…

There have been high emotions in the aftermath of the vote. I’ve shed a lot of tears, hearing about the increase in racist attacks, wanting to connect and collaborate with the world at large, not be cast adrift.

Also, respecting the democratic process and knowing we’re all doing the best we can with what we know at any given time.

A lot of us are struggling with our sense of identity.

I’ve been clumsily attempting to be super friendly to people who look like they might be not from here.

Then, to increase the strange looks resulting from my beaming at strangers in London and Essex, trying to be extra friendly to everyone.

Being naturally more introverted (I think I’m an extraverted introvert), I’m sometimes exhausted by it all.

In attempting to be more smiley to people, I’m no longer hiding behind books and newspapers on public transport but making eye contact (the horror! Joke – it’s actually refreshing), I’m remembering that the heartbreaking stories are far from the big picture.

Still, what could I do to (without freaking anyone out by being too smiley), help others feel safer?

I was delighted to hear about the safety pins being worn to show solidarity with immigrant communities (again, as the daughter of an Irish and Indian, via Kenyan, immigrant, it feels a bit odd to show solidarity with myself so am aiming for some self-compassion rather than beating myself up for all the times I’ve cried or welled up since Friday).

The safety pin is such a great example of someone doing something simple to stand up (quietly and maybe not even needing to stand up at all) and say racism is unacceptable. And I can dial back my beaming at people so minimise the risk of freaking strangers out by being potentially over friendly in an effort to compensate for a tiny by vocal minority of racist individuals.

I’m also aware of the reports of Muslim women being targeted more than men (sexism as well as racism) and talk of older people being accused of voting badly and the need (my name is Eve – am still working on my overdeveloped sense of responsibility for the whole world), recent progress for gay and trans rights and desire for everybody to be safe, free to flourish, able to be their glorious wondrous selves without fear of attack.

Is there something you’ve been feeling hopeless and helpless about?

What is something small – safety pin tiny – that might help you begin to remember that no matter what’s going on around you, everyone is doing their best?

Feel free to comment below.

love,

Eve

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If I talked to myself the way I talked to my cat, I’d probably be invincible

 

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Some have suggested I adore Rainbow MagnifiCat too much (impossible).

When I stand up to open the door for her, I say, ‘Just opening the door for you. No pressure. You can go out or stay in. If you go out, stay safe, have fun, come when I call you and back before ___*’

Sometimes, the above scenario plays out several times within a few minutes. Cats change their minds. And I have all the time in the world for her even though patience isn’t one of my biggest strengths.

Catching myself talking patiently and sensitively to her several times recently, I wondered how much easier challenging** tasks might be for me if my own default self-talk was as soothing.

Sometimes, I think Rainbow assumes her name is really ‘Divine wondercat’, ‘Most magnificent creature to have ever walked the planet’ or similar.

I wouldn’t want to go overboard with myself (I’m only human) and yet, on days I smile at my reflection (after years of therapy) rather than think, ‘Urgh, I look like Jack Nicholson***’ I realise that my self-talk has improved.

These days, if I break something or similar, I often hear myself calling myself ‘Kitten’. I’m dealing with the breakage (or whatever flaw) but in a much gentler way than I used to where I’d have been mentally bludgeoning myself over being clumsy.

I feel a little embarrassed writing this. Not because of the cat worship but because after 15+ years of this kind of work and so many improvements in my own self-care, it’s taken the last few years of cat care to embed this particular shift.

How might your self-talk improve if you spoke to yourself as you would to a beloved dog / dragon / child etc?

Notice how you feel when you express patience and compassion for yourself rather than criticism and judgment.

As with everything, it’s a practice. But the kinder and more accepting we can be to ourselves, the easier it becomes to make any change and improvement.

Cultivating a more caring voice for our self-talk is worth doing.

Feel free to share below.

love,

Eve

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* curfew works 95% of the time but she IS a cat

** not that coming in and going out is challenging for her

*** no offence to Jack Nicholson intended. He is a beautiful man but I don’t want to look like him

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‘Mindfulness meditation significantly reduces pain’ – more research on the benefits

Image courtesy of Alan Cunningham 2015
Image courtesy of Alan Cunningham 2015

Thanks to robust research over the years (click here to read a feature I wrote for Healthy last year on the benefits of mindfulness), mindfulness has become a bit of a buzzword.

Recent research by Zeidan et al (November 2015), published in the Journal of Neuroscience and American Mindfulness Research Monthly show how ‘mindfulness meditation-induced pain relief activated higher-order brain regions’ meaning it has unique mechanisms for not just accepting pain but reducing it.

Zeidan et al write: ‘Recent findings have demonstrated that mindfulness meditation significantly reduces pain. Given that the “gold standard” for evaluating the efficacy of behavioral interventions is based on appropriate placebo comparisons, it is imperative that we establish whether there is an effect supporting meditation-related pain relief above and beyond the effects of placebo. Here, we provide novel evidence demonstrating that mindfulness meditation produces greater pain relief and employs distinct neural mechanisms than placebo cream and sham mindfulness meditation. Specifically, mindfulness meditation-induced pain relief activated higher-order brain regions, including the orbitofrontal and cingulate cortices. In contrast, placebo analgesia was associated with decreased pain-related brain activation. These findings demonstrate that mindfulness meditation reduces pain through unique mechanisms and may foster greater acceptance of meditation as an adjunct pain therapy.’

You can read more about the study here.

Would you like to reap some of these benefits yourself?

  • Make yourself as comfortable as possible – if you are able to sit with both feet planted comfortably on the floor and your back as straight as feels good, great. If this isn’t comfortable for you, experiment with standing, lying down or sitting in a different way. Be kind to yourself
  • Bring your awareness to your breath – You may already be familiar with yogic pranayama techniques (breathwork) which can be used for different effects but even if you’ve never given your breath any conscious thought at all, you can start noticing each inhalation and exhalation. You may want to notice which part of the lungs you’re breathing from (top, middle, lower) and if your inhalation is longer or shorter than your exhalation or if they’re even. You may notice that it changes as you bring more and more of your awareness to your breath, relaxing into it.
  • Notice each breath with compassion and kindness – You’re not ‘Doing it wrong’. You’ve been breathing perfectly your whole life – you’re still alive. So do your best to notice each breath in a neutral and compassionate, non-judgmental way rather than stressing yourself out with imaginings about how you ‘should’ be breathing
  • Your mind will wander – you’re a human being. Simply noticing when this happens and choosing (if you want to) to bring your awareness and attention back to each breath, each inhalation and exhalation, will help you cultivate your mind. It’s a practice. Some days it’s easier than others. When we’re in pain, it’s naturally more challenging to stay focused on anything but the pain and yet, as above, the benefits make it worth experimenting with, if you want to

I often encourage students and clients to count their breaths for 30 seconds then double it to notice your ‘mindful minute’ number. You may want to time a minute of your naturally relaxed breathing (counting one inhalation and exhalation as a complete breath) so you know how many breaths is about a minute for you and so you can fit the odd minute of mindfulness meditation throughout the day.

You may want to build up to 20 minute blocks or a minute at a time (or 3 or 5 or whatever) may be enough for you right now.

You know yourself best. Anything (especially when you may be finding it challenging to remain embodied due to chronic pain) is better than nothing. Again, be kind to yourself.

Did you try this?

What helped you?

What did you struggle with?

How did you find it?

What might you do differently next time?

Feel free to comment below.

Love,

Eve x

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Clarity with clear quartz

ClearQuartz

If you’re interested in crystals, you may want to start by exploring clear quartz. Often neglected as not as exciting or pretty as some of the other stones, it remains one of my favourites.

I’m writing about it today because, having been working with a clear quartz crystal for a couple of days now, I’ve been reminded by how powerfully it can cut through all the confusion and help us see things more clearly.

I don’t want to limit its uses to clarity (like all stones, clear quartz has many talents – each particular rock will have its own energy although many will share certain characteristics. The way it’s treated (left natural? Cut and shaped?) will also impact it so, for example, a sphere is likely to bring a softer energy than a wand) but clear quartz, well, rocks.

It can be (energetically) as sharp as a surgeon’s scalpel. Yes, the incision will need time to heal but wow, look how what needed to be removed has been excised!

Clear quartz’ stony siblings (amethyst, rose quartz and citrine) bring their own spins on the energy. Amethyst can offer a softer energy and is great for connecting us to our spirits, rose quartz can be a wonderful emotional salve and citrine can offer a citrus like burst of joy and optimism.

In terms of helping me see things more clearly (and deciding to take action), this clear quartz has been a wonderful gift. And yet, sometimes, not seeing things clearly has its compensations. It enables us to stay comfortably miserable or simply mildly dissatisfied. We may feel our heart sinking or know that we’re moaning but forget that we have the power to change things.

Of course, once we know what needs to change, we need to use our will to change things. And to temper that, we need to use love, too (kindness, compassion and acceptance both with ourselves as we take what can feel like scary steps and the people we’re dealing with).

Whether or not your clarity has come from meditating with crystals (or meditating at all) or a simple flash of insight, how can you best honour your new knowledge?

What baby steps can you start taking today? And how can you be as kind to yourself (and others involved) as possible as you go through this transition?

If you’re interested in finding out more about working with crystals to create the life of your dreams (not nightmares), check out my special New Year’s Eve (daytime) workshop to help you release all that’s holding you back and move into 2014 feeling lighter and more focused.

Metta x

Image (c) Eve Menezes Cunningham 2013

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