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PASSION FOR COMPASSION

Photo by Johannah Reimer

Photo by Johannah Reimer

"Helping others brings the same pleasure we get from the gratification of personal desire. The brain, then, seems wired up to respond to others’ suffering—indeed, it makes us feel good when we can alleviate that suffering. But do other parts of the body also suggest a biological basis for compassion? It seems so." -Dacher Keltner

This week just sucks. Thank goodness we're focusing on compassion! Because in my disassociated, overwhelmed, angry exhausted state- it's altogether too easy to beat up on myself. To be hard on myself. To turn my grief and rage and discomfort against myself. I'm pulling out every tool in my toolbox not to go down that road. 

Cutting the cycle of self-aggression is challenging, no doubt. It's easy to let a friend off the hook and respond with understanding to their neurosis or troubles or mistakes. But we are pretty damn hard on ourselves. We have turned the reptile flight or fight response on ourselves, we are at war with our own humanness. It's so damn sad. When one of my beloved girlfriends is hung up on her parenting, or career, or whatever- my heart is crying for her. I offer soothing words, ideas, an ear and a hug. When I go into a tailspin it's hard to find self-compassion there. It's hard to stay embodied and grounded and loving. My tendency is to push it down, ignore it, distract. But the moments I realize what I'm doing, and there's space to tend to myself, I do. I put my hand and my heart and offer myself kind words, sweet sounds. And I breathe. And here's the cool thing- we are literally programmed to be compassionate. It's a no-brainer. It's evolutionary.

Through his many cool experiments, Dacher Keltner, my new hero, has discovered that "Compassion is an evolved part of human nature- something we're universally capable of expressing and understanding." And "it isn't simply a fickle or irrational emotion, but rather an innate human response embedded into the folds of our brains." Not only that, but through our autonomic nervous system response as well as production of oxytocin, compassion has been proven to live in our bodies! Yes, my friends, compassion is our body's true nature. How cool is that!? 
I noticed this week, that beginning with deep compassion for our body-beings, everyone moved slower. Every dancer took their sweet, luxurious time on the floor, stretching, giving themselves touch, and just being super gentle. One dancer even said, "Compassion is going slow enough to feel myself." So we felt ourselves, deeply. And the more everyone began to touch and taste self-compassion, we noticed it poured effortlessly out to the other dancers, and back in again. Compassion began to flow both ways as we let it dance us. And we laughed, and played, and engaged each other, and it was so sweet. There were tears, mourning, and release. There was joy, celebration, and gratitude. There was all of it. And feeling our feelings, feeling our selves and each other, that is the dance of compassion. 


Here's what the dancers had to say:
"Compassion for me today was being with the feelings in my body as they were- instead of trying to dance it off I was just being here with it." 


"Today compassion showed up as gratitude- for this class, for touch, and it led me to feel connected. And from that, came compassion. Fabulous, fabulous class today." 

"Compassion is self-massage and touch. "


"Compassion is slowing down and enjoying a gentle dance."


"Feeling myself from the inside out, which allows me to feel others."


"Today, compassion was taking the time to appreciate and love myself."


"I experienced compassion in a new for the first time in my life, I didn't want to change anything, no agenda, I just felt compassion and it felt so good." 


"Today it feels like a sweetness for the human experience and patience."

Dance Invitation: What is your relationship with self-compassion? Can you find it through your body- warmth, touch and sweet sounds to yourself? Can you begin to coo and support and yourself the way you would for a friend? How slow do you need to move to feel yourself compassionately? How gentle or wild is your dance?