A very important aspect of our mindfulness training is the development of compassion. If we were to only develop more clarity of what is happening inside us, we might experience only more self-criticism and condemnatory thoughts. In an image: if we are to switch on a lamp inside ourselves that is harsh and cold like a neon light, we might not enjoy what we see very much and prefer to go through life not being so aware of what is present in us. However, if we can access a warm coloured light, we might be encouraged to look and notice what is present. This does not mean glossing over what is present, rather looking at ourselves with warmth and acceptance, the way we would maybe look at our close friends. We will come back to this many times during the course of our weeks together.
So, compassion is linked to various traits, such as warmth and kindness. The Dalai Lama defines compassion as sensitivity to the suffering of self and others, with a deep commitment to try to relieve it. Mindfulness creates the conditions for a calm and present mind, and compassion involves things such as learning to be caring to ourselves, sensitive to our distress, tolerant of our feelings, understanding and non-judgmental. All of these will be enhanced with practice, just as if we were learning to play golf or the piano for the first time, it will take a little time for our body and mind to come around to orientating ourselves to the nature of the task. It is not easy, of course, to enable one’s mind to do this, but with practice and dedication it can happen.