I recently began a year-long course on compassion and have also become aware of new research on compassion that I want to share with you.
Compassion is an action word...it's love in action. Compassion is doing something to relieve the suffering of others. The word "passion" means "suffering," and "com" means "with" or "together." Practicing both self-compassion and compassion toward others is important to healing and overall well-being.
Anthony William, a well-known author and medical medium, explains compassion this way, "Spirit is the living word compassion. The word compassion has a life force. Compassion is the glue to love, it's the bond, the foundation to love. Love is weak without compassion. When compassion isn't there, it's hard for love to be there."
When we are in pain, when we are suffering, our deepest need is compassion. Compassion is what helps us to heal. Practicing compassion is healing in a very physical and biological way within the body. Acts of compassion activate the "pleasure centers" of the brain and our body secretes oxytocin. This causes our heart rate to slow down, blood pressure is lowered, our immune system is boosted, inflammation is reduced, depression, stress and anxiety are lessened, we are more resilient and we have stronger relationships.
Dr. David Rakel is a researcher who develops models of compassionate care for physicians and their patients. Dr. Rakel's recent book, The Compassionate Connection: The Healing Power of Empathy and Mindful Listening, explores how medical professionals can integrate compassion, empathy and mindfulness into practice to transform healthcare and improve outcomes for patients. The research data supports that healing is significantly enhanced by compassionate care. Compassion is healing.
Dr. Rakel states that, "The role of the practitioner...the doctor, nurse, or other medical professional...is to become a therapeutic tool for healing." The "We'll get through this together" mode of operation.
Compassion creates a sense of connectedness. We recognize that we are not alone. I've shared in previous posts how detrimental loneliness is to our overall health and well-being. Compassion strengthens relationships and bonds people together.
Compassion is like a muscle, it can be strengthened with exercise and practice, or it can deteriorate and atrophy. Your capacity for compassion can expand, if you choose to cultivate it. Compassion benefits both the giver and the receiver. I will be sharing more on the practice of compassion, how to cultivate it for yourself, and for others, in future posts.