Tina Gilbert on the MA Compassion Training

I have just returned from teaching Compassion Module 3 at Samye Ling Buddhist Monastery and in this module we are approaching compassion for others, in weekend 2 we focused on self compassion. It has been many years since my compassion training with Rob Nairn and I remember it clearly and especially this weekend with Tonglen and many other wonderful practices.

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Mindfulness changed my life significantly but I have no doubt, compassion took it to another level with each weekend taking me deeper into layers of awareness and holding. So it was great to come back to the practices we were teaching over the weekend with a fabulous group of people willing to walk along this path of discovery and to be part of their experience.

We started the weekend in pairs, spending some time really being able to see the difficulties, challenges and obstacles the other person might have experienced in their lives and followed by imagining what we would say to them to soothe them. The next part was exploring the many positive qualities this person has inside them and we set our wish for this to grow in abundance. It was a beautiful practice and experience and the chance to really be able to see someonefully and see how, just like us, they wish to be happy and free from suffering.  An opportunity to open our hearts in an expansive way.

It was not all easy, as the journey of practices over the weekend drove us down a bumpy road of working with others, including close family and friends, neutral people and those in our lives that are difficult. The people that challenge us often live in our heads, create blocks within us and can consume a fair amount of our time distracted by thoughts about them. When we notice the resistances and blocks within ourselves and work with these, we can open our hearts to others, even challenging others and by not shying away from our obstacles, we can start to bring about permanent change internally which permeates into our everyday lives.

The weekend very much focused on the four immeasurable qualities of loving kindness, compassion, equanimity and joy and we explored these fully in teaching and practice. What I realised was how important it is to have the 4 in balance in life; if one is out of balance, it can shift the way we operate and feel in the world on a day to day basis.

The one thing that struck me over the weekend was how closely linked self compassion is with compassion for other. Being able to hold what arises within our internal experience with warmth and tenderness is so essential to deepening compassion for others. This is especially important for those in the caring professions and when dealing with those with trauma, mental health or a life- threatening illness and also dealing with those that push our buttons in life. Without self compassion, exhaustion, burnout or compassion fatigue is a possibility.

All in all, a fabulous weekend, teaching with a great team of Mindfulness Association friends and having the opportunity to be part of the lives of those who are willing to work with compassion for others in the beautiful location of Samye Ling. Today, I am feeling expansive, taller than normal and full of abundance and joy, the effects of weekend 3 of Compassion Training.

-Tina Gilbert

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