Selfless Self-Compassion

It is the day after the Women’s Marches and I am left uplifted and emboldened. The marches were perhaps as much an act of self-compassion as they were an act of standing up for each other and our planet.  I’m referring to this type of self-compassion as the selfless kind.  Meditation may seem antithetical to protest; lately it can frequently be found on Top 10 lists of self-help hacks to make you more productive and focused, more “successful”, more happy, more attractive, the list goes on. The focus is on feeling better about yourself.  I find this to be limiting; it is much more difficult to sustain a practice when it’s only about you. For me, and I am not unique, the most powerful motivator to continue to deepen my practice is knowing that as I water the seeds of wisdom, compassion and clarity in me, I am more able to respond with these same qualities to the world around me. Every time I find myself judging others, not listening, being closed or feeling self-righteous, I am reminded of my practice and how the compassion I can provide for others is limited to how much I have for myself. These moments (and there are many…) serve as great reminders to tend to myself.

In the spirit of these times, I am sharing a meditation on self-compassion from Kritee Kanko, a Zen priest and a senior scientist at the Environmental Defense Fund with whom I had the privilege of spending time last summer. I was taken by her calm, her wisdom and her raw sensitivity that has within it a power and fierceness capable of moving mountains. She has a lot to teach us all about taking care of ourselves in order to gain the strength to care for others. Kritee suggested doing this meditation every other day until it becomes a habit.

As she mentions in the meditation, we cannot give as much to others if our own cup is not full.  By filling our own cup, we are able to give to the world with our overflow. My own cup was filled to the brim yesterday.  Through meditation, protest, art, community and the many other ways we take care of ourselves, we will have more strength than ever to resist those forces that seek to separate us.

Photo: The photograph above was taken by my good friend, Charles Siegel. The image is of a Century Plant (agave americana) in Arizona.  These plants wait 15 – 25 years before finally blooming the first and last time, shooting up a tree-like stalk, signaling it’s impending death and the birth of the lives it leaves behind.



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