On Self-Compassion and Belonging, Episode 75

Here’s episode 75 of Turning Towards Life, a weekly live 30 minute conversation hosted by thirdspace coaching in which Justin Wise and Lizzie Winn dive deep into big questions of human living.

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In this week’s conversation we talk about the belonging in life that is supported by finding out that all the parts of us that we usually push away, and all the experiences too, also belong. We explore together how difficult it can be to welcome ourselves with curiosity and wonder, and how our welcome – when we find it – makes it possible for us to welcome others more fully, without having to control them or judge them. We discuss the possibilities that come from welcoming even our shame, how it turns out that none of us is really so different from one another, what it might be to know ourselves as an expression of life as well as our more everyday sense of being a separate self, and how we might practice all of this in an everyday, day-to-day way.

Our source is an edited version of a piece on Francis Weller’s website on self-compassion and belonging.

On Self-Compassion and Belonging

“You can search throughout the entire universe for someone who is more deserving of your love and affection than you are yourself, and that person is not to be found anywhere. You, yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection.” – Buddha

At the heart of every spiritual tradition, we find the teaching of compassion. Through the gate of compassion we are invited to enter the wider conversation with all life. Compassion binds us with all things through the shared encounter with suffering. Compassion: From the Latin, com patti, “to suffer with.” It is through our shared experience with loss, sorrow and pain that we deepen our connection with one another and enter the commons of the soul.

But how are we with self-compassion? Too often our caring is reserved for those outside of ourselves, as though we haven’t earned the right for kindness. We struggle with judgments and resist offering gestures of mercy to ourselves. Yet, every one of us knows loss and defeat, loneliness and failure. We hurt and harm others, are hurt and harmed by others; we close our hearts to the world and often choose self-protection as a way of life.

Bringing compassion to our suffering is an act of generosity. It helps us remember that we too, are part of this breathing, pulsing world and worthy of compassion. We are reminded that, by the mere fact of our being here, we qualify for the soothing waters of compassion. We can then come out of our sheltered world of self-scrutiny and make our way back into the fuller embrace of our belonging.

So often our efforts at change in our lives mask subtle and not so subtle acts of self-hatred. We attack portions of our life with a vengeance, fully believing that our weakness or inadequacy, our neediness or our failures are the reasons for our suffering and if only we could be free of them, then we would enter into a state of perfection; all would be well. Our obsession with perfection is itself a strategy that we cling to, to overcome our feelings of being outside the wall of welcome.

Giving up our muscular agendas of self-improvement is an act of kindness. It says that by befriending our life, we deepen our capacity to welcome what is, what comes, whoever arrives at the interior door of our soul’s house. We don’t often get to decide who or what shows up the “guest house,” as Rumi says, but we can cultivate an atmosphere of curiosity and receptivity. Self-compassion gradually becomes one of the basic elements of maturation. We slowly relinquish the harsh program of ridding ourselves of our outcast brothers and sisters for the sake of fitting in; we simply set another place at the table.

The foundations of self-compassion arise from the fertile ground of belonging. Belonging confers a feeling of worth and value, which in turn filters into our whole being as a blessing. This gently translates into a relationship with oneself that is respectful and caring. Herein lies our problem: For many of us, the experience of belonging has been fractured and frustrated. We often feel as though we are living outside the warmth of a recognizable welcome. In this state of exile and loneliness, we feel unworthy of compassion or kindness. It is very challenging to cultivate a feeling of compassion for oneself in an atmosphere of self-judgment and hatred.

Self-compassion is a fierce and challenging practice. Every day we are asked to sit with pieces of our interior world that lie outside of what we find acceptable and welcome. We must explore our learned responses to our places of suffering and actively engage these pieces of soul life. We have often treated these parts of ourselves with indifference, if not outright contempt.

Self-compassion is not an event, but an ongoing daily practice. It is the root practice for our inner life and also for our relational lives. I remember giving many talks on shame and sharing how we want to be in loving relationships, while simultaneously hating ourselves. Our ability to receive love is proportional to our capacity to welcome all of who we are. Self-compassion is a skill that needs to be exercised and developed regularly in order for us to remain open and available to life. It is the gift of a generous heart.

Francis Weller 


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