Conscious Café Singapore met recently for another interesting discussion, this time on the theme of Compassion, with special speaker Anita Kapoor who introduced the topic and led the discussion.
Compassion is at the root of human contacts and relationships, but is it really evident in the way we are currently interacting with each other, or with nature? What are our personal experiences of compassion? Is compassion a clearly defined state of being or does it have a spectrum? Is compassion a dominant modus operandi currently? What can we do to bring back the compassion into our interactions and stop being a cutthroat?
Compassion is a virtue of our humanness. It is wired into our biology via the vagus nerve that transmits information to and from lungs, heart and organs of digestion and additionally serves the parasympathetic nervous system that is calming in opposition to the fight-flight response. It is our “nerve of compassion” that promotes altruism, gratitude according to Professor Porges’ Polyvagal Theory. There is also the “love hormone” oxytocin that is responsible for the social bonding.
The dominating concept of “survival of the fittest” that originated from Darwin’s evolutionary theory have been influencing societies and cultures for the past 150 years. There is a need in the contemporary chaotic, fragmented, competition-dominated world to shift into a kind and compassionate co-existence. Participants shared their experiences of how the education system ingrains and reinforces competitiveness, how workplaces value and reward it, and how at the level of individual interactions this can be a dominant characteristic. In the presence and pressure of constant comparison we either strive to fit in or isolate ourselves into our own personal world – a private reality, we get depressed, feel anxious. If we do not get that top prize we are no longer “unfortunate” – that term has at least a smudge of compassion. No, we become “losers”.
That disconnection has been spreading. The rise of individualism, the emancipation of the individual in modernity from many societal structures has been, on one hand, a positive development, but on the other it’s increasingly producing its own antithesis – tribalism, conformism. Yet so many of us are craving a true community to belong to.
Our group discussed the aspects of compassion as a spectrum of engagement. Often a compassion is mistaken with pity, the feeling of sharing the suffering of another human being, while compassion is the feeling of empathy and a desire to help, to alleviate the suffering. It is very powerful to hear a personal story and participants were generously sharing.
We touched on the importance of the self-compassion: that special kindness towards oneself that is interlinked with forgiveness towards our own errors, mistakes and failures. Various examples from personal practices on how to cultivate it were shared: looking after oneself, seeking physical comfort, letting go of perfectionism, practising mindfulness, being aware of emotions and shame arising, allowing oneself to seek help.
We concluded that there is rising awareness of the importance of cultivating compassion in children as well as in adults, and that we all as individuals can contribute by being aware of our daily interactions and response choices. Compassion in action.
This blog post is written by Hanna Krasnodebska, leader of ConsciousCafe Singapore. Follow the Singapore group page to keep up to date with upcoming meetings!