Cultivating Compassion vs Empathy
Updated: Apr 1, 2021
What is the difference between compassion and empathy? This question gets asked a lot in mindfulness classes so I wanted to address it here because I think there is an important distinction to be made. Basically, empathy is when you are able to put yourself in another’s place and feel that person’s pain and suffering. Compassion is when those feelings include the desire and motivation to help. So the difference is really one of intention and action.
The next question then becomes, how can you go from feeling empathy to feeling compassion? One way is through meditative practices which you can cultivate that help promote compassion. These can include the lovingkindness meditation or the giving and receiving compassion meditation (look on my resources page for links to these). Berkley’s Greater Good Science Center also has many lovely compassion practices on their website (https://ggia.berkeley.edu/#filters=compassion), as well.
Another way to cultivate compassion is by setting the intention to be more compassionate. You can choose to be become more mindful of others' suffering. In his book, The Wise Heart, Buddhist psychologist Jack Kornfield (incidentally, one of the teachers of my mindfulness teacher program 🥰) writes that “setting a long-term intention is like setting the compass of our heart. No matter how rough the storms, how difficult the terrain, even if we have to backtrack around obstacles, our direction is clear.” Beautifully written, these are indeed words to take to heart. Set the compass of your heart so that it gives you direction.
I leave you with one of my favorite quotes by Jack about compassion: "The heart is like a garden. It can grow compassion or fear, resentment or love. What seeds will you plant there?"
In the next post, I will continue with December's theme of compassion. Meanwhile, if you are interested in learning some quick techniques for mindful parenting, remember to sign up for my short weekly email (click on the banner below) and you’ll get this FREE guide: “Finding Calmness in Chaos: 5 Quick Techniques for Mindful Parenting of Neurodiverse Children." Also, you are very welcome to join our private Facebook group: Mindfulness for Neurodiverse Families by clicking on the button at the bottom of the Home page. Thanks and have a beautiful week! 🧡