The practice of loving kindness and compassion originate from BuddhismLisha Zhong

Are you kind to yourself? It may seem like an unusual question but often we are very good at giving love and showing kindness to others but not to ourselves. Loving kindness and compassion are two states of being and of being kind to ourselves, the practice of which originate from Buddhism. They are the most important actions we can practice for allowing us to discover who we are and to give us peace. Loving kindness is about being gentle to yourself and being able to offer happiness to yourself and others. Compassion is about understanding your own suffering and then from that understanding, being able to transform it.

An important way of being kind to ourselves and showing ourselves compassion is to let go of judgement. Are you judging yourself against an image of yourself and against others? Do you judge yourself if you do not complete the work you thought you should have done? Or if you become distracted during a meditation? In an environment like Cambridge it can seem inevitable to compare yourself against others and against yourself and what you think you should be doing. The first step in cultivating loving kindness and compassion for yourself is to let go of the judgement, to let go of what you think you ought to do or should do and accept what is. If we tell ourselves that we should be doing something and then criticise ourselves if we cannot then we become anxious, agitated and worried or do not feel happy with ourselves.

“We must love ourselves unconditionally for who we are, without the conditions of achieving good grades”

By being compassionate we forgive ourselves for the judgement and then we let that judgement go – we accept what is in the present moment and show ourselves loving kindness by accepting what is and not criticising ourselves. There are many meditations and mantras that focus on cultivating love for ourselves, telling our inner self that we love and are grateful for everything we do. Letting go of judgement also comes with letting go of fear. We are conditioned to fear things, to fear failure, being alone, not meeting people’s expectations… the list is unique to each individual. By loving ourselves completely in this present moment and being kind to ourselves we can let go of that fear.

A way of looking at it is to imagine your inner self as a child – if a child was scared or upset or angry you wouldn’t judge them and criticise them – you would comfort them and show them love. This is what we must do to our own inner child – our inner self. When we cultivate the ability to love ourselves unconditionally for who we are deep down and be kind to ourselves when we make mistakes or think we have done the wrong thing, it can bring us peace. Life is a process of learning  different lessons again and again through experience and inevitable mistakes, we are learning in the process and we need to be kind to ourselves and love ourselves along our own individual journeys.


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Meditate, and help bring calm to yourself

In Cambridge, grades can seem to be the be-all and end-all: grades are important, but they are not who you are as a person. We must love ourselves unconditionally for who we are, without the conditions of achieving good grades or being successful in a job or earning a high income – without the external conditions we believe will make us happy. It is about loving ourselves deep down, the person that no one else truly gets to see – the person who you discover through meditation and mindfulness – and giving compassion and love to that person, to your inner self. If you can have compassion with yourself, if you can love yourself before everything else, you can begin to enjoy things that may have seemed hard and uncomfortable. The essay you did not want to start because you believed it would not go well and thus you will do badly and get a bad mark and be behind your peers – if we let that judgement of ourselves go and treat ourselves with kindness and compassion we can find more peace and enjoyment in our work.

To try a loving kindness meditation: sit quietly and comfortably, focusing on your breath and then either read silently or aloud the following words, letting them sink in and resonate with you:

May I be full of loving kindness.

May I be happy.

May I be peaceful and at ease.

May I be well.

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