All the buzz lately has been on the Dalai Lama's Compassion Tour 08'. Yes, I agree with him that we all need to show more compassion for those around us. But I think a more potent strategy, and one less people are probably willing to undertake, is to have more compassion for ourselves.
When we put ourselves out to others we can only do so to the extent that we know. We can only love others to the extent that we know how to love ourselves. There is that saying 'God helps those that help themselves.' While I'm about as religious as a rock, I do find many sayings from many different religions to be spot on. What most of the participants at the Dalai's events this weekend will most likely experience when they 'practice' their compassion on others is that they'll end up confronting themselves, and the limitations of their own experiences.
I by no means am a saint and am speaking mainly on my own experiences (I'm a Virgo, so self-deprecating behaviour is ever present).
How do we learn to be more compassionate to ourselves?
There are ample opportunites throughout the day to get a base measure of your self-compassion.
One is to check into the internal dialogue or self-talk that you have about yourself. Are you being compassionate to yourself or self-deprecating? What do you say to yourself, both outloud and in the silence? To witness your own language can be eye opening, it was for me.
Another way, which is an easier tool for measurement, is to watch how much effort you put into the simplest of movements. When you strain to do any movement is that an act of compassion? I think of those in yoga class that strive to attain a yoga position. The pain and violence we can put ourselves through to attain that position, as if once we get there we'll attain some sort of enlightenment.
I see enough joggers and runners carrying themselves in positions that have to be causing damage, if not immediate then long-term. Arthritis is mainly the long-term shearing force of using yourself in non-compassionate ways.
There are many challenging Awareness Through Movement® lessons in Feldenkrais® that no way could I 'attain' some theoretical position, not without injuring or at least inflicting some sort of violence on myself. Fortunately, in ATM® lessons it's not about attaining anything but rather a chance to observe oneself in the act to see how we do it. And the chance to notice the violence, whether it's physical or emotional, we inflict on ourselves in our every day existence.
So, yes, practice compassion. It begins at home, with yourself. I know it can be scary, but it doesn't have to be. :-)
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