Council of Compassion
I’ve often taught the Circle of Support as a resource of en-courage-ment for entering into challenging situations, evoking the support in our imagination of people who believe in us and in our capacities to deal with difficulties. And Circle of Support is still a very valuable practice for doing so.
And last week, wrestling with something difficult, in one of those 4 o’clock in the morning revelations, I evoked in my imagination three friends/mentors, comforting companions who embody the kind and gentle caring presence that is the essence of compassion. At 4 o’clock in the morning, “being with” what was disturbing my sleep before moving to change or fix it.
Council of Compassion was the name I gave the experience. I realized it rests in the wisdom of the ABC method of working with difficult emotions or thoughts that I also teach (and try to practice!).
A = aware, allow, accept
B = be with, be-friend,
C = compassionate caring and kindness
The practice of ABC creates the space in the mind and heart to be with before working with, so that there is a real possibility of solving something in a new, perhaps more effective, way. Council of Compassion and Circle of Support are both effective in their own timing. Caring and compassion before coaching and cheerleading.
I’m blessed to have cultivated friendships with enough truly caring, compassionate people over the years, that evoking their presence in my imagination really works to evoke a sense of ease and inner peace, before I have any answers, to begin to search for the answers or to solve a problem from.
As with the Circle of Support, calling on people we feel a sense of comfort and compassion from, even if we have never met them, don’t know them well, don’t see them regularly, works with the power of our imagination to evoke the experience of care that our nervous system needs to return to the clear, logical, rational, functioning of our higher brain to even begin to find new solutions to old problems.
(You don’t have to wait until 4am for this exercise to be useful.)
1. Identify some current disruption or distress in your life that is worrisome or stressful. (For the practical purpose of learning this tool, not the most horrific, something manageable to explore and very worthwhile focusing on.)
2. As you imagine ourself in the worrisome situation or facing the yet unresolved dilemma, notice the body sensations associated with this experience and where you experience them in your body – clenching of the jaw, tightening of the throat, butterflies in the stomach.
3. Practice ABC – allow and accept, be with, care kindly, as much as you can on our own.
4. Begin to think of, remember, evoke people you know and trust are genuinely reliably kind, compassionate, caring people. (You don’t have to know them personally very well, you simple know they are compassionate people.)
5. Imagine sitting with, hanging out with 3-4 of these people you trust to be reliably compassionate. Let yourself feel and receive the energy of their genuine, kind caring for you and your current dilemma. Take in the good of their genuine caring.
6. Notice your own experience of yourself as you osmose the kind caring energy of this council of people; notice any shifting of your experience of yourself, any being more kind an caring toward yourself in the moment.
7. From the new sense of compassionate acceptance and being with yourself, begin to know and trust that you can solve the problem, resolve the difficulty, or find the necessary help and resources to do so.
The Council of Compassion may morph into the Circle of Support as you begin to take the action you need to take to face the very real difficulties in real time.