The importance of practicing mindfulness and compassion together

In the Buddhist tradition, Mindfulness and compassion are considered the two wings of the bird of wisdom, And both are believed to be essential for being able to fly, so they train together and reinforce each other.

To practice compassion, we must be mindful, because we must be able to be aware of our own suffering and that of others, without judgment, affection or rejection, in order to feel compassion for the person who is suffering.

But, above all, achieving compassionate practices requires minimum levels of attention that are achieved with the practice of mindfulness (García Campayo & Demarzo, 2015). Some of the earliest compassionate practices, such as Mindfulness in Compassionate Breathing and Compassionate Body Scanning, aim to develop mindfulness and reduce wandering of the mind, while also being associated with a basic compassionate attitude. .

The link between mindfulness and compassion

It is known that the practice of mindfulness represented by the two main intervention protocols developed, the mindfulness-based stress reduction program (MBSR) (Birnie et al., 2010) and the cognitive therapy program based on Mindfulness (MBCT) (Kuyken et al. 2010).), Increase Compassion. These programs do not specifically teach compassion, but they do send implicit messages about the importance of being compassionate and kind to oneself and one’s mental processes when talking about the compassionate attitude, an element that is at the core. core of mindfulness practice.

However, when the two interventions are combined, compassion therapy brings mindfulness together with the mental processes behind the social commitment to try to make the world a better place, and the individual commitment to bond loving and caring. of affection when we are in pain. Compassion is a broader concept than mindfulness, and in fact, studies indicate the possibility that it is a more effective treatment than mindfulness in certain specific conditions, such as depression (and in disorders related to self-image, guilt and self-criticism), in addition to interventions aimed at improving the psychological well-being of healthy subjects.

The differences between the two practices

Focusing on the psychobiology that gives rise to mindfulness and compassion, there are big differences between the two practices.

While mental processes more closely related to mindfulness generate some form of metacognition and activity-related attention regulation in the middle prefrontal regions and are therefore a recent evolutionary success (Siegel 2007), compassion is much more ancestral, and is linked to the care of mammals. system. It involves substances such as oxytocin and other hormones linked to the feeling of harmless affection, as well as neural systems and networks linked to love and affiliation (Klimecki et al. 2013). The following table summarizes what each of the two therapies provides.

Table: Specific contributions of mindfulness and compassion therapies

LIECOMPASSIONAnswered question What is the experience here and now? What do you need now to feel good and ease your pain? Objective Become aware of the real experience and accept its nature Comfort the subject in the face of suffering, understand that the primary pain is consubstantial with the human being. Risk of each therapy if it is not balanced with the other. needs, focusing exclusively on the experience Possible lack of motivation and ethical and compassionate attitude towards oneself and the world Do not accept the experience of primary suffering (which is inevitable and consubstantial with human nature) . Not focusing on the here and now, on the true nature of things and focusing exclusively on feeling better in the future

To conclude

The experience of self-pity may seem paradoxical: on the one hand, current suffering is experienced with acceptance, but at the same time it aims to reduce future suffering.

The two goals are not incompatible, but complementary: the first (the acceptance of full awareness of the experience of suffering) is the recognition of human nature, and the second is the way forward (compassion) in the face of to the reality of the first.

Bibliographical references:

  • Birnie K, Speca M, Carlson LE. Explore self-compassion and empathy in the context of mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR). Stress and health 2010; 26, 359-371.
  • García Campayo J, demarzo M. Manuel of mindfulness. Curiosity and acceptance. Barcelona: Siglantana, 2015.
  • Klimecki OM, Leiberg S, Lamm C, Singer T. Functional neuronal plasticity and associated changes in positive affect after compassion training. Cereb Cortex 2013; 23: 1552-61.
  • Kuyken W, Watkins E, Holden E, White K, Taylor RS, Byford S, et al. How Does Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy Work? Research and Behavioral Therapy 2010; 48, 1105-1112.
  • Siegel D. The conscious brain. New York: Norton, 2007.

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