I’ve been around the health and fitness block enough times to know that this is a mental effort as much, if not more, than a physical one. It’s not my hand acting by itself that drives my car to Taco Bell on the way home from work. It’s not my legs held to the carpet by cast irons that keep me from taking a walk or run. My rear end doesn’t decide it needs to surf the Web a few hours longer.
One of my biggest projects as I work on reshaping myself, is bolstering my self-compassion, and my compassion for others. As I’ve lost weight, I’ve noticed myself becoming more an more judgmental about how other people look. But that judgment always ends up turning inward. I need to learn to let it go.
I’m not a Buddhist, but I have worked over the past five or six years on cultivating mindful awareness. As part of that training, you end up reading a good amount of Buddhist philosophy, and the Dalai Lama seems to have self-compassion figured out, so here are a few excerpts from some of his writing on compassion.
Unless we are either gravely ill or deprived of basic necessities, our physical condition plays a secondary role in life. If the body is content, we virtually ignore it. The mind, however, registers every event, no matter how small. Hence we should devote our most serious efforts to bringing about mental peace.
From my own limited experience I have found that the greatest degree of inner tranquility comes from the development of love and compassion.
Indeed. I barely noticed the weight creep back on until I stepped on the scale at the doctor’s office and then – anxiety spike! It wasn’t as if I hadn’t felt pants getting tighter, but I managed to ignore it and I continued to tell myself that other things were more important for months after that initial weigh-in.
The Dalai Lama goes on to speak about the inter-connectness of all things, and the need to have a “sincere concern for the welfare of others.” It is important to be reminded at this time of year especially that being concerned about others is necessary for one’s own happiness. He gives some examples of scenarios in which a person can exercise compassion for others:
If a teacher not only imparts academic education but also assumes responsibility for preparing students for life, his or her pupils will feel trust and respect and what has been taught will leave an indelible impression on their minds. On the other hand, subjects taught by a teacher who does not show true concern for his or her students’ overall well-being will be regarded as temporary and not retained for long.
It’s finals period where I teach, and I’ve been feeling punchy lately about my students asking for extensions on an assignment they’ve known about all semester. Respect doesn’t mean that I’ll grant them that extension, but it does mean that I treat all of my students equally and give them the benefit of the doubt as to why they feel like they need that extra time.
I am going to work this week on cultivating a spirit of love and acceptance toward all the shapes and sizes I see out in the world.