In her interview with PsychAlive Senior Editor Lisa Firestone, Dr. Donna Rockwell talks about the link between mindfulness meditation and compassion. Watch or read the interview below.
Lisa Firestone: Does consistent practice of mindfulness meditation lead to the development of compassion? Has that been your experience?
Donna Rockwell: Absolutely. And it’s because of what we were saying before which is that you start having compassion for yourself. It’s like, “Oh my God, will my mind every shut up?” You know, you start saying, “This is absurd, you know. You’re sitting there and this movie keeps going and it’s like – that thought again? And I’m still there?” And you start to actually know yourself. We don’t know ourselves. So when you actually have to sit there and look at your mind for hours, days, years, you really come to know it.
And then you can have a little sense of humor about it. You can laugh like, “Oh god, that thought again!” And joke about it with yourself and you can start to have compassion for yourself as a human being in the human condition. And that’s what cultivates compassion. Because if you can feel tenderness toward yourself, then you can feel it for other people.
There’s just – it just has to happen. You don’t have to try. There’s no effort involved. It just happens naturally, organically because you’re no longer being swept away by your thoughts. You know, our thoughts are in the driver’s seat. Our thoughts tell us who we are and what we think.
But meditation practice takes us and puts us back in the driver’s seat. Our thoughts do not control us anymore. Oh, there’s that thought again, “Hello there, I know you. But you can’t hook me anymore.” And so, we have more compassion for ourselves because it’s not so easy.
LF: Because I think some people do, they try to go to sit or try to start to meditate and they feel like they’re failing because they can’t sit for five minutes or they can’t keep their thoughts out of their mind.
DR: You’re never going to. They’re not going anywhere. It’s just you’re creating a new relationship with them. They can’t overpower you anymore because you’re driving now. And I don’t think that you can do that without actually sitting for long periods of time and getting to know the movie. Watching that movie over and over again so you know every scene.
So you can’t be surprised when one pops up that you haven’t seen before because you’ve seen them all. And you really do end up with a big sense of humor about it. It’s so funny when you’re sitting there going, “Come on, not again.” Pema Chodron calls it that we befriend ourselves. And that’s what I think we do through mindfulness practice is we get to befriend ourselves, love ourselves, be tender.