What is compassion?

The Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education at Stanford University defines compassion as:

  • an awareness of suffering in others,
  • a feeling of being emotionally moved by suffering, 
  • a motivation to see the relief of that suffering,
  • and an action and willingness to help relieve that suffering when possible

Another definition I really like is 'when love meets suffering, it turns to compassion.'

The Science

Emerging evidence suggests that the relief of suffering (within psychological studies this is usually defined as a reduction in anxiety and depression symptoms and an increase in quality of life) occurs via three main processes, described by Hayes and colleagues as "open", "aware" and "active". I've adapted and expanded this terminology a bit to opening your heart, increasing your awareness by stepping out of your mind, and engaging in a compassionate or values-based life.

How to engage in the action of compassion

Open your heart - Are you open and willing to accept what is?

Step out of your mind - Can you bring awareness to the ongoing flow of experience as observer watching a play, recognizing that you are not the things you see, feel, or experience?

Engage in a compassionate life – How do you create the life you want, based on your values, with the time you have?