Pursue What Matters
Episode 221: Book Review – Radical Compassion
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CDr. Melissa Smith 0:00
Not too long ago, I reviewed a book called Radical Acceptance, which is all about learning to accept, rather than resist reality. Well, I’m back this month with another book and it is a Radical Acceptance companion. It’s called Radical Compassion. And it is so, so good. Join me to learn more.
Dr. Melissa Smith 0:42
Hi, I’m Dr. Melissa Smith, welcome to the Pursue What Matters podcast, where we focus on what it takes to thrive in love and work. So it’s another month it’s time for another great book review. So I am reviewing another book by Tara Brach, she is a wonderful psychologist, and meditation guide. And this is the companion to Radical Acceptance, which I’ve already reviewed not too long ago. So let’s talk about this book. So it’s called Radical Compassion, learning to love yourself and the world with the practice of rain. So it’s important to understand that this book is a practical guide book. And so she talks about the practice of rain, which is an acronym for learning to show up for yourself with greater compassion. And one of the Theses of her book is that we heal with loving attention. And that requires a lot of compassion. And that is, it’s something that most of us are not very good at, we’re, we’re taught to be self critical, rather than self compassionate. And so this is a practice that is designed to help us show up for ourselves emotionally, physically in these moments of pain, and even suffering. And so it’s a practical guide. The book is full of really great guided meditations and reflection questions. This is a great book to read. It’s a great book to listen to. And I’m excited to share it with you today.
Dr. Melissa Smith 2:15
Of course, every week with podcasts, my goal is to help you pursue what matters by strengthening your competence to lead in one of three areas first, leading with clarity, which is all about connecting you to purpose, and we’re definitely focusing on that today. Second, is leading with curiosity, which is all about increasing your self awareness and self leadership. And that’s really what we’re centrally focusing on today. Radical compassion is all about developing self awareness and self leadership skills. And then third is leading and building a community. And here’s the good news when we can learn to be compassionate with ourselves. We are more compassionate leaders, we are better with others, we’re more effective with others. And so let’s learn a little bit more about this book.
Dr. Melissa Smith 2:58
And so again, it’s called Radical Compassion. And some descriptions of this so one of the most beloved and trusted mindfulness teachers in America offers a lifeline for difficult times, the rain meditation which awakens our courage and heart. And so Tara Brach is an in the trenches teacher whose work counters today’s ever increasing onslaught of news conflict demands and anxieties, stresses that leave us rushing around on autopilot and cut off from the presence and creativity that give our lives meaning. So in this heartfelt and deeply practical book, that’s part of what I love. It’s very practical. She offers an antidote and easy to learn four step rain meditation, that quickly loosens the grip of difficult emotions and limiting beliefs. Each step in the meditation practice, recognize, allow, investigate and nurture is brought to life by memorable stories from Tara and her students as they deal with loss and self love version with painful relationships and past trauma. And as they discover the deep wisdom that can heal our own lives, and the hurting world around us. And so, you know, this is an excellent book.
Dr. Melissa Smith 4:05
Let’s learn a little bit about Tara Brach. So Tara Brach PhD is an internationally known teacher of mindfulness meditation, emotional healing, and spiritual awakening, wakening. She is the author of Radical Acceptance and true refuge. And her weekly podcast at talking meditation is downloaded by over a million and a half people each month. She is the Senior teacher and founder of insight meditation center of Washington, DC. And she lives in Great Falls, Virginia. And her podcast is excellent. So I will also link to her podcast so you can check that out. It’s really good. It includes both talks, and then meditation. So if you want some guided meditation, check out her podcast in addition to the book because she’s got some really great meditations on it. So of course, I’m not going to try and describe the whole book but I do just want to give you a quick overview of this book.
Dr. Melissa Smith 5:04
So she has, she has three parts of this book. Part one is how attention heals. And so she really makes the case for how Radical compassion can help us heal, right not only heal from the stressors of life, but heal from trauma, heal from becoming emotionally hooked in our lives. So this is so helpful. If you have trauma healing, it’s really helpful if you have relationship concerns. I mean, if you’re a human, this is helpful, this is a great skill. The second part is bringing rain to your inner life. And so this is the central focus of the book, where she’s really helping you to learn to release your negative self beliefs, who struggles with that, right, like we could all use some help with that, freeing yourself from shame, awakening from the grip of fear that can be so paralyzing, discovering your deepest longing. And then part three is reign in your relationships. And so she turns her attention to using this skill in the context of your most important relationships. And she includes a focus on forgiving, that’s a good one for a relationship, seeing the goodness. So getting good intent, receiving good intent, and compassion for your partner. And then for remembrances that can be very helpful for those in relationships, and it’s really designed for couples, but really, it’s any important relationship that you might have. And so one of the things that she opens with, is a realization that she had, that she must love herself into healing. So she talks about spending decades on a self improvement agenda, right? Who can who can relate to that, and that it was after a period of time that she had this waking up, where she realized, boy, I need to love myself to healing. And that that was pretty radical for her, right? Because for many of us, right, like we get, we believe that we need to be really hard on ourselves self critical, shameful, that sort of thing, to create effective change, which is totally false. It’s the exact opposite. But she had this realization and and then really focus this, her efforts on radical compassion, which she describes as including the vulnerability of this life, all live in our heart. So we allow ourselves to be awake to our emotional experience. So she says it means having the courage to love ourselves, each other and our world. radical compassion is rooted in mindful embodied presence. And it is expressed actively through caring that includes all beings. So that includes yourself, others animals, plant life, all of it. And so she talks about an image that’s really helpful for her. It comes to us from her book, radical acceptance. And so, I did talk about this when I reviewed that book, so it might sound familiar to you.
Dr. Melissa Smith 8:22
So she talks about this image that shows mindfulness and compassion as inseparable dimensions of awakening. And so it depicts awareness as a bird with two wings. When both wings are unfurled in their fullness, and beauty, the bird can fly and be free. And so she uses that analogy to share that, you know, her book, The goal with the book is to share a practice of radical compassion that brings alive the wings of mindfulness and compassion when we most need them. And we most need them when we’re in deep pain. When we’re stuck in shame when we’re stuck in judgment. It helps release, no sorry, it helps heal and release the painful beliefs and emotions that keep us from living true to ourselves. This practice is called rain. And the four parts include recognize, allow, investigate and nurture, and in a very real way, in a very real way, this tool can serve as a lifeline in moments when you feel stressed, fearful, reactive, and confused. And I could just say on a personal basis, I have found the rain meditation incredibly helpful. For me, as I face challenges in my life, those moments when you’re so overwhelmed, or you’re so stuck in fear, I can attest to the power of rain and it sounds. It sounds simple, right? Like how can this meditation be helpful? But what’s, what’s helpful and what underlines underlies this meditation is, we need to acknowledge our pain. We need to get out of the habit of avoiding Unit nominate pushing past it through work. So all of those those detachment and distressful behaviors, right where we internalize or externalize all of these our efforts to avoid our emotions. And so, rain is so powerful because it teaches us and it helps us to turn toward our emotional experience to embrace that. When we’re stuck in that numbing place, she talks about it as the trance of unworthiness, our minds are narrowed, fixated, and usually immersed in thought, our hearts are often defended, anxious or numb. And so she says, once you, once you have awareness about this pattern, you’ll start to see it everywhere. You’ll see it in yourself, you’ll see it in others. And so I just want to finish up by saying just a little bit more about each of the components. And again, just, you know, really, I would highly recommend this book, especially if you find your distress level, really hard to manage at times, right, like feeling totally overwhelmed. Rain can be a very useful tool, you can use it wherever you’re at. But the first one, again, is recognize and that means to recognize what’s going on inside of me, the circling of anxious thoughts and guilty feelings can you identify recognize your emotions and your thoughts that are swirling around, the second step is to allow so that means to allow what is happening by breathing and letting be. So it doesn’t mean you have to like the feelings, it doesn’t mean you have to agree with them. But can you allow them because that is the experience that you’re having, in this moment, I think allow is one of the the hardest parts of this. Because reflexively, we’ve been taught that we need to push those unpleasant emotions away. But we’re bringing them into us we’re making space and and in that, in that act, we’re learning, we’re learning that we can tolerate the painful emotion and we are bigger than the emotion we are more resilient than the emotion and that those painful emotions have plenty to teach us. But when we push them away, avoid, we get stuck in these negative coping patterns. And we we fail to learn the lessons that our pain can teach us. And anyone, anyone who, who you look to, it’s like, wow, they’re they are wise. And they have this deep sense of purpose and meaning, I guarantee you, they have known pain, and they have known suffering. And our pain and our suffering is the material that that makes for, for lives of meaning. But it’s a choice, right, we have to choose how we respond to that.
Dr. Melissa Smith 12:59
So next is investigate, which means investigating what feels most difficult. So specifically, we want to connect with where we’re experiencing the emotion in our body. So you might have anxiety and feel a tightness in your chest. Or you might feel deep sadness, which feels like a hole in the middle of your heart, you might feel a ball of anxiety in your gut. So is it there a physical tightness of pulling and pressure around your heart? Where do you feel it sometimes people feel it immediately in their head as a tension headache. And so we’re moving towards the emotion. And in that we can start to loosen some of that tension that we’re experiencing in our body. And then the fourth step is N nurture. And that is where the, you know, compassion throughout all of it. But a big part of that compassion where we can. We can be gentle and loving with ourselves that we can say it’s understandable, you’re upset, you’re okay, I’m going to be here for you. So think about how you would respond and soothe a child. You need to do that for yourself. We each have an inner child, right? And a lot of times our emotions are in response to things that happened earlier in our lives. And so we need to be the gentle response, the compassionate response, the nurturing response, in the moment of that pain. And so this is the book radical compassion. Meditation is known as rain. It’s got four components. It’s really, really powerful. I would encourage you to consider this book and really work with it work for work with the rain meditation for at least a week or two. It’s powerful and it becomes more powerful, the more you consistently use it.
Dr. Melissa Smith 14:49
So you can head on over to my website to check out the show notes with the resources for this episode at www.drmelissasmith.com/221-radicalcompassion, I will link to the book and to Tara’s podcast, they are both really great resources. And of course you can connect with me on Instagram @dr.melissasmith. In the meantime, I’m Dr. Melissa Smith. Remember love and work, work and love. That’s all there is. Until next time, take good care
Transcribed by https://otter.ai