Articles

Self-compassion and back pain

Back pain is a big deal. An estimated 80% of the population will suffer from back pain at some point1, and in Australia, 1 in 6 people have chronic back pain.2
Self-compassion can help.

Six months ago, I couldn’t walk.

I was stuck in bed with acute lower back pain. Even standing in the kitchen to make tea was too painful. I’d somehow triggered an old condition of sciatica that gradually got worse and worse.

This condition had previously flared up from time to time, but nothing so dramatic for years. This time however, my approach was more accepting, less resistant. I “surrendered” into the experience.

“Well, if that’s what my body is saying right now, I better listen!”

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The business case for compassion

Now for the good news!

Happier, healthier workplaces are more productive and innovative, and mindfulness and compassion-based training can help.

This isn’t just some unorthodox, fringe movement. Google, Tata and Nordstrom have all joined the so-called Conscious Capitalist movement and used business trainings like Project Oxygen to leverage the benefits of compassion for the good of their organisation and their employees.

LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner told audiences at the Wisdom 2.0 Conference that he is on a personal mission to “expand the world’s collective wisdom and compassion,” and that he has made the practice of compassionate management a core value at the company.

Wouldn’t we all like a nicer, kinder working environment?

Here are the top five workplace benefits of compassion training:

Teamwork compassionate workplace hug

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The courageous, active aspects of self-compassion

firefighter low res

Compassion is not just cosy, gentle and receptive; it can be fierce and protective. In this sense, it has both masculine and feminine aspects. Like yin and yang, we need both in order to maintain balance.

Self-compassion researcher Kristin Neff says that the yin is its comforting, soothing form, where we validate our pain and acknowledge our difficulties. The yang is the more motivating form of self-compassion, where we protect ourselves or provide for others—generating feelings of fierceness and strength.

“Courage and compassion are two sides of the same coin. Compassion without courage is not genuine. You may have a compassionate thought or impulse, but if you don’t do or say anything, it’s not real compassion.” ~ Daisaku Ikeda

Think of the fire-fighters who dive into burning buildings out of compassion for others. It wouldn’t be so compassionate to sit back and watch and think, “Poor them!”

Think of a mother lion with her cubs. One moment she’s tending to them, nursing them and showing them care. Yet if the lives of those cubs are threatened, she’ll stand up and fight. It wouldn’t be so compassionate to feel pity for the hungry attacker.

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