Tag Archives: Mindful Self Compassion (MSC)

How Compassion Becomes a Verb (and a Movement): The Inspiring Story of “Compassion It”

By Sara Schairer

I believe that small acts of compassion by individuals can make a HUGE impact on our world.  Yes, it sounds cliché and unrealistic, but I know it’s true. How can I possibly know that?  Because Compassion It, the organization I’ve founded, has gone from an idea to a global social movement thanks to a handful of small acts by individuals.

Let me explain…

In the summer of 2008, I caught an episode of “Ellen” that changed my life.  Ellen Degeneres interviewed an author who spoke about the power of compassion.  He said it was the most important lesson to teach our children.  If our future leaders would be compassionate, every social problem on the planet would be solved.

I contemplated compassion for hours that day.  The word compassionate then appeared as ‘compassion it’ in my head.  Compassion was now a verb!  An action!  That made a lot of sense to me.

But did it make sense to anyone else?

I wrote out the words ‘compassion it’ and showed it to my friends Susanne Winslow and Jill Stoddard.  Because of their enthusiasm and encouragement, I decided to trademark Compassion It.

Fast-forward to the summer of 2011.  I had done nothing with this simple two-word phrase, because I was busy parenting a toddler and was getting my life back on track after a failed marriage.  I suddenly felt an enormous sense of urgency to do something with Compassion It.   I decided to make decals and magnets, and I sat down with talented graphic designer and friend, Mary Beckert.   She volunteered her time to turn my vision into something tangible.

In October of 2011, I showed a decal to my friend, Sherri Wilkins, who happens to be a marketing and advertising genius.  I’ll never forget her words, “This could be huge.”  WOW.  Talk about fueling the fire!   This propelled me to keep moving forward with my idea.  Wilkins began to help me get Compassion It off the ground.

In December, I caught up with my college roommate, Susan Kim.  She suggested that I reach out to her friend, Tony Chen, to seek entrepreneurial advice.  I called Chen, and he encouraged me to apply for a social innovation leadership academy through his current social start-up Movement121.  I applied, was accepted and found myself among a group of people from around the world who all had a similar mission – to make the world a better place through social enterprise.

The academy director, Mark Chassman, created teams.  Our first task as a team was to come up with a problem of the world and then create a business that would provide a solution.  My team voted to use Compassion It as our business, and I was thrilled to now have a group of bright, energetic and ambitious people helping me.

Throughout all of this, I was still unsure about what Compassion It would be.  Perhaps it could be the next “Life is Good,” a t-shirt company with a meaningful message.  Or maybe we’ll sell bumper stickers to get this message out.  I knew it would be some sort of business whose profits would go toward compassion education in schools.

I felt deep down, though, that Compassion It was a social movement.  It was much more than just a t-shirt company.  Compassion It was a way to live.

I expressed these thoughts with Sherri Wilkins, who said, “If you want it to be a social movement, you need to sell something less expensive than a t-shirt.  You need something small…like a bracelet.”  Soon thereafter, I thought of creating reversible bracelets that would inspire compassionate actions.

Heather Arnold, from my Movement121 team, came up with the brilliant idea to sell the bracelets in pairs.  That way, a person’s first act of compassion is to give the other bracelet away.

That first batch of bracelets arrived on my birthday – May 10, 2012.  I had 500 pairs.

My next question was, “Who is going to buy them?”

In the beginning of the summer, two of my teammates from the academy faced tragedy when their hometown of Northbrook, Ill., lost two young men to suicide and another to a car accident within three weeks.   Teammate Casey Tanner called and said that her town needed Compassion It as a way to unite and grieve.  She started a movement in Northbrook and used the bracelets as a fundraiser for the boys’ families.  Bracelets sold out in 42 minutes.  Thousands of residents of Northbrook still ‘compassion it’ daily in honor of those men.

One Northbrook resident, Marie Wojtan, sent her extra bracelet to a young woman in Great Britain by the name of Carrie Hope Fletcher.   Fletcher has over 90,000 subscribers to her YouTube channel, and she posted a ‘jolly good’ bit about her Compassion It bracelet.

Thanks to Fletcher’s post (which has generated over 100,000 views), we’ve sold Compassion It bracelets to folks in England, Ireland, Switzerland, Germany, Denmark, Brazil, Australia, New Zealand and Canada.  Thousands of people all over the world now ‘compassion it’ each day.

And to think…if it weren’t for Ellen, Susanne, Jill, Mary, Sherri, Susan, Tony, Mark, Heather, Casey, Marie and Carrie, Compassion It would not exist as a global social movement.

This is just the beginning of a movement that I believe can improve the social consciousness of the world and ultimately lead to peace.  All it takes are small acts of compassion by each one of us.

Compassion It’s mission is to inspire daily compassionate actions.  Please join me, and let’s ‘compassion it’!

Building Skills of Self-Compassion

Our Dear friend & colleague Dr. Kristin Neff will be holding a Self-Compassion Workshop Dec. 7-9 at the Institute of Noetic Sciences (IONS) Retreat Center in Petaluma, CA. This is a unique opportunity to be with Kristin and learn first-hand, by participating in this experiential weekend workshop, about her research and work in the field of Mindful-Self Compassion.

“This workshop uses exercises taken from the Mindful Self-Compassion program, an empirically supported 8-week training course Neff co-created with colleague Chris Germer. The course is relevant to the general public as well as to practicing mental health professionals, and has the power to radically transform the way you relate to yourself and your life.”

IONS will also be screening The Horse Boy for the larger community on Sat. Dec. 8th from 7:30-9:30 pm. Kristin will be there for Q & A afterward!  The Horse Boy is an award-winning documentary her family made about our trip to Mongolia on horseback to find healing for their autistic son.

If the December workshop is not convenient and you would like to train in  Mindful-Self Compassion there is an opportunity to participate in our  UCSD CFM Professional Training Institute’s  5-Day MSC Professional Training Retreat, being held at Earthrise May 12-17, 2013.  Kristin will be joined by her colleague and MSC co-developer Christopher Germer, Ph.D. in leading this training.

How Do You Meet Your Suffering? Opportunities Abound to Learn Self-Compassion in San Diego

Dr. Kristin Neff and Dr. Christopher Germer have dedicated years to studying, researching, and teaching self-compassion. All of this dedicated effort and passion have resulted in the Mindful Self Compassion (MSC) program, a research- and skill-based eight week training similar in format to Mindfulness- Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) but focused on this key component of how we meet our own suffering. Outside of Dr. Neff and Dr. Germer’s own courses, the The UC San Diego Center for Mindfulness is currently the only place offering MSC courses. (Note: Dr. Neff will present a one-day workshop on the topic in San Diego on September 22, 2013. See below for more details.)

Drs. Neff and Germer trained Michelle Becker, a San Diego Marriage and Family Therapist and MBSR teacher, as the first teacher of the program. She, along with Dr. Steve Hickman, the second teacher trained by Neff and Germer, will lead their second MSC program at the UCSD Center For Mindfulness this September.

In describing how thoughts arise from actions, Michelle noted that “when something bad happens, it is like being hit by an arrow, difficult and painful. Unfortunately, a second arrow, our thoughts and reactions, follows the first. Many times, it is these thoughts and reactions (i.e. “this shouldn’t be happening,” “you failed,” “you’re so lazy,” “maybe you’re stupid”) that cause the bulk of the suffering. The event, the first arrow, is painful, but how different would it be if instead of that second arrow, we just attend to the fact that the first arrow hurt?

Compassion is a response to witnessing suffering. Becker notes that “showing kindness and compassion to ourselves makes such a difference in our lives. Even simply responding by acknowledging ‘Oh wow, that hurt,’ radically changes our experience”.

Through mindfulness and self-compassion training, a space is formed between event and reaction, and within that space, Becker explains, we are able to choose how to react. “When we create the space, it’s the difference between reacting and responding. So when we choose to respond, can we be kind to our own selves?”

Kristin Neff

Kindness and compassion are skills that can be developed. Rather than continually judging and evaluating ourselves, self-compassion involves generating kindness toward ourselves as imperfect humans, and learning to be present with the inevitable struggles of life with greater ease. It motivates us to make needed changes in our lives not from a place of motivating ourselves with punishment, but because we care about ourselves and want to lessen our suffering.  But becoming more compassionate requires breaking down old habits and building new mindful skills and habits.

Step one in developing self-compassion is mindfulness. In order to change a habit, we must become aware of its existence. We need to become aware of whatever sensation, thought, or emotion is causing suffering. Once we identify our suffering, the second step is to remember that we are not alone in our suffering.  Pain and suffering are part of any life, and therefore our suffering is a simply a normal part of belonging to the human race.

The third step is to choose to respond with kindness toward our own selves.  Much like we would respond with kindness for a friend who is suffering in the same way. In Michelle’s words, “It’s really that simple. Not easy. But really that simple.” Awareness and compassion are learnable through education and practice.

MSC is based on research. Early clinical studies indicate that MSC practice will increase happiness and lessen anxiety and depression, as well as supporting and improving mindfulness overall.

Even people who have taken MBSR will benefit from MSC.  Michelle commented, “Both programs have the core elements of mindfulness and compassion. Compassion is not trained explicitly in MBSR, but it is important. We do these practices that help us become aware of where we are, and to the extent that where we are is painful. It would be a little bit cruel to become aware of pain and just meet it with harshness instead of offering ourselves the compassion each of us deserves.”

In addressing which program to take, she remarked, “People will benefit from both. There’s a lot of overlap between MBSR and MSC and it’s about which door you choose to take first. For some people, starting with MBSR would be preferable, and for others, starting with MSC would be preferable. If there is a lot of harshness, a lot of self-judgment and self-criticism, probably your experience with MBSR will be deeper and you’ll get more out of it, and it won’t be quite as painful, if you start with MSC.”

For more information on MSC and to register for the 8-week course starting September 20, please visit the Center for Mindfulness website.

To learn more about Dr. Neff’s pioneering research into self-compassion, check out her homepage, her book “Self-Compassion.”

One-DAY WORKSHOP in SAN DIEGO, September 22

You are invited to attend Kristin Neff’s Self-Compassion & Emotional Resilience one-day workshop on September 22, 2012 from 9 am to 4 pm, on the campus of UC San Diego. The workshop will provide simple tools for responding in a kind, compassionate way whenever we are experiencing painful emotions.