Last week I had the opportunity to visit with Barry Kerzin, MD, physician to the Dalai Lama. He spoke on compassion and self-care, part of Buddhist philosophy. In Buddhism, there are 4 noble truths: suffering, cause of suffering, cessation of suffering, and the path to liberation. PAIN is accepted as a reality, SUFFERING is how we handle the pain. We are taught to take care of ourselves.
Dr. Kerzin stated the absence of disease is an OLD model. That’s just not gonna happen anymore. He spoke of emotions and how they can inform disease. Constant negative emotion toward a specific disease increases our suffering from it.
So how do we lessen our suffering? Mindfulness. Training our brains to be in the present moment. Because, according to Dr. Kerzin, studies show the average attention span for an adult American is 7 SECONDS, and 47% of people are distracted at any moment. We are busy telling ourselves stories. When we are fully present we spend less time “feeding” suffering.
Dr. Kerzin also spoke of compassion vs. empathy. Empathy is feeling TOO MUCH and can cause burnout. Compassion is the wish and action to relieve suffering, but it has boundaries. The situation touches us, but we feel joy in helping. This ultimately allows us to be more helpful in reducing pain.
Practicing COMPASSION and MINDFULNESS improves resilience, leading to more successful relationships (with ourselves and others), and is part of our path to liberation.