Cultivating the Embodiment of Compassion

By Kim Peirano, DACM, LAc

Stress, fear, anxiety, anger, grief, false joy and worry are at the forefront of humanity right now. We are in a period of time and collective experience that is incredibly jarring, bringing up intense feelings of uncertainty and unknowns, and serving as a reminder for our absence of real control.

A late-March poll of Americans' mental health reported that 45 percent said stress from the health crisis was harming their mental health, a jump of 13 percent compared to the two weeks prior. This tells us mental health will certainly be at the forefront of practice in the coming months.1

Trauma of any kind will cause the five spirits to fragment and fray, like little birds fleeing at the sound of a car alarm going off, causing heightened emotional states and stress levels. We must be able to help our patients center and call back these aspects of spirit to return to alignment with their true nature. The treatment process, whether in person or remote, will fall short or only produce temporary results if we, as practitioners, are lacking in our own personal grounding, centering and most importantly: embodiment of compassion.

Getting at the Heart of Compassion

The common definition of compassion is very limited in nature; it leads us to believe that compassion is simply "being nice" or being there for people, often at our own expense. When we look at compassion as a state of being, rather than an act or verb, we can expand on the vast energetic properties of the experience of compassion.

Compassion is holding your space while allowing another to have their reality. Compassion is having an open, warm and spacious heart in the face of suffering and that which we don't like, as well as what we do like. It's also being able to put yourself in another's shoes and truly feel and experience what their life and suffering may be like for them.

When we allow another to simply have their reality, without trying to change or fix it, we open the door for great healing to take place, because often what needs to happen is to simply witness the part of them which is experiencing difficulty. When we encounter another with an open, spacious heart while maintaining our own boundaries, we create a space of safety for them to access and acknowledge what is true for them without fear, judgment or shame of their own reality.

This act, in and of itself, is enough to open the doorway to great healing, particularly when we are working with trauma that affects the spirits.

Compassion is:

  • Holding your own space: boundaries
  • Witnessing another fully: "seeing" life in their shoes / situation
  • Allowing the other to have their experience and reality, without judgment, reaction or trying to "fix" or change it, remembering that every individual is here for their own personal learning
  • Keeping an open heart through this entire process

Identifying Your State of Compassion

Being able to embody compassion is in some instances very natural and comes with ease. In other situations, it is more difficult, often due to our own difficulty with having compassion and forgiveness for ourselves. Simply feeling into the heart space is a good way to take note of our current state of compassion – does my heart feel open or does it feel closed?

It may naturally be open in a situation in which we feel immense love. Our hearts are also open while we experience great sorrow and grief; having a broken heart is also having an open heart.  Times when our hearts are closed may be less obvious; we must consistently take note and check in to find the places where we lose our open heart in order to experiment with opening it again.

The feeling of judgment is simply not possible to have with an open heart. When you feel judgment, check in on the heart; consciously open it and notice how the judgment loses its grasp. Anger, worry, fear, anxiety, shame and stress all lose their grasp when the heart becomes open again.

We are conditioned to keep our hearts closed and guarded; not just in times of judgment or fear, but in almost all areas of life. Without solid boundaries (energetic, emotional and physical makes us feel unsafe; it's no wonder that closing the heart is second nature), opening the heart is terrifying. Practice establishing boundaries in conjunction with opening the heart and notice if this feels easier or safer.

Cultivating Compassion: Open the Rose of the Heart

The following meditation is a helpful tool to bring conscious awareness to opening the heart:

  • In your grounded and protected space, take a few moments to be present.
  • Notice the space around your heart, your fourth chakra and chest.
  • Become aware of any feelings or sensations – does it feel tight or closed, open, raw?
  • Visualize the bud of a beautiful rose at the center of your heart space; it can be any color.
  • As you bring your attention to the rose, it gently starts to open and show its petals, opening wider and wider.
  • As the rose continues to open, it also begins to emit a beautiful, sparkling, golden light, upwards and outwards. This light brings in our divine connection.
  • Sit with the opened rose, vulnerable but strong, emitting this wonderful light.
  • Take note in your mind of how this feels, physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually.

Bringing our awareness to the moments our hearts close is one of the best things we can do to begin embodying compassion in a greater capacity. When we notice the times we close our hearts, returning again to the open heart and also forgiving ourselves in the process helps us to be not only the embodiment of compassion, but also of greater service to our patients, friends, family and humanity as a whole.

The act of healing another begins with healing yourself. By engaging in our own self-healing practices, we deepen our ability to be of service by modeling and showing our patients the process and possibilities.


  1. Kirzinger A et al. "KFF Health Tracking Poll – Early April 2020: The Impact of Coronavirus on Life in America." Kaiser Family Foundation, April 3, 2020.

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