Self compassion skills workbook: “Interbeing”

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“I hope you find the practices described in this book to be healing and liberating.


However, these practices should be viewed only as an introduction to the extensive teachings on mindfulness and self-compassion that are available.


I recommend exploring the teachings of Thich Nhat Hanh, Tara Brach, Sharon Salzberg, Kristin Neff, Chris Germer, Paul Gilbert, and Richard Schwartz.



Finding teachers that you trust can be incredibly helpful to you on your path.



Thich Nhat Hanh’s teaching of “interbeing” is one that can be particularly helpful in cultivating compassion.



He coined the term interbeing to refer to a special way of perceiving who we are and how we are connected to something much greater than ourselves.



If we believe that we are completely cut off and disconnected from others, it can seem as though there is a conflict between self-compassion and compassion for others.



The teaching of interbeing explains how this is a mistaken view.



We can begin to understand interbeing by examining the piece of paper from which you are reading right now.


This paper might seem like nothing special, but you are also aware that it used to be part of a tree.



Without that tree, the paper couldn’t exist.



Thich Nhat Hanh would say that the tree is present in the paper if you know how to look deeply.



The tree was made out of sun, soil, and rain.



Without any of those things, the tree couldn’t exist, so they must be present in the paper as well.



At some point the tree was cut down and brought to a factory, so without those workers and all their ancestors, it could never have become paper.



If we continue this line of thought, very quickly we can see that everything in the universe has had some role in bringing this paper into existence.



Thich Nhat Hanh uses the word interbeing, because he says that nothing can be by itself.



It has to interbe with everything else.



Now think about yourself in this way.



Every water molecule in your blood came into your body as food or drink.



Before that, it was rain, and before that, every bit of water in you has been part of every ocean on the planet.



Every calcium molecule in your bones used to be part of the soil.



Every word you use to speak or think was taught to you by someone.



Your ideas and perceptions have been shaped by countless people and events.



Looking deeply, you can see that the earth, the rain, and innumerable people are present in you.


You are deeply connected to something much greater than yourself.



Recognizing this, you can see that self-compassion is not selfish at all.



It means having compassion for all of these elements that are part of you.”

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