From Creativity to Compassion

"Every block of stone has a statue inside it and it is the task of the sculptor to discover it."

           Michaelangelo

Within our complex social landscape, compassion fatigue is emerging, virus-like, to further fragment natural synergies.

Compassion is the barometer from which our time on this planet will be judged by future generations. Our time is one in which we have accepted the normality of people languishing in hospital, people struggling to access care within their communities, people living and dying in loneliness.

With our media constantly bombarding us with images of disease, war, famine and death we have simply become immune to Human suffering, Human need.

Even within our caring professions, where the ability to empathise and demonstrate compassion are central to the nature of their being, we see the dread of working with certain people and in some cases avoidance of them completely. We further see a reduced ability to feel empathy and a frequency of sick days, accompanied by a host of physical and emotional problems.

We fail to truly notice. And noticing makes all the difference. Noticing gives us purpose and forms the heart of our Communities. Noticing engenders respect and caring. Noticing improves mental and physical health. Noticing builds tolerance and understanding.

You could say noticing is being mindful, but many of us dismiss mindfulness as a passing fad of adult colouring books and self-help manuals. Yet mindfulness has been recognised by the world’s greatest philosophies and utilised to nurture compassion for thousands of years.

The recent rediscovery of mindfulness in our society is no longer confined to complimentary therapy publications, we are increasingly seeing evidence emerging within the pages of respected Journals of Cardiology, Psychology and Neurology. Functional MRI scans are showing that mindfulness practice activates a region of the brain known as the insula. The insula is linked with both empathy and creativity. Meditation studies evidence that, with sustained practice, growth occurs within insula. Recent thinking indicates that creative pursuits also increase activity in this area of the brain with a growth of an increased ability to notice more detail being a by-product.

For many, the notion of meditating will be so alien that they will never engage with it.

You may never have learned to play a musical instrument and school art classes may have long since put you off picking up a paint brush. But what if making some time to do a little focused gardening or some photography with the camera on your phone could improve your ability to notice? As well as the sheer pleasure of immersing yourself in something that is pleasurable to you, you might also be inadvertently be growing your ability to build Human capital, one relationship at a time.

 

Carolanne Mainland