Here's a brilliant TED talk by Brene Brown, research professor at the University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work. She has spent the past ten years studying vulnerability, courage, authenticity, and shame, and is now using that work to explore wholeheartedness.
Dr. Brown's findings go to the heart of compassion. I was sent her talk in preparation for a two-day workshop on Love, Loss, and Forgiveness, founded and facilitated by Michael Murphy. The workshop was an exhilarating and occasionally harrowing excursion into vulnerability and bearing witness, which Dr. Murphy, an early leader in the hospice movement in America, identifies as an act of love. "We need witnesses to heal," he observed. "Our secrets are what kill us." To wholeheartedly bear witness to another's distress is difficult but intimately life-affirming and has implications far beyond the individual. As Brown and Murphy reveal, we cannot feel true compassion for others if we do not have it for ourselves.