Nurturing compassion in challenging times


Article first published in Cornwall Today.

This month, I asked readers of Cornwall Today: What are you stocking up on?

As Brexit approaches, many of us are storing a few extra tins of our favourite foods or stashing the medicines on which life depends. But it’s also worth considering the things you’ll need more of in the coming months that can’t be bought or sold.

Summer is fading, and it looks as if we will be exiting the European Union without a deal. Wherever you sit politically, these are anxious times. It is the nature of my work that people tell me their worries, so I know that many many people in Cornwall are worried about relationships breaking down over differing viewpoints; they are worried that their freedom to travel will soon be restricted, and worried that they will not be able to transport the things they make or get the things they need. 

Relationships. Freedom. Livelihoods. Medicine. Food. These are the things that many of us feel are under threat this autumn, and they make a formidable list. 

Most of us will be feeling a bit unsettled about one or two of these things, but some of us are feeling attacked on all fronts. A good friend of mine is a firefighter. He and his partner have two children, one with a well-managed medical condition. They’ve lived in Cornwall for many years - most of their adult lives. Their children were born here, go to school here, and it’s here the family have built a home and have established friendships.

But my friend and his partner were born in other European countries. They weren’t allowed to vote in the referendum, even though they’ve been UK taxpayers for decades and the uncertainty over their status has caused them to investigate leaving the UK. Every day my friend goes to work, putting out our fires and risking his life to save people in mortal danger, knowing that some of the people he is helping cast a vote that changed his life. 

He inspires me, this friend who puts out fires in the homes of people who would see him lose his own.

His reserves of compassion are deep, and his ability to accept what he cannot change is heartening. Who am I to complain, when he has stocked up so wisely, not on pasta and pills, but on compassionate acceptance?

These three things: Acceptance, Compassion, Gratitude, should be at the top of all our shopping, packing and to-do lists. As we approach Brexit, as we meet any of life’s challenges, stocking up on these things will empower us to weather the storm with our minds and hearts intact. 

I suggest that those of you feeling angry, sad or worried at this time work through the list backwards. You are in Cornwall - that is something to be very grateful for. Go now and look at the sea, or walk along a river or across a moor. Notice nature around you and breathe deeply. Inhale these treasures that cost nothing and see if you can find it in your self to feel a little compassion for those who think differently.

Let’s accept what we cannot change and go on with compassion. 

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If you feel you need someone to talk to or to listen to the things you need to say without judgement, please get in touch. Our Lifetime team all have a person-centred approach to counselling and will meet you wherever you are. You can reach us on 07974 418 756 or at

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If you’d like some daily support in keeping your compassion and acceptance afloat, please visit the Lifetime Therapy Gratitude Practice on Facebook where members post three things for which they are grateful each day. The power of doing this simple thing is surprisingly great.

Malachy Dunne