Episode 29


The Expanding Circle

Did you know that just caring about yourself and others can actually improve your sleep? That expanding your circle of concern can make a world of difference?

In this episode, I review what it means to expand the circle, why you might want to, and how to do it with a practical exercise in compassion.

According to Hierocles - two thousand years before Peter Singer's 1981 classic The Expanding Circle - the ultimate moral task of mankind is to collapse all concentric circles of concern in toward the center, enveloping all of humanity within the innermost circle, to feel the same degree of ownership and responsibility to all people as we do to ourselves and closest loved ones.

Compassion is recognizing the fragility, the suffering of another, and being motivated to alleviate it. Research shows that one of the main mediators, the mechanism of action in how mindfulness helps to alleviate suffering from depression and anxiety, is through the cultivation of compassion, of expanding that circle of responsible caring. 

Compassion has been shown to help people get to bed on time and fall asleep sooner. In a 2019 study, practicing compassion improved participants self-reported sleep quality in addition to helping them stick to their goal times to get to bed, less procrastinating, less binge-watching, less instagram scrolling.

So for an exercise of expanding the circle of compassion, we use loving kindness, sometimes called “metta.” We invite loving kindness to ourselves, then to other specific individuals, and lastly to all living creatures.

        • May I be happy
        • May I be healthy
        • May I be safe
        • May I live with ease

So expand your circle of concern: from self, to family, to community, to world, to all the cosmos. May you sleep well.


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