Compassion Means Saying ‘Yes’ to Our Deeper Selves

Five Global Values
This book will inspire kids to connect with one another, connect families together

Compassion Means Saying ‘Yes’ to Our  Deeper Selves 

Not too long ago, a story made the rounds on the internet, from news sites to emails to Facebook posts, about a famous musician who decided to play in a busy public area of a major city and see what happened. Sadly, the musician, a world-class talent who typically filled auditoriums and sold out shows, only attracted fleeting glances from the bustling pedestrians who walked by him that day. His experience reflects a good deal about our collective conscience when it concerns people outside our tightly scheduled lives. A musician playing on a street corner or busy walkway isn’t a threatening proposition. Maybe everyone passing by that day truly had too much on their agendas to stop, listen, and offer a dollar. But the story is telling on this level: we’ve become immune to the outside world, even when it offers us beautiful music.

Compassion Suffers from Our Jaded View of the World 

Daily, we are wrapped in discouraging news from across the globe that bombards us from every angle. Some of us manage to close off the rat-a-tat-tat of negativity. Who among us knows someone, maybe yourself, who doesn’t read a newspaper or watch a news show of any kind? We blame the media and say they focus too much on the negative and never report the positive. This may be true, but we inoculate ourselves from caring by placing a bubble around our lives. We become closed off to the suffering of others; we rationalize we can’t do anything to change the circumstance; we turn off the music, both good and bad.

This is an insular way of living. True, life is difficult. Our trials will be many, and we argue that our personal stock of coping energy is depleted by dealing with the immediate, personal matters that affect us directly. When news of disasters or political upheavals seep through our barriers, we are good at pushing them back to the other side. “Let someone else help,” we think, “because my life is all I can handle.” Perhaps we need to think again.

Compassion: Part of What Makes Us Human 

Over the course of human history, which can be viewed as miniscule or expansive, compassion has been a driving force of change. Human suffering has a way of motivating individuals and the masses. One person’s compassionate acts can affect hundreds—abolitionist Sojourner Truth escaped slavery and worked the remainder of her life to ease the lives of black Americans. Acts of compassion also arise from nations—all but one European country has abolished the death penalty. Compassion is an agent of change.

The truth of the matter is that turning off our compassion entirely is impossible and deadening to our core consciousness. Albert Schweitzer (1875-1965), the physician and Nobel Peace Prize winner, said: “Until he extends his circle of compassion to include all living things, man will not himself find peace.”

Reconnecting with Our Compassion: A Few Steps 

There’s no formula for finding our compassion once we recognize it has never left us in the first place. If your ability to care for others seems dormant, start small. You may have no desire to advocate for the homeless or volunteer at a non-profit organization. That’s okay. But there are issues and people that you care about, and they are all around you when you are ready to see them. Ask yourself a couple of questions:

  1. What do I care about in life?
  2. Who are affected by the things I care about most?
  3. Are there needs to be filled, small or large, that could benefit from my time, talent or money?
  4. If so, how do I undertake a compassionate act that best suits my resources, abilities and comfort level?

Make a commitment to write down the answers and review them. Keep revisiting them until they feel right. When they do, take the next step and act. In the end, the lives of a few or many could benefit, and your life will also reap the rewards of connecting with your humanity.

 

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The Purpose of Life is to Help Others

If you want to be happy, practice compassion

“If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion.” - Dalai Lama

 

Derived from the Latin, compassion technically means “to suffer with,” but compassion goes far beyond suffering. Combining empathy, sympathy, care and concern, compassion involves feeling for another person and a willingness to express or share that virtue. Compassion involves looking beyond one’s own life and plight and seeing into another’s eyes, circumstances and soul. In other words, compassion is caring put into action.

Compassion in action can be as simple as standing up to let someone else have your seat on the bus or allowing another car into your lane in traffic. It can be donating holiday gifts to a local family in need, writing a hand-written letter or card to let someone know that you’re thinking of them, or talking to a friend about a struggle that he or she is having. Compassion can be a word, a hand, a look, a thought or a notion.

Compassion knows no gender, no age, no nationality, no culture, no race and no religion. It is a universal value. Likewise, compassion is integral to the global values of love, peace, integrity, respect and responsibility, all human values that provide evidence of caring, of noticing, of a willingness to reach out and make a difference, regardless of any perceived differences.

Further, compassion offers both short- and long-term benefits; scientific studies have shown that compassionate people produce more of a hormone that can slow down the aging process and less of a stress hormone that can speed the process up. Likewise, compassion can engender more appreciation, happiness and better relationships. If you are a parent or caregiver, a leader in your community or simply a concerned citizen or friend, you can make yourself a paragon of compassion.

Following are five helpful ideas for sharing and showing compassion in your community:

1)    Make compassion a part of every single day. When you wake up each morning, simply hold the word or the idea of compassion in your mind for a few minutes, determining how you can offer a little more compassion during that particular day.

2)    Focus on what you have in common with others, rather than your differences. Teach your children to do the same through discussion and modeling. Most suffering occurs when we believe that we’re separate, rather than connected. Recognize that others are going through the same things you are – maybe not at the same time or in the same way, but everyone wants to feel safe, happy, secure and loved.

3)    Practice random acts of kindness. Pay for a stranger’s coffee, leave a thoughtful, anonymous note for someone who could use a boost, smile more, say “thank you” a lot. Small acts of kindness and compassion can add up to a pretty big deal.

4)    Practice loving-kindness meditation. Set aside five minutes to find a comfortable, quiet space, close your eyes and sit up tall. Repeat the following phrases silently to yourself: May I be safe. May I be healthy. May I be happy. May I live with ease. (You can substitute other statements that resonate more with you, if you prefer.) After three to five rounds, move on to someone you care about, envision that person in your mind’s eye, and repeat the same statements silently to them: May you be safe. May you be healthy. May you be happy. May you live with ease. Then, do the same thing, without judgment, for someone who you struggle with. Lastly, send these thoughts of loving-kindness out on a global level. Notice a warm glow from within as you finish and sit silently for a few moments.

5)    While compassion in action is particularly powerful, don’t be afraid to talk about it and define it with your kids. Let them know that compassion is important.

In a recent study at Harvard Business School, social researcher Michael Norton gave undergraduates money to spend on themselves or on others. Interestingly, the ones who spent money on others – who gave money away – were happier than those who kept the money for themselves. Likewise, those who reported giving money to charity were happier than those who didn’t. The website DonorChoose.org helps people benefit others, and, in turn, themselves. Money can buy happiness – when you spend it on someone else. Indeed, compassion in action can have incredibly powerful internal and external applications and effects. Give, care, contribute – you’ll make your world better and contribute to more global happiness.

 

 

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