Practicing compassion is not always easy. However, it is something that can help bring joy and peace to your life and the lives of those around you. By practicing compassion daily through acts of service and kindness as well as compassion meditation exercises, you can get closer to others by connecting with self-compassion.
I love Julia Cameron’s definition of compassion,
it’s when “we begin to treat ourselves more gently. Feeling less desperate, we are less harsh with ourselves and with others.”
It follows that the kinder we are to ourselves, the kinder we are to other people, our circle of kindness widens. We are constantly bombarded with ideas and ”research results” on how we must think and behave. A lot of us try to “work on ourselves” under this pressure, unfortunately, as a result this makes us more critical of ourselves and others.
We need to feed a loving voice in ourselves: compassionate, aware, kind and patient. As we start being nicer to ourselves, more accepting of our shortcomings and exercising patience, this feeling of openness and understanding ripples out to the world around us. After all, compassion is not only heroic deeds, but small unseen and often unthanked kindnesses done by any one of us, those apparently small effects do resonate out in the world.
10 healthy reasons to practice compassion:
1. It makes us feel good (e.g., helping someone in need) it activates the pleasure circuits in our brain.
2. Compassion makes us less prone to heart disease.
3. It lowers stress hormones.
4. Brain scans done during loving-kindness meditation show that the mind wanders less and as a result we feel happier.
5. It makes us more caring parents.
6. Practicing compassion makes us better partners.
7. It makes us better friends.
8. Employees who are treated with kindness and consideration at work see their workplace, fellow employees and the organization itself in a better light.
9. Being kind to one person makes us less angry with another, the feeling expands.
10. Holding back on feelings of compassion hurts our self-esteem and undermines our morality.
Kuan Yin is known as the Goddess of Infinite Compassion and Mercy, she is like the Mother Mary of the East. Her name in Chinese means “the one who hears the cries of the world.” She is often depicted holding a vase which is pouring the nectar of wisdom and compassion onto the world.
Meditation for Compassion
I’ll leave you with a simple, sweet meditation on compassion:
1. Set a timer for 20 mins.
2. Sit in a comfortable position that you can hold for that long (it can even be lying down or on a sofa).
3. Close your eyes gently and take 5 slow deep breaths to quiet your mind. Focus on your breathing, it’s happening in the now, giving your mind something to work with. Relax and enjoy this feeling of peace.
4. With your eyes closed visualize Kuan Yin, her kindness and compassion flowing down onto the world, or visualize any person that represents love and compassion in your eyes.
5. Repeat over and over and over:
“May all beings everywhere be happy and free from suffering.”
Visualize the words.
When your mind wanders, because it will, notice it, and gently draw your attention back to your repetition.
To end your meditation:
Bring your hands together to your forehead, for clarity of thought.
Then, bring your palms together to your mouth, for clarity of speech.
Finally, bring your palms together to your heart, for clarity of action.
“Let my light shine through all the things that I am thinking, saying and doing.”
And now, connected with this wonderful feeling, take it out into the world with you!
As the Dalai Lama once said
“Love and compassion are necessities. They are not luxuries. Without them, humanity cannot survive.”