We are arguably a selfish species. We have learned to watch our backs, and turn them on others, as a way to acquire, protect and survive independently.
We tend to live in a bubble of self-regard, viewing our ecology and each other as separate from ourselves, and because of it our world seems to have reached a crisis point. We have made big mistakes.
The good news is that we are awakening. Many of us are finally facing the fact that the world’s problems are our problems. We realize that we must change the way we live, but how do we face such a daunting task? How do we teach ourselves to act for the highest regard of all, rather than for the immediate gratification of the self?
The answer is simple… we do it through our compassion. If you can view the world with hope in your heart and you want to make a difference, you will see that the cultivation of compassion is no longer a choice, but a necessity.
“If you truly loved yourself, you could never hurt another.” – Buddha
The Cultivation of Compassion
No one escapes suffering in life, but what we do with the experience of it is ours to choose. We can allow it to shut us down and harden us, or we can use it as a bridge to connect with others.
It is the crucial link to understanding one another, for if you know the burden of suffering, then you are capable of recognizing it in others. To cultivate compassion, choose to use your own suffering as the fertile soil within which compassion for others can grow.
Bit by bit, cultivating compassion within yourself will expand your heart enough to accommodate the plights of everyone.
The Practice of Compassion
Compassion is simply an offer – one of understanding, help, and hope. When you show compassion, you are saying to another, “I do not wish to see you suffer. I want to help you to feel better. I hope that you do.” With this offering, communication becomes an honest and open exchange where healing, connection and kindness flourish among you.
I have just three things to teach: simplicity, patience, compassion. These three things are your greatest treasures. – Lao Tzu
To practice it is easy – imagine yourself as the one who suffers, what they are facing, how it feels, how it affects them, and what they must do to cope.
Think about how you would not want to experience their pain, and understand that the one who is suffering does not wish to experience it either. Once you can feel it, allow it to move you toward understanding, kindness and possibly assistance.
I wrote the following prayer as a reminder to myself to practice compassion. Use it to help you remember to offer your own kindness and mercy where needed.
Prayer for Compassion
May I allow my heart the room to grow
Into the spaciousness of connection
May I release the hold of my self regard
And open the way for compassion
May I lessen others’ burdens
Through the expression of my light
May I come to know joy through the hearts of others
May I see myself in all
Show Compassion, Know Happiness
What you have to gain from compassion is enormous, for if you can feel another’s suffering, you can also feel their happiness. If you make compassion a daily requirement, you can share the happiness and help make the world a better place for all of us, one graceful act at a time.
“If you want others to be happy practice compassion. If you want to be happy practice compassion.” -14th Dalai Lama