Stepping Towards Compassion
Practical daily techniques for living a a more compassionate life.
May all beings be peaceful.
May all beings be happy.
May all beings be safe.
May all beings awaken to the light of their true nature.
May all beings be free.
This is a translation of a Buddhist prayer known as the Maitri (Metta in Pali) Prayer or the Loving-Kindness Prayer. I have seen several versions and translations of these earnest wishes, yet the focus is always the same: developing aspirations for the health, happiness, and liberation of the self and others. The Maitri is a simple invocation that calls us to profoundly focus compassionate attention and intention to all beings.
The development of compassion is central to every major world religion. His Holiness the Dalai Lama defines compassion as “a state of mind that is nonviolent, nonharming, and nonagressive. It is a mental attitude based on the wish of others to be free of their suffering and is associated with a sense of commitment, responsibility, and respect towards the other…there is also a sense to the word of its being a state of mind that can include a wish for good things for oneself.”
Besides just being a downright awesome thing for us to do as human beings, practicing compassion has some valuable side effects. When we treat others kindly, we experience a greater sense of ease, equanimity, confidence, and self love. These states enable us to more easily and more frequently abide in a compassionate frame of mind and action. Scientific studies have shown compassion to have a positive impact on physical and emotional health. These studies also reveal a correlation between compassion and a stronger immune system as well as increased life expectancy.
Like most spiritual endeavors, compassion is something to be practiced, something that we continuously work on in order to become more loving and caring individuals. Here are some guidelines and ideas that I have found to be very helpful in developing a sense of compassion:
1.Meditation/Prayer. Prayer and meditation are some of the greatest and oldest tools we have for anything having to do with spirituality. Through prayer and meditation, we connect ourselves to stillness and divinity. This sacred connection gives us access to a force that enables us to more solidly and consistently act from a state of love and respect for ourselves and the world.
2.Mindfulness. This is a practice in itself. The more mindful we are, the more resourceful we are as spiritual beings. We also feel more connected to others. Mindfulness makes it less likely to slip into unconscious judgements, thoughts, speech, or actions. Mindfulness of our body, speech, and mind, allows us to be more consistently compassionate.
3.Nonjudgement. Judging our selves and others is one of the more hateful things we can do and obviously counterproductive when we are seeking to be compassionate. Something that can be helpful when we find ourselves in judgment is to create a counter-thought or a reframe. For example, if your friend does something you don’t like and you find yourself thinking “Ahh! She’s such a stupid idiot!” Take a step back and evaluate your judgment, reverse it, or reframe it to something like “I don’t appreciate how my friend is acting, but I love her, and wish her the greatest bliss.”
4.Silent Blessings. Silently bless everyone you can. This is a profound practice that quickly creates clarity and happiness in your mind and gives you a strong sense of connection to humanity. Whoever you encounter, even if you dislike them, just silently think to yourself, “May you be liberated. May you be free.” I do the same to homeless people, drivers, and anyone I might pass on the sidewalk. It’s good stuff.
5.Focus on our equality. This is a practice I learned from the Dalai Lama. Judgement and hatred stem primarily from “othering” individuals. We see them as so different from ourselves, so unequal, and so removed from us that it’s easy to not love them. Instead, we can focus on our similarities. Then we can grow in our kindness. We are all human beings. We all suffer. We all want the best for ourselves and our families. We all hurt. We all cry. We all laugh and smile. We all yearn for comfort and freedom. Just because someone is different in some way, does not devalue their needs, innate beauty, and their inherent right to happiness.
Instead of hatred and judgement, I intend to practice love and compassion. It will likely get me a lot more out of life and, if nothing else, I’ll be a much happier person. I invite you to join me in this endeavor!
Originally published at www.scottgoolsby.com.