If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion.
~ Dalai Lama
This week’s Angel Word is compassion. First, let’s boil down compassion to its essence:
Compassion is the feeling that arises when you witness another person’s suffering and want to help relieve that suffering. It’s a genuine concern about someone’s welfare.
It’s different from empathy. To feel empathic is to sense or understand someone’s emotions, but not necessarily feel moved to help them. And it also differs from pity, which is feeling sorry for someone you deem inferior to yourself in some regard. Compassion connects, whereas pity creates distance.
So what can you do to live in a compassionate manner?
1. Express gratitude for your blessings. Reflect on the goodness in your own life. By opening our hearts to being mindful of what we are grateful for, we can open our hearts more deeply to recognize the vulnerability and suffering of others.
2. Practice kindness. To people you know and love. To people you know and don’t particularly like. To people you don’t know.
3. Listen! Instead of trying to think of how you’ll respond to someone, just listen. Give the person your undivided attention and an attitude of warmth and understanding. It can be incredibly healing for someone to know that they can speak and have another person truly hear what they’re saying without judgment and with unconditional love.
4. Put yourself in someone else’s shoes. Much of the time, we’re so focused on ourself that we’re unaware of the pain another person carries inside. Try to imagine someone else’s quiet personal suffering.
5. Find commonalities with other people. It has been found that our compassion increases when we find common connections with others. When we are socially connected, it becomes easier for us to draw an association, no matter how small, between someone suffering and ourselves, and therefore the compassion we feel for their suffering is amplified.
6. Slow down. It’s hard, if not impossible, to do #1-5 above when you’re going a million miles an hour. Pause and consider what might be going on with other people. Reflect. Be mindful. Think before you speak or write.
7. Soften your being. Smile more. Try to be a comforting teddy bear instead of a prickly porcupine.
How will you be more compassionate this week?