Compassion as a life-practice is an essential part of becoming happier and living a more fulfilling life. While it seems obvious that we should feel compassion toward those less fortunate than ourselves, there is a lot more to compassion than just that. When you can see yourself in others, you start to understand that they want the same basic things in life. We all want more happiness and less suffering. Feeling compassion towards others helps you to move through your day with less frustration.
Here’s an excellent meditation on compassion I read about in a book by the Dalai Lama. Imagine a group of really poor, tired people looking sad and disheveled. They’re faces are dirty, they are wearing tattered clothes. Then picture yourself standing away from them, happy and carefree. Look closely, see the clothes you are wearing, look at your face, maybe you look a little smug. Then place your focus back on the group of less fortunate people. Really take in their situation and look back at yourself. Go between the two a few times and then ask yourself, “Who deserves happiness more? Who could really use a break from their suffering for a moment?” The answer is clear but it carries some implications that are not as obvious. Of course a group of people suffering like this deserve more. We all have an innate right to be happy. Each and every one of us only wants to be happy and to endure less suffering. What might surprise you is that it is more beneficial to you to view everyone in your life this way, as the other, more deserving than you of some happiness. That is true compassion. When you find yourself in an argument with that coworker that always gets under your skin, realize that they deserve happiness. They are suffering just like you. Try this meditation on compassion every day for a few weeks, it only takes a minute or two. You will begin to notice that people annoy you less, and when you are upset by someone, the hurt doesn’t cut as deeply and doesn’t last as long.
It is a new practice of mine that when I interact with someone to try to ask myself, “How can this person benefit from this interaction? How can I make this moment really worthwhile for them? How can I make their life pop?” I’m trying. It is not easy, but every time I speak to someone I want to somehow make their life better. I try to offer some unexpected enthusiasm, a little authentic giddiness. I am, after all, a very silly guy. Through my meditation practice, I have been able to be happier, and when I talk to someone, I feel more alive. This practice becomes really difficult for me when I feel insulted or offended by someone. I always try not to speak to them in that moment because I know that when I feel that way, I am more likely to say something hurtful back to them which I want to avoid at all costs. If I can’t help someone, at the least I can try to do no harm. Like I said, it isn’t easy. I make mistakes all the time, but I find that with a few words spoken from the heart, almost any situation is mendable.
Compassion is very easy when everyone around you is happy and easygoing. If it was easy all the time, we wouldn’t have to practice at it! Lol! I am a big fan of the phrase, “Begin again.” It’s almost a mantra for me. When I slip or outright fail at any discipline whether it’s being distracted during a meditation, or being swept away by emotion and becoming angry with someone, I try not to beat myself up about it and simply, “begin again.” Breathe, and begin again. Always…
Thank you for taking the time to read this.