How to Practice Being More Compassionate?
The other day, I was caught in a Facebook discussion. I got fired up, wrote a long text to prove my opinion to be the right one, moved my finger to the send button and…. took a long breath and wondered what the heck I was doing?
My contribution to the discussion wasn’t about the topic anymore. It was about being right. I realized I was attacking the person I responded to with words like daggers. I took another breath, wished the bloke well, deleted my text, and closed my phone.
It took some effort, some self-control, but I felt much better. After a few such similar events happened, I decided to use only 10 minutes of my time a day in that place. I prefer keeping my energy up by calling friends who are going through difficult times, writing blogs and responding to private messages.
Rest assured, I am not an angel but when I ask myself what the world really needs right now the answer is always the same:
People seem to be more divided than ever. No matter which camp people choose, for many, this choice means the others are basically not human anymore. The so-called process of dehumanization. This doesn’t work for me anymore.
I get it. I see it. So many things are so outrageously uncertain for billions of people that nobody has any clue whatsoever is really going on. Our world barometer of confusion, despair, fear, and uncertainty is going through the roof.
In order to feel safe in this storm, people do everything to belong to an in-group, even when that means bashing, blaming, and hating the ones in the other camp.
When a battle is being raged so fierce around you, sometimes, the best thing to do is to find that space of peace left in your heart that is called compassion.
The next question is: How to get there?
My intention is not to give you the infamous 5 steps to…and neither a quick guide or anything like that. First of all, I am not a Zen Buddhist writing to you from a monastery in China. Secondly, I think you have most likely experienced compassion before in your life, like all people.
It is the moment that all the judgment, anger, the feeling of being attacked, or the desperate need to be self-righteous suddenly evaporates in this deeper understanding: That other person is also a human. Just like me. He or she is suffering from the same reasons.
Why not simply be compassionate and drop all the BS?
Let’s call it a special heart A-Ha moment when you feel compassion for your brothers and sisters who are fighting their fight. Be it Trump, Bill Gates or your neighbor.
I can write only from my own experiences on how to cultivate that specific state of mind, that precious heart connection. All I know is that when you give it more attention, you make it stronger. The choice is yours!
I’ll give you some guidelines to get you on your way to embrace your inner Frodo amidst Mordor raging fire from the underworld, Sauron spelling his deadly black curses, and armies of trolls freezing the world into fear.
Let’s see first what the word compassion actually means.
What is Compassion?
The old Latin compassionem stems from Compati, with pity. Personally, I like the 14th-century compassioun better, meaning: A suffering with another
You can feel pity for someone’s situation without really being concerned, like feeling pity for the 15.000 humans who die of malnutrition every day while you eat another bag of chips.
Suffering with the other means you are at the same level. This doesn’t have to mean you stop eating for a month to feel the same or you travel to a third world country to live like a beggar in the streets. Although some people actually do.
The magic lies in the ability of the heart to be tuned into something or somebody to feel what that person experiences. To get a sense of the suffering beyond somebody’s behavior, as if it were your suffering.
I agree. That already sounds like you are on the way to be a full-blown Buddha, feeling the suffering others feel. You probably think that’s too far out of your reach. Your daily challenges are most probably a pill big enough to swallow. Especially now.
Exactly here lies the challenge and the beauty to look beyond your own circumstances. To at least try to transcend your limited perspective, worries, doubt and uncertainty and reach out to that compassionate place in your heart.
Maybe that’s all there is to it!
To train your compassion muscle, you have to discover it first.
A good start would be designating a separate area in your house to remind you. Think about a small shrine with fresh flowers, some mineral stones, photos of people whom you love, or who play an important role in your life.
A place where you develop a daily practice like Meditation, Yoga, or Prayer. A spot where you can be in silence without being disturbed by Television, noise, or anything from the outside world. Even when it is for 5 minutes.
Many Yoga trainers of meditation gurus will tell you to show up daily in that practice. This is to break possible habit patterns that are holding you back to connect to that silent space within yourself. When you switch off the outside world, the only thing that is left is your inside world.
That can feel scary.
When you created that initial space in your house and in your daily life, the next obstacle you possibly run into is that your mind cannot order your heart to open, or to feel compassion. It doesn’t work like that. You need to go from contraction to expansion first. I’ll explain.
Go from contraction to expansion
Another condition to practice compassion is moving from a contracted feeling in your mind and body to a more expanded state. This is the other half of the work.
Well, when you feel contracted as a result of fear and stress, your body and brain are in survival mode. It can be very difficult to get out of that often self-confirming spiral. I guess 80 percent of the people around the world are in constant survival mode, especially in these challenging times.
This doesn’t mean you have to stay stuck there.
Setting up a daily practice that is exclusively dedicated to yourself is a huge step toward feeling more expansion. There are also other ways. A walk in nature, extreme sports like climbing, anything that helps you to get out of the negative spiral of feeling and behavior coming from fear and survival. When you are stuck in your home, the work of Dr. Joe Dispenza might work for you.
It’s all about moving from being a victim to the creator of your life.
There are many ways to actively train your compassion muscle once you set your space, make inner space and break out of any surviving mode.
Maybe the most well-known practice to engage in waking up your compassionate heart is the old Hawaiian wisdom of the Ho’oponopono. Traditionally, it was used for family mutual forgiveness. Later, it was adapted for our individualized way of living, and it transformed into psycho-spiritual self-help rather than a group process.
The idea is: when you forgive yourself first, it is easier to forgive others and feel compassion for them. The great thing about this mental cleansing is that you can do it literally anywhere.
Repeat these sentences, until you actually feel them:
I am sorry
Please forgive me
I love you
Now, what about making a list of 3 people you recently despised, had a quarrel with, or wished them to burn in hell over some kind of Facebook post. Project this person in your mind’s eye, and say the Ho’oponopono.
I am 100 percent sure it will make you feel much better. And the other person on the line too.
Being more compassionate requires dedication, focus, and attention. But like any other work, it will give you a reward. This reward is your peace of mind.
When your intention is to feel more compassionate in these difficult times, I believe this guidance and practical tools might help. I hope reading this piece moved you in that space already, even by taking the time for it.
It is not in the big things, in the big gestures. Beauty and magic often lie in small gestures and sometimes even invisible things like feeling compassion with one another. In the undivided attention for your partner or your neighbor when he or she is in stress. In a real smile on your face coming from the heart.
All we are doing on this planet is walking each other home. Being more compassionate is reaching out with a hand to help your brothers and sisters take that next hurdle on their path.