Keys to Living a Compassionate Life

It's not just #GivingTuesday folks. Today is also World Compassion Day! But amidst all the dozens of e-mails you have gotten pleading for donations, our desire to give has probably diminished significantly throughout the day. 

 

Let's recenter and realign ourselves with the root of all giving: compassion.

 

The founding of this day is rooted in the concept of 'ahimsa', which means non-violence, non-injury or absence of desire to harm any life forms.  Ahimsa originated in Jainism, an Indian religion, however it is an important concept in other religions such as Buddhism, Sikhism, and Hinduism. 

 

Sounds nice, but too many times during the day we think harmful things about ourselves and others. We judge ourselves for not keeping the mind quiet during yoga, incriminate our friend for arriving late to lunch, and scoff at the latest thing that Trump said on Twitter.

 

What is this doing to your mental space? And how does this affect your life and relationships?

 

One thing's for sure: before we can give our compassion to the world, whether in the form of a check or a smile, there first has to be empathy for the self, for your imperfections, and mistakes.

 

So let's celebrate this day with a few mental exercises to cultivate our compassion on a personal, inter-relational, and global level. 

 

1. Lose the Mental Baggage

The mainstream concept of compassion focuses on how we give to others, but when's the last time you gave yourself a heavy dose of self-compassion? Here are three challenges for you to start now:

  • Think of a decision that you constantly regret and see if you can find words that you might tell a friend if they were in your situation. 
  • That argument you keep replaying in your head? Love yourself enough to write it out on paper getting it out of your mind, then learn what you could have done better, and let it go.
  • Those 15 pounds you'd like to lose? How about you try to find at least one thing you love about your body every time you look in the mirror. That way you can love the body you're in right now while striving for healthier goals. 

Once we begin to nurture ourselves in a judgement-free, compassionate way, we can open up similarly to others. Which brings me to my next point:

 

2. See Yourself in the Other

Seeing yourself in the other is an imperative compassion challenge. Especially when you become focused on your wants and needs. Next time you notice your head bubbling in fury at someone because of what they did or said,  lift up out of your ego and into theirs by asking these three questions:

  • How are their deepest desires reflected in their actions?
  • What does this individual truly need from me? (Hint: Most of the time it is a heavy dose of love, understanding, and compassion.)
  • How would I feel if I were them? What parts of myself do I see in them? 

By asking these questions on the regular, we can truly blossom into a place where we understand and give with love and respect for the self and others.

 

3. Discover the Different Dimensions Within Every Global Situation

No matter what time of day you read the news, there always seems to be a scandal, crisis, or tragedy at the forefront begging for your attention. Although I would be wary of starting or ending your day with checking the news, we can gain immense clarity by taking an impartial role in digesting it. Here are three mindful ways to read the news: 

  • We usually have a tendency to label a person or organization, such as ISIS or Trump, as bad. But I have a challenge for you. Next time you read a story that depicts a 'villain' role, dig a little deeper and see if you can imagine any good in that person. I admit, with tragic events, this seems almost impossible. But by extending your compassion to both the victims and the perpetrator, you jump into a profound level of ahimsa. 
  • Ask yourself: "What might that person be living through right now? What might have led to their demise within society? What could've gone wrong during their childhood that would make them want to continuously scar themselves and the world?"
  • Most importantly, seal anything you read with healing. How you can take the story you read, which might have caused heartache or disappointment, and convert it into positive action? What can you do today to build trust, openness, and compassion within your community? 

 

Now that you have a multitude of tools to create a compassionate life, I leave you with this: "Our human compassion binds us to the other, not in pity or patronizingly, but as human beings who have learnt how to turn our common suffering into hope for the future."-Nelson Mandela

 

Kimberly Lucht is the founder and Executive Director of Rehumanize Me. She loves uncovering the common ground of humanity through dance and culture and witnessing individuals realize their full potential.