The ability to act with empathy, compassion is an important element to our success, both personal and professional. Compassion motivates people to go out of their way to help the physical, mental, or emotional pains of another and themselves. Compassion means to feel love and mercy toward another person. It means to have sympathy and desire to relieve the suffering of others. It means to show kindness and tenderness toward another.
My sister always is very fond of a quote from the Dalai Lama: “If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion.”
During my treatment journey, my sister practiced mindful compassion practice with me, teaching me to do the same. I have learned that the way to develop compassion in life is to make it a daily practice. But how do we do that? Below is a short guide, containing a few different practices that you can try to incorporate into your everyday life.
Meditate upon compassion in the morning, think about it when you interact with others, and reflect on it at night. In this way, it becomes a part of your life.
- Morning Rituals
Greet each morning with a moment of gratitude. If you’re not sure how to start, try reciting this one by the Dalai Lama: “Today I am fortunate to have woken up, I am alive, I have a precious human life, I am not going to waste it. I am going to use all my energies to develop myself, to expand my heart out to others, to achieve enlightenment for the benefit of all beings. I am going to have kind thoughts towards others, I am not going to get angry or think badly about others, I am going to benefit others as much as I can.”
- Empathy Practice
Think about your significant other or a friend, family member, or co-worker and ask yourself what has their mood been like in recent days? What’s going on in this person’s life that might be making them happy or sad, anxious, or angry? How are you contributing and what could you do or say to improve this person’s situation? Pick one person at a time and make your actions count.
- Commonalties Practice
It’s human nature to focus on our differences but actually we all have far more in common than not. At the root of it all, we are all human beings and we all share basic needs. Instead of focusing on all the differences between yourself and others, try to notice what you have in common. Reflect on these commonalities and ignore the differences and see what happens to your relationships. One of my favorite exercises comes from /Ode Magazine/ — it’s a five-step approach to try when you meet anyone, you simply tell yourself:
- Step 1: “Just like me, this person is seeking happiness in his/her life.”
- Step 2: “Just like me, this person is trying to avoid suffering in his/her life.”
- Step 3: “Just like me, this person has known sadness, loneliness and despair.”
- Step 4: “Just like me, this person is seeking to fill his/her needs.”
- Step 5: “Just like me, this person is learning about life.”
- Relief Practice by visualising your happy place
Showing compassion for yourself is key to practicing compassion for others. Painting a mental picture of a place that makes you feel relaxed can actually calm your brain and body. Once you have a good picture of your “happy place,” close your eyes and take slow and regular breaths through your nose and out of your mouth. Be aware of your breathing and continue focusing on the place you’ve imagined in your mind until you feel your anxiety lifting. Visit this place in your mind whenever you feel anxious.
- Kindness Practice: the greatest gift that you can give others is the gift of unconditional love and compassion.
Taking time to practice kindness creates a much more compassionate world. While there are a million different ways we can show kindness, my favourite ones include:
- Simply smile more – a warm smile is the universal language of kindness.
- Increase your awareness and try not to judge others.
- Be appreciative of all that you have and receive.
- Keep a kindness journal – this is a great way to keep track of all the wonderful things in your life.
- Look for opportunities to be kind – there is always, always, always something you can do to be kind to another person. And never underestimate how important these moments can be.
- Ignore Negativity
Sadly there is a lot of negativity in the world and it is easy to get swept up within it. When I find myself threatened by toxic negativity I refuse to become overwhelmed by it. Some simple ways I have found to do this include:
- Limit your expectations of others.
- Take charge of the conversation if you notice it has become very negative.
- Be a light for others.
- Strive to personify positivity. Wear your enthusiasm like an armor against a negative person’s hostility.
- Affirm your positivity by doing nice things for a negative person on occasion.
- Compliment them for something they genuinely did well.
- Keep in mind that the only person you have control over is you, so focus on your happiness. Rise above and remain positive in any situation.
- Bedtime Rituals: That Help You Reflect, Relax, Sleep and Succeed
While our morning ritual can set an intention for our day ahead, nighttime is the perfect time to pause for a moment of reflection, to appreciate all the good things and to notice what we would like to improve. This is my nightly routine
- Write down three things that went well that day, and three things that didn’t.
- Make tomorrow’s to-do list with focus on kindness.
- Night prayers to give thanks
- Cultivate the forgiveness habit and go to sleep with a clean heart.