“If we learn to open our hearts, anyone, including the people who drive us crazy, can be our teacher.”
― Pema Chödrön
Hello Spiritual Warriors!! This week is all about compassion and cultivating it each day in our thoughts, words, and actions. It’s a pretty intense challenge to wake up every day and root for everyone else’s suffering to end – not just those we love – but even those we compete against, or hold grudges against…those we’ve not forgiven…those we’ve rooted against…those we’ve forgotten…and those we’ve called toxic.
One voice inside you is saying, “Wait! That’s not me!” and another voice is saying, “Well…there was that time”…and “yeah, but she deserved it”…or “I was right and he was wrong”…and then you realize that even the most saintly of us is human. And we’ve missed opportunities to help ease someone else’s pain by lacking compassion in a given moment.
But that doesn’t need to be the end of it. This could be the start of a powerful, personal transformation in which you realize that you are a channel of compassion and you must receive this precious energy with grace and flow it back out in like kind.
Any constriction on either end – giving or receiving – will stop the organic stream of this vital nectar and then we will find ourselves in a given moment lacking compassion or even worse – lacking self-compassion.
But we can get back in the flow by cultivating a daily practice that will give our lives’ greater purpose, deeper fulfillment, bigger impact, and more love.
Although we can’t go back in time to change the past, starting right now, we can experience greater wholeness by cultivating a daily practice of compassion. Here are 8 easy steps that will generate a profound shift in your life:
1. Start a daily heart-opening practice – As you awake, drink in the moment with your eyes and feel gratitude for your first ten breaths including anything that comes into your awareness during those 45 seconds.
His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama starts each day with: “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.”
Create your own version to start your day and as you say your heart opening words stretch your arms out to the side and raise your heart forward.
2. Meditate – connecting to the stillness and silence within sets the table for everything that happens during the day. Once you have started your day with meditation, everything flows a bit more easily. Meditation will help you more easily awaken your inner compassion.
3. Awaken your empathy – The first step in cultivating compassion is to develop empathy for your fellow human beings. But you must first feel empathy for your own challenges. This is the full and total release of self-blame. Even if you simply begin that practice little by little – give yourself permission to…make peace with yourself…forgive yourself…let go of the past…or at least loosen your grip a bit. Allow whatever emotions arise to flow through you. Dont resist. Feel your pain and rooting for it to ease.
Then, like in a metta meditation, begin radiating that emotion to those in your immediate circle – your loved ones, friends, and co-workers. Then expand the circle to include acquaintances. Then those you don’t know. To shift from an “oh poor me” or “less than” mindset, look outside of yourself and you’ll begin to feel the pain of others – even those you don’t know. That empathy will broaden your understanding and begin to strengthen that trait within you.
4. Tat Tvam Asi affirmation: To move beyond the barriers that separate us, shift to seeing the one-ness of this sweet human collective that we are all a part of. We are all the same beings expressing ourselves in 8 billion different ways. Tat tvam asi is Sanskrit for “you are that.”
To shift your perspective in less than a minute, focus on someone that you have been comparing yourself to – a friend, co-worker, colleague, relative – anyone that you have recently compared yourself to. Envision their face or the experience that involved them and as you observe it in your mind’s eye, silently repeat tat tvam asi like a mantra over and over.
If you prefer saying the affirmation in English, you can use the affirmation: “I am that”.
When you notice yourself judging others throughout the day – invoke your affirmation.
5. Relief of suffering practice – Now that your heart is open, you’ve spent time in stillness and silence, you’ve awakened your empathy, and you see your self as the other, and the other as your self…now it’s time to flow it back out…to activate your compassion by truly desiring that another person be free from their suffering. This is the core of compassion.
Focus on a person in your life. Focus on their pain. And then open your heart to them unconditionally. Feel their heart and your heart merge…see yourselves as one being…feel their pain and wish for their suffering to end. This is the seed of your compassion practice and with gentle nurturing, your practice will expand and evolve.
6. Act of kindness practice – This is where we move from the realm of thoughts to the tangible world. Ask yourself, “What would I like someone to do for me to help me end my suffering?” and “What can I do to help someone end their suffering?” This is actually a practice, so every day practice doing something small to help end the suffering of others – a smile, a wink, letting their car cut in front of you, letting them move ahead of you in line, text someone something sweet, volunteer to do an errand for them, pick up a piece of trash, forgive someone. In time, this will become your way of living.
7. Grievance awakening – The most powerful step in cultivating a compassion practice, is to not only want to ease the suffering of those we like and love, but even those with whom we have a grievance.
See the other person as a baby…a sweet innocent baby…no evil in their heart…pure, harmless, blameless baby. And see their childhood…the agony that must have occurred to get them to their current state and the suffering that has accompanied it.
Now remind yourself that their action was not about you, but about what they were going through. As don Miguel Ruiz says, “they are living their dream – it’s not about you.” Now think some more about the suffering of that poor person, and see if you can imagine trying to stop the suffering of that person. And then reflect that if you mistreated someone, and they acted with kindness and compassion toward you, whether that would make you less likely to mistreat that person the next time, and more likely to be kind to that person.
8. And finally, recapitulation – of course you should wind down your day with a bit of stillness and silence, so always integrate some meditation into your evening but right before you go to bed, play the movie of your whole day in fast forward in five minutes.
Start with the moment you woke up and just “play your day”. Think about the people you met and talked to, don’t go deep, just play it and when you realize you’re drifting away or starting to day dream, go right back to the movie of your day. At the end of each day, ask “did I act compassionately towards others?” “Where could I be more compassionate?” “What did I learn today?” “What did I learn about myself today?”
As I have stressed over the years, ritualizing what you care about is the best way to integrate a new behavior into your life. If you practice these eight steps to cultivating compassion in your life, every day for only one week, you will feel the entire galaxy shift. Om tare tuttare ture soha! Peace. -davidji
PLEASE BE PATIENT WHILE THE MEDITATION LOADS