Believe it or not compassion is one of the things that can bring lasting happiness to your life.
When thinking about pleasure, we usually think of the many forms of instant gratifications, like enjoying in food, sex, sport or, God forbid, drugs. Because these instant pleasures are closely connected to various types of passions, they don't last long and also have a negative side to it.
In this article, I will try to convince you that developing compassion is the right way to achieving lasting and blissful happiness in your life.
But first let's see what compassion actually is:
Compassion is an inner state or emotional connectedness with people who are currently in some kind of trouble or with those who suffer in any way. A compassionate person will try to reduce or alleviate the suffering of others, as if they were their own.
Compassion often occurs through empathy, and is followed by a strong desire to try to help the persons we are compassionate for. The main focus of our compassionate action is on the alleviation of suffering.
But why should you care in the first place? What's in it for you?
Let me say right away that compassion has its benefits. But, you shouldn't do it just for the benefits. The point is that the core of our inner self is compassionate. One cannot ever hope to be truly happy going against the needs of one's true self.
Scientific research shows that practicing compassion brings concrete physical benefits. People who practice compassion have double the amount of DHEA. DHEA is a natural steroid and a precursor hormone produced by the adrenal glands of our body. This hormone has been shown to reverse the ageing process, slow some degenerative diseases like Alzheimer's, and improve our cognitive function.
Of course, there are other benefits that cannot be directly measured, such as those connected with your emotional and spiritual wellbeing. The more you make others happy, the more you are happy. It's as simple as that.
In fact, compassion is one of the best tools you would ever have at your disposal to achieving happiness. Let's see how we can practice it every day...
In the following you will find several methods you can practice regularly. Try to incorporate them into your daily meditation routine and the improvement will be huge.
If you can, I suggest to dedicate special time for these exercises, for example in the morning, or before going to sleep.
7 Types of Compassion Practice
- Morning practice
Make a ritual every morning to greet the beginning of the new day. For example, you can close your eyes and quietly repeat the words of Dalai Lama in your mind: "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 is the precursor of compassion. Instead of being focused on ourselves, we should expand our capacity for empathic action. Throughout life we have all developed different levels of empathy, but almost as a rule the levels of our empathy are rather low. If we are not practicing it, our sense of empathy can get rusty.
In order to get started with this practice, you can do the following: Think about someone you know, or even someone you don't know personally but you've heard of, someone who is in a state of suffering. Imagine the pain they are experiencing. Think about their suffering and feel their pain in as many details as possible.
Practice of cohesion
This practice focuses on the common features and attributes between you and other people. We usually have a tendency to recognize the differences, but here we try to do the opposite, to focus on the commonalities instead. After all, we are humans and share same needs and desires. We all need security, recognition, love, and affection.
Rather than focusing on the differences, meditate on the things that make you equal to another human being. Just like you, your friends or strangers seek happiness and fulfillment of their needs. They try to avoid suffering, loneliness, sadness, and despair, and are learning about life. Recognize these things.
Practice of Relief
When you have managed to develop empathy toward another person, the next step is to awaken a desire to free them from suffering.
First imagine what it would be like if you were the one that went through all that suffering right now. Then, think about how you would feel if another human being wanted your suffering to come to an end. Feel it in your heart what it would mean for you. Next, connect in your heart with the person that is in pain and feel your desire to end that suffering. Reflect on that feeling. This practice is in the heart of compassion. If you nurture it, in time, your compassion will grow.
Practicing Small Acts of kindness.
After a while, the time will come to make another step with your practice of compassion. Imagine, like in the previous exercise, that your are the one going through the same suffering as another person. Then imagine a third person that is compassionate and would like your suffering to end. Ask yourself what that person should do, perhaps a small thing to help alleviate your suffering. Then, reverse the role. What small acts can you do to help stop the suffering of other people? It could be a small act of kindness, a word, a smile, a token of appreciation. An finally, when you have mastered this step in your meditation, try to apply it in your day-to-day life by actually doing these acts of kindness.
Practicing compassion toward those who mistreat you
You can learn to develop compassion even toward those who mistreat you. I know, it is much easier to do that toward the ones who love you. That's why you should practice this step at the end. First of all, don't engage with that person in any way, rather withdraw without any confrontation. Later on, when alone and in a calm mood, try to reflect on that person. Think about what the cause of the aggressive behavior of that person could be. What was he or she like as a child? What was she or he going trough on that very day in particular? What kind of bad thing might have happened to her or him? What was her or his state of mind, what kind of suffering she or he must have been going trough to be able to mistreat you that way?
Try to see and understand that the action of that person had nothing to do with you, and everything to do with what that person is going through. Reflect on the suffering of that person. Could you somehow help ease that suffering? And what if you mistreated someone and that someone showed compassion and kindness to you? Would it be easier for you to show more appreciation toward that person the next time?
Every day before going to bad take a couple of minutes and think about that day. Have you shown compassion, and how you treated other people? How did they treat you? Think about your determination that the next day you will show compassion and kindness toward others.
You can perform the compassionate practices listed here at any place and any time. You can do them at home, at work, on the road, while shopping, traveling, while in company of a friend or family. Make your morning and evening ritual a routine, and your day will be framed properly. You will have the necessary attitude to practice compassion and develop kindness within yourself. Practice makes everything better. You will be able to master compassion throughout your entire life.
And, most importantly, you compassion will help bring happiness to the people around you and to your own self.
My message is the practice of compassion, love and kindness. These things are very useful in our daily life, and also for the whole of human society these practices can be very important. – Dalai Lama