With the recent faltering of the corporate power structure, we are now forced to re-evaluate not only our world and how it's working as a whole, but ourselves as individuals, and how we fit into it all. When the so-called foundations of our social and economic blueprints fail, we can, and should, find ourselves getting back to the basics about who we are, and how we contribute to the world. All we need to do is take a quick look around to realize we're failing as human beings on some level. While this may seem overwhelming, or "not my problem", because it seems to be in faraway places or with other people, it's time to recognize we all contribute to the health of the world in our own unique way.
Everything we do, every interaction, and even every thought has a ripple effect on our fellow man. Taking responsibility is the first courageous step in making change, and this is purely up to the individual to do. So we've decided to make a change - what next? One aspect of our lives we can all improve upon, is our compassion for others. Have you ever noticed how something as simple as a smile from a stranger can improve your day and inspire you to be kinder to others? Doesn't it make you feel like you're not quite as alone as you'd thought in this fragmented society? Imagine if we could show that kindness to each other on a regular basis as a rule - things really would surely be different. The following tips can be used in all aspects of your life; in your social life, your workplace, with family and friends, and especially with complete strangers.
Tips on Developing Compassion
1. Start your day with a purpose, instead of just stumbling out of bed and rushing to work. Take one or two minutes (that's only 120 seconds!), to focus yourself mentally. Perhaps you have your own mantra you like to live by, or a favourite quote that means something to you. If not, there are tonnes of them on the internet - find one that resonates with you. A good one might be something like, "Love life and life will love you back. Love people and they will love you back." by pianist Arthur Rubinstein. Focusing on being kind as you start your day will keep you centred, instead of just walking around reacting to others. Show people how to be kind by being kind to them.
2. Get rid of unnecessary judgments. As you go through your day, make a mental note each time you judge someone. A lot of us are consumed with comparing ourselves to others, in order to make ourselves feel better about what's lacking in our own lives. Examples might be, judging someone's appearance - this could be a stranger's or a colleague's, or judging how someone handled a situation that has nothing whatsoever to do with you. Judging others promotes negativity, and only creates distance between ourselves and those we judge so needlessly. Compassion is about realizing our sameness, not our differences.
3. Practicing Empathy. This exercise might not be fun, but will certainly help you with your compassion and being less judgmental. Imagine one of your loved-ones is suffering - that something bad has happened to them. Imagine the pain they are going through - not how it relates to you - but how they must actually feel. Once this has stirred up some real emotions for you, move onto imagining the suffering of a stranger. We all go through things, we all experience the same emotions, just about different situations. Remember that any pain you feel, has also been felt by those around you, and might be at this very moment.
4. We're all in this together - we share the world. We have way more in common with each other than we recognize, and if we focus on our sameness, our compassion will automatically grow. How many times have we met someone from another country, and had a conversation only to be pleasantly surprised at how well we got along, despite any cultural differences? At our core, we are very much the same, and we want the same things in life. This exercise comes from an article in Ode Magazine and can be tried on friends and strangers:
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."
5. Wish the best for people. Lend your support, even if it's silent, to those around you. Put a good thought towards someone who might be suffering, that their pain will end. With these positive thoughts, and realizing you're not the only person in the world who experiences difficult emotions, we put forth goodwill, which will in turn help us in our actions.
6. Act kind towards others. Simple acts show no less kindness than grandiose gestures do. Hold the door for someone. Strike up a conversation with the checkout person - treat them like a human being instead of someone who's just there to serve your needs. You being nice to them will more than likely influence them to be nice to the next person they see. And so on, and so on...