How To Practice Compassion (When You Don’t Feel Like It)
“If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion.” – Dalai Lama
In a perfect world, all of us would practice compassion in everything we do. Many of us who wish to pursue a spiritual path keep the practice of compassion front and center.
It should be easy, right? If only life’s twists and turns didn’t get in the way!
Unruly kids. Mean bosses. Angry drivers.
Sometimes just getting through the day is hard enough without trying to be… kind.
The practice of compassion, like the creative process, has its ebbs and flows. When we pressure ourselves into being “nice” – when we truly feel angry or frustrated, we aren’t practicing compassion for ourselves.
This is when we need to hit the mental “reset button” and see where we can get back on track.
Here are a few tips to refocus on those days when practicing compassion is easier said than done.
Meditation is especially useful as a reboot for the body and mind on hectic days. The mere action of sitting still is an unconscious way to tell your thoughts to slow down.
Notice I didn’t say “stop”. We’re always thinking. Our thoughts are the mind’s electricity. Our thoughts make us feel alive. This is about slowing the pace.
When you restore calm to your mind, you’ll feel more relaxed and you’ll think more clearly.
Note: If you’re not a meditation fan, try child’s pose or just focusing on your breath for a few minutes.
Feel The Feelings
Ever notice how the emotions we express aren’t necessarily the emotions we feel? The human brain is complicated that way.
I recently decided to work on my behavior behind the wheel. I yell, I swear, I become exasperated. Not just in traffic jams, but everywhere I go.
When I decided to get quiet and think through the feelings, I realized; I’m not angry. I’m afraid.
My mother routinely drove drunk when I was a child and I was in several car accidents. There’s a part of me that carries that panic and fear I had as a child each time I hit the road.
Now, when I drive, I accept that I may be more nervous than other drivers, and it’s ok. I may let a few f bombs loose here and there, but like the practice of compassion, it’s a process.
Write And Write Some More
If you’ve been in the work force for any length of time, no doubt you’ve been exposed to email etiquette. Rule 1 is usually called something like “think before you send”.
Now that we’re inundated with so many forms of electronic communication, it’s easy to send off messages without considering how this impacts the person on the receiving end.
Fortunately, as there are many apps to communicate, there are just as many apps to write down those thoughts.
In a world rife with oversharing, there’s something sacred about recording our thoughts in a private medium.
It’s also a great way to write about emotions. Through writing we can work though difficult feelings and situations.
The next time you want to fire off an email or text, take to your journal and write. You’ll exercise your mind and avoid possibly hurting another.
The practice of compassion is just that – a practice. We are always growing as human beings. Sometimes our bad days and our bad behavior help us to find new ways to manage our emotions.
The joy of compassion is that we get to be kind to ourselves as well as others. Sometimes we just need to tweak the process. Remember, it’s about progress, not perfection!
What ways do you practice compassion?
Are there days when you need to hit the “reset” button?
What methods do you use? Join the conversation!