com·pas·sion – noun – sympathetic consciousness of others’ distress together with a desire to alleviate it. This is the online definition provided by Merriam Webster who has been in the business of telling us what words mean since 1828. I think this is a wonderful start, but fails to address the groundwork that must be laid in order to show compassion. We’ll get into that below.
With that said, times of upheaval are often stressful, but they also provide us with an opportunity to rethink old thought processes and ways of doing things. And for me, I am making an effort this week to view every interaction and every behavior I observe through the lens of compassion – compassion for myself, compassion for those in my immediate circle, and compassion for every soul that now occupies this planet. Here is my take on how to prepare for and how to ultimately be compassionate.
Compassion Starts with Self-Love
It is not possible to express compassion for another when you have not shown compassion for yourself. Be kind and gentle with yourself at this time. Realize that this situation and the actions of those around you may stir up deep seated emotions from past experiences.
If you find yourself in a situation where you are able to work from home more, travel less, and do fewer things, take this as an opportunity to spend time with your emotions rather than pushing them away. Forgive yourself if you’re not always at your best. Forgive yourself if you can’t always show compassion for those around you. This self-love is the foundation upon which compassion is built.
Self-Love Also Includes Self-Care
The current state of affairs has pushed many of us out of being perpetually busy into a “forced pause” of one or more elements of our usual routine. See this for the opportunity that it is to nourish your body and your spirit. Turn off the TV, silence your phone and find what feels good to you. Walk in nature, meditate, read, have a heart-to-heart conversation with a friend or even do something as mundane as cleaning out a closet. Take this time to fill yourself up physically, mentally and spiritually so that you, in turn, can spread love and Light among others.
Observe Your Own Thoughts About Others
Traditional news media outlets, some social media and most politicians are champs at fanning the flames of fear to sell ads or advance an agenda. In addition, encountering a new, unknown threat in the form of the Coronavirus can trigger intense emotions from unresolved past traumas. As a result, there are a lot of people running around right now in a low grade state of continual terror.
When you encounter someone in this state, before doing anything simply observe your thoughts. In the past, mine always came from a place of judgement and not from a place of compassion. I’m shifting the balance; and, if not immediately, eventually landing on a more compassionate thought. Here is an example of my current thought progression:
CIRCUMSTANCE: Someone rams into my grocery cart with their grocery cart while they sprint around the store hoarding milk and toilet paper.
INITIAL THOUGHT: What a rude, inconsiderate asshole! The world is going to hell and I’m sorry my kids are going to have to deal with it.
NEW THOUGHT: I wonder what’s going on with this person? What are they thinking about? What would cause them to literally run around a grocery store grabbing far more of everything than they can possibly use? Lord, please allow this person to break free from this fear, break free from this scarcity mindset and be the abundance that surrounds us.
I’d love to tell you that I never have these kinds of initial thoughts or that I immediately can make the leap to the new thoughts. But, I’m working on it. Simply curiously observing your thoughts when encountering people in distress will help guide you toward more compassionate responses.
Being Compassionate Looks Different for Everyone
Being compassionate is different for us all. For some it comes in a very visible form such as caring for the sick, being an emergency responder or being that friend that everyone calls when they are broken and having difficulty coping. If you fall into this group, wonderful! But if you don’t, please avoid “shoulding” all over yourself (like I have in the past!) or forcing yourself to inauthentically show compassion in this manner.
- Silently blessing the guy who rams into you with his grocery cart.
- Sending healing energy and compassion to those in distress during your morning meditation.
- Or, as noted above, showing compassion for yourself to lay the foundation to be more compassionate to others going forward.
Be the Love you want to exist in this world. Be kind and gentle with yourself during these truly historic times. Be observant of your thoughts. And, this week, choose one interaction, one gesture, one smile or even one different thought to show compassion to someone in need.