Some people and situations tug at your heartstrings almost effortlessly. In other moment, you struggle to be as compassionate as you would like. Here are some practices that I have found helpful in deepening my capacity for compassion. May they help you do the same.
Let go of your story. When you are annoyed or angry at something happening, it is often because of the story you are telling yourself. An unexpected delay becomes the universe conspiring against you. Silence from your lover is because they’re mad at you. An odd look from your new co-worker indicates she doesn’t like you. Learning to stop telling yourself these stories is difficult, important work. It leaves you open to the possibility that others are sick, sad, overwhelmed, or otherwise dealing with their own lives.
Stay awake. Often, people close themselves off because being compassionate is too hard. It requires an awareness of others’ pain. Learning to see the homeless people you pass, to hear the frustrated mother and sobbing child, to witness the woman getting harassed on the bus and the horrendous situations all over challenge you to commit yourself to the world.
Face your fears. One of the reasons people block out others’ pain is fear. What can you do? Will it be dangerous? Who is watching? Will you be judged for stepping in or not? You can’t let your fears stop you. Listen clearly and deeply to the fears that arise and learn to answer those fears in ways that move you closer to compassion.
These are not quick or easy practices. They will take time and devotion to deepen your compassionate nature. There is no time like now to begin. The world is waiting.
How do you stay compassionate? Share in the comments.