yourlifeforce

Compassion is the root of love

In Changing life, Charles Dickins, Compassion, ego, Forgiveness, Love, spirit on February 23, 2012 at 4:05 pm

Only got 3 mins spare? Read this… Love (not the  romantic kind) is way too vague an idea to understand and practice if you don’t know what it really means, or how to integrate it into life. It’s an ideal that is talked about a lot, but without much understanding of what it means or how to love.

Compassion is the root of love and if we talked more about compassion, rather than ‘love,’ perhaps this would give people a better idea of how let more love in for themselves and others. Compassion is the energy that generates the presence of love in life.

There are lots of other ingredients of love (like being generous, charitable or even making sacrifices) but these are not as powerful, or sometimes as honest as genuine compassion. Compassion provides a map on how to live a life of loving. When compassion hits you smack bang in the middle of your heart, it opens up the possibility of looking at things in another way, without the sting of the past.  The practice of compassion leads you to reconsider your view of another and situations. To parphrase the famous Heineken slogan,”Compassion reaches the parts of you and others that nothing else can reach.”

You can also make a choice to practice compassion to reconsider your view of yourself, particularly helpful if you do not have a healthy opinion of yourself that nurtures instead of diminishes.

But how do you practice compassion? And in a way that leads to a change of mind and attitude for the long-term? Practice is essential. Compassion isn’t an intellectual pursuit, or a hobby. It’s an exercise and practice for the heart. Not just once in a while. But daily, even moment to moment. Starter for ten, but I’d be interested in how you think compassion can be demonstrated:

  • Try hard to eliminate all labels and judgements: start making a committed effort to watch the labels and judgements you make throughout each day. Those about yourself and those about people around you.
  • Replace reactive thinking with reflective thinking: words and actions are extremely powerful. They can make and break lives. Between two extremes, what you say or do can be incredibly healing or incredibly destructive. We all react, especially when under stress or when we think we’re threatened by something someone has said or done. Try and carve out 10 mins (or more) of your day to reflect on where you’ve reacted to people and situations without care or consideration.Where you have been impacted by something another has said or done to you. Instead of lapsing into a mental loop of damaging thought or action, try not to react against yourself in this way.
  • Take responsibility for uncompassionate actions: if you’ve found yourself reacting uncompassionately, whether to yourself or others, resolve to start doing something about this. If you’ve unconsciously or deliberately harmed another person, try and fix the situation. This doesn’t mean having to always rake up something that has happened – sometimes silence, indeed, is golden! Nor do I subscribe to the view that just because you want to express something, you necessarily should all the time. But it could mean just altering how you will behave the next time you interact with another. Keep it consistent to make the change real and believed. Actions speak louder than words or thoughts.
  • Go that extra step: sometimes compassion really begins to take root in life when you take that extra step for someone, or go beyond what is required. Not out of pity or duty, but when this is based on genuine sympathy and empathy. Sometimes when you throw yourself into the maelstrom of someone else’s difficulty, it gives you the opportunity to empathise with another and this can be a valuable experience that shifts how you see life, others and yourself. A previous post I wrote on the fictional character, Scrooge, is a great example of this in action.

If you like what you’ve read, do share with others via social media or word of mouth! Thanks

Longer to spare? Settle down and check this out…Waking up a few days ago, slightly comatosed, and in the between the inane chatter of the radio presenter, the great Beatles song, “All you need is love” was playing.  A really great and cheery song. Though later on it got me thinking that there is a lot of talk about love and the ideal of love in life. Sometimes the word is used just as a figure of speech, e.g. “love life!’ But then there are other more serious things it is meant to capture, e.g. work, relationships, friends and family, humanity, and of course love for yourself. These are all very valid and important areas. But, I couldn’t help but wonder, if love – and its action, loving – is talked about so much and so important to a happy life, why we don’t do more of it?

Compassion is key

There some ‘ingredients’ that are always crucial to love and need to be mixed into life regularly to make love a reality. They create a foundation for love in a life. Without these ingredients ‘Love’ doesn’t have much of a chance of taking root in your life. Without this, love and its benefits can’t become stronger and more dominant in your life. For me, I think compassion is the most important ingredient. As I mentioned, there is a lot of talk about love. Love yourself. Love others. Love your brother. Love the world. Love life. But for all that talk, I’m not sure a lot of people really understand what ‘love’, in its grandest sense means, or how to love, whether it is loving yourself or others.

I think we sometimes assume that ‘love’ is something that can be done naturally and automatically, like turning on the kettle. But that kind of negates the influence of specific emotional experiences that each of us go through in life (positive or negative) the influence of culture and tradition, the attitudes we have and the habits that drive us.  Actually, just like learning how to walk or learning a discipline, it takes time to learn and integrate love and loving into your life.

I like to think of compassion as the energy that generates the presence of love in life. It is the yardstick of love. If we talked more about  compassion, rather than love, perhaps would love would make more sense to people. I think this would provide a clearer and more practical way how to experience greater love in life. The Beatles  almost got it right. All you need is compassion, not love. Compassion is the aspect of love that, if practiced, will lead to love becoming more of a reality in your life and the lives of others.  You can be generous to others – and be under the impression this represents loving. Perhaps – but this can also represent self-serving, and ultimately false intentions. Or be charitable and assume this is love. Possibly – but charity can also be founded on pity, and being patronising. You could call the ‘sacrifices’ you’ve made in your life for others loving and evidence of love. Yes, but this might also be driven by a feeling of guilt, encouraged by yourself or by another person. You can say the things you do out of duty for others is love. Unlikely – I’m not sure duties and obligations are ever really true evidence of love in the most genuine sense of the word.

Compassion nudges you walk some steps with someone else, on their path. Compassion opens up your mind a little bit more, helping you not be afraid to start thinking of another person or situation in a different way. Instead of hasty judgement, through practicing compassion you begin to hold off from doing this. Where you once so easily pigeonholed someone through the tyranny of intellect, compassion expands you and let’s you see someone as they are. Compassion is more than just seeing things from another perspective. Anyone can change their perspective by rubbing two brain cells together. Compassion comes always from your heart, from your soul, because it can induce a complete and fundamental change in your mind and attitude towards yourself, others and life. It really can be life-changing, make angels out of monsters and bring some light into the gloom.

A change of perspective doesn’t create miracles in life; love does, because it springs from compassion. When compassion hits you in the middle of your heart, it opens up the possibility of looking at things in another way, without the sting of the past, or the anxiety of the future.  The practice of compassion leads you to reconsider your view of another. You can also practice compassion to reconsider your view of yourself, particularly helpful if you do not have a healthy and balanced opinion of yourself.  Of course, what you find out about yourself may not make you happy at first, and may make you quite uncomfortable. We all, myself included, like to think we are perfect, and if not perfect, well at least not horrible, an arsehole or cruel. As I write this, my mind goes back a quite a few years and I can think of at least a couple of people, who I thought I was being loving towards, but actually in the absence of compassion, was being ignorant and judgemental towards. It was a bit of a shock to have my fragile ego dented, but as uncomfortable as that was for me, because of guilt, it was definitely better than not understanding more about myself, and the inner growth that helped lead to. The judgement of others can make us uncomfortable and angry, but the judgement by ourselves on ourselves can be even more difficult to deal with. Not least, because it can normally result in a bitter feeling of remorse, and suggests we’ve been irresponsible or immature. No one likes to be accused of that! Hence, why a lack of compassion often leads to a lack of understanding, whether it’s between two people and entire countries and cultures. This normally results in uncompassionate attitudes, with you clenching your fists, instead of open arms, digging your heels in, instead of walking forward, or anger and bitterness, instead of laughter and smiles.

Learning how to love, yourself and others, really is not really an easy thing to do. The true point of compassion and love, whether it is directed at yourself or others, is to create awareness, understanding, peace, joy, acceptance, balance, inner security, confidence, self-respect, being and transformation. Not something you can order off the internet! Or do by practicing for a few days or a month. There is a lot of advice out there about how to change your life, how to be a better person, how to successful and do well, how to get what you want, how to be a great partner, how to be an amazing parent, how to be yourself. The list is endless. I don’t want to denigrate anyone else’s view and there is a lot of life-enhancing stuff out there. But I do sometimes wonder if this just encourages us to rearrange the deckchairs at times. I know from some of my own experiences in life, superficial change often only led to temporary respite. The nightmares and frustration were still there when the worst subsided or when the scenery changed.

But the times of my life when things really have changed and grown at a deep level, have only come when I’ve learnt to be compassionate towards myself and towards others or anything and anyone that I perceived to have injured me. When I first realised this my view of life changed from it being a random collection of situations and people that could be threatening to me, to seeing life as a series of experiences (some inevitable, some not) that need not overwhelm me, that I could happily accept and swim with – come what may – instead of cursing circumstances or scaring myself silly. I begun to actually like myself, for myself. Instead of feeling like a victim, empathy – the natural result of compassion – enabled me to realise that to some extent we’re all ‘victims’ of the life, choices made by others, by ourselves, but that it is okay to be human, to make mistakes, to be unsure, and that true strength to cope and live a happy life, may come from learning how to infuse your own life with compassion, accept your so-called ‘weaknesses’ and mistakes, and view others through that lens.

Practicing compassion

But how do you practice compassion? And in a way that a change of mind and attitude for the long-term? Practice is essential. Compassion isn’t an intellectual pursuit, or a hobby. It’s an exercise and practice for the heart. Not just once in a while. But daily, even moment to moment. Not by force. Only from the inside, by being authentic. One authentic act of compassion will unmistakably have a bigger and deeper impact, than ten thousand acts of forced niceness or pity or duty.  Because it is real. By being compassionate you’ll get a better sense of what’s real about another, and yourself. That is the beauty of the exchange.  In those moment(s) you’ll begin to be moved enough to look at things differently, the experience of which will motivate you to change and do things differently. But you have to practice.

This is why it is also really important to be compassionate to yourself. So, so, so very important. Imagine the heavy judgement that others feel when you unfairly label or criticize them, assuming you know everything about their life or the reason they are the way they are.  You don’t like it when others do this to you. And because it is a heavy burden when someone does this to you or vice-versa, we try to throw this off, but often by getting defensive, cross or angry. Or, if you demonstrate an uncompassionate attitude and behaviour to another, what false story they might begin to belief about themselves? What narrative is going to dominate their life? It has the tragic impact of making them less aware of the inner beauty and love that is really part of their character.

The same applies when someone shows you uncompassionate behaviour. Be compassionate to yourself as well in those moments. Imagine how tiring and what a burden it must be on your own mind and body when you ‘unfairly’ judge yourself or accept the lack of compassion shown by others to you. We’ve all been affected by that and the insecurity and anxiety it can breed. But you reinforce those judgements against yourself every time you engage in critical thinking that has no real basis in reality. A million thoughts must go through our heads every day; I wonder how many of those are not compassionate to yourself, let alone other people? (“I’m not good enough; I’m too fat, too different; too stupid; not a good person; don’t deserve it; not able or strong enough” etc, etc).

Eventually, these may lead to actions that are not compassionate, that are not loving to you or anyone else. There is an old quote, “watch your thoughts for they become your words, watch your words because they become your actions, watch your actions because this becomes your character, watch your character become this becomes your destiny.”  If you can begin to base your thoughts, words, actions on being more compassionate – to yourself and others – no matter the circumstances of life, and despite the circumstances of life – your character will eventually become more compassionate. The acceptance, clarity and positivity this will create will help make sure you stand a greater chance of your ‘destiny’ being a life characterised by possibilities and optimism,  instead of a life driven by anxiety and pessimism.

Show a man love and you will make him happy for a day. Teach a man compassion and he will know what love means, and understand how to be loving for life.

  • Try to eliminate labels and judgements

Start making a committed effort to watch the labels and judgements you make throughout each day. Those about yourself and those about people around you. Start with the people you come into contact with everyday. Might be at work, home, even the tube, gym, wherever! If you finding thinking self-critical thoughts about others, try and deliberately remind yourself that you don’t know the whole story behind why someone is behaving the way they are. I’d even recommend quietly verbalising this to yourself, I think it helps reinforce things and brings you back into the present. If you are criticising yourself, remind yourself that you have good qualities and begin remembering these instead. If you can spend some time deliberately thinking about what your good qualities are, even write them down on a pad, or better still on your mobile, so that when your mind goes A.W.O.L, you can easily read this and calm yourself down. Eventually remembering the good things about you will eventually become habit.

  • Replace reactive thinking with reflective thinking

Words and actions are extremely powerful. They can make or break lives. Between the two extremes what you say or do can be incredibly healing or incredibly destructive. We all react, especially when under stress or when we think we’re threatened by something someone has said or done. Try and carve out 10 mins of your day (or more) to reflect on where you’ve reacted to people and situations without care or consideration, instead of taking a moment to listen and observe what they’ve said or done, and resolving to think before you speak, or consider before you act. Again, apply this to how you’ve been thinking about yourself and what you’ve done to yourself today. Don’t get your knickers in a twist!

Where you have been impacted by something another has said or done to you, instead of lapsing into a mental loop of damaging thought or action, try not to react against yourself in this way. Step into your protagonist’s shoes – very hard! But do it and try and instead of attacking or reacting to them, leave them in their space and try and not analyse or judge their motivation for behaviour, at least for a short time. Sometimes it will be apparent why. Sometimes it will be a complete mystery, but can you capture the life, hopes, fears, history, culture and motivations of that person in a few seconds of judgement?  No.   Dare to pose the question to yourself, “…maybe there are reasons why this person behaved the way they did, that have nothing to do with me, nor are a true reflection of my worth. Maybe, the issue and reason is really with them?” Let them be, keep yourself compassionate, but with firm boundaries and be open minded about them.

  • Take some responsibility for uncompassionate behaviour

If you’ve found yourself reacting uncompassionately, whether to yourself or others, resolve to start doing something about this. If you’ve unconsciously or deliberately harmed another person, try and fix the situation. This doesn’t mean having to always rake up something that has happened – sometimes silence is, indeed, golden, but it could mean just altering how you will behave the next time you interact with another. Nor do I subscribe to the popular view that just because you have something to express, you always should.Keep it consistent to make real change real and believed and the other person will eventually get the idea and understand that you’re changing. 9 times out of 10, they will probably appreciate this and your relationship will likely improve. Actions speak louder than words. If you’re being uncompassionate towards yourself, again, take some responsibility for how to influence your own thoughts, words and actions, otherwise I guarantee you, nothing will ever change.

  • Go that extra step

Sometimes compassion really takes root when you take that extra step for someone, or go beyond what is required. Not out of pity or duty, but when this is based on genuine sympathy and empathy. Sometimes when you throw yourself into the maelstrom of someone else’s difficulty, it gives you the opportunity to empathise with another and this can be a valuable experience that shifts how you see life, others and yourself. This is a tricky one to get right, because you also need to let others get out of trouble themselves – especially if it is of their own making. When the need is genuine, respond. You can do this on a personal level with the people in your life, or even on a global scale (e.g. volunteering, charity). To paraphrase the Heineken lager slogan, “Compassion reaches the parts of you and others, that nothing else can reach.”

If you’ve liked what you read, do share with others by social media or word of mouth! Thanks

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