In the past few years we’ve seen a number of natural disasters. The latest being Hurricane Sandy and at the time of writing this post, we haven’t even seen the extent of damage that will occur. For those of us who aren’t in the eye of the storm, if we are mindful of it for a moment a naturally occurring healing element of compassion begins to emerge. Compassion is the feeling of imagining ourselves in another’s shoes with an inclination to help.
The Dalai Lama said, “It’s not enough to be compassionate, you must act.”
Here we are presented with that very opportunity not only for the healing of others, but perhaps surprisingly for ourselves too.
Engaging in compassionate action simply makes us feel connected to something greater than ourselves which ultimately gives us a sense of purpose and meaning in life.
This is a core element of feeling well.
First start by kindling that feeling by putting your judgments aside for a moment and engaging in the following practice of compassion:
Every day it seems to become more apparent to me how deeply healing a practice of self-compassion is. During the difficult moments in life at times it seems as if we’re wired to have a neural reaction of kicking ourselves while we’re down. The result? We stay down with a greater feeling of unworthiness, more hurt, bigger wounds and a bleeding heart. Life is harder from this place and makes us more prone toward stress, anxiety, depression, and addictive behaviors.
Self-compassion is a 180° shift when we understand that we’re wounded and extend ourselves in some way toward self-care.
Here’s a picture with a quote that speaks to this:
I was recently at a funeral of a family member and I was struck once again at the truth behind how life simply boils down to the goodness of a person. People at funerals don’t talk as much about the level of wealth, power or fame someone achieved, but more about who they loved and how they loved, and the rest of it just seems to fall by the wayside. This particular funeral was for a woman named Margie Lipman who also wrote an “Ethical Will” to convey what she learned in her 98 years to the rest of us. She shared this gift with me and because of its inherent wisdom I’d like to share it with you.
Here it is…
Often times the day seems to become routine and before we know it piles of responsibilities from work and home have stacked up and we feel like chickens running around with their heads cut off.
I suggest taking two minutes to practice The Now Effect video below 2-3 times a day for a week to come down from the busy mind, focus your attention, ground to the present moment and refocus to what you’re really intending to pay attention to in the moment. It may help t put it in your calendar at first.
When can you practice? Look for the “in-between” moments. These are moments before you are about to take a break or while you’re waiting for someone. As you get the hang of this you won’t need this video and can practice it when parked in the car, in the bathroom, or while waiting in line.
Note: When the mind says, “forget it, this isn’t going to work,” as much as possible, just note that judgment as a mental event in the mind that is happy to keep you at status quo. Your work is to become aware of these types of thoughts, let them be, and come back to this practice.
As children, we can’t help but get in touch with creativity, we’re starting to learn how the world works, everything comes from a beginner’s mind. As we begin practicing and repeating things, the brain eventually figures it out and moves onto the next thing. Eventually, our curiosity for most things fades away as life begins routine and we miss out on the possibilities around us. That is why I’m always impressed and inspired when I find someone who uses creativity as a modality for healing.
Today I wanted to bring to you a former New York television executive Deb Eiseman, who after suffering debilitating chronic pain after a car accident found healing through creativity. Her life has now been transformed from one riddled with chronic pain to feeling happy as an artist and designer. She contends that it was through finding her creativity that she was healed. Can we do the same?
Elisha: Can you tell us what role finding that little $2.98 water color set played in your healing?
Whether we’re struggling with stress, anxiety, depression, addiction, trauma or existential angst, most of us are looking for what really helps? To make any change we have to cultivate an awareness of what’s happening and in this awareness we access the possibility of choice to try something different. But while mindfulness is a simple practice, it’s not always so easy to practice it in our lives. Our mind pops up with reasons why we’re too busy, skeptical or just unmotivated.
Today I want to share with you some evidence that I find highly motivating to get us going with mindfulness, a new resource and offering to help us truly understand how to make mindfulness work in our lives, and a practice to get started now.
I received the following Daily Now Moment in my inbox today:
“It is not enough to be compassionate. You must act.” ~ Dalai Lama
Take some action with compassion today and remember, we are more connected than we know so a small gesture can have ripple effects across a multitude of people.
The recent post “The Science Behind Why Everything We Do Matters” received widespread attention and there’s a reason for this.
On the deepest level, we all want to believe that what we do matters and in fact it does. There’s actual science that shows how our acts have ripple effects across many people.
When people are experiencing compassion, the act of putting ourselves in another’s shoes with the inclination to help in some way, it’s associated with feeling good. There’s a shift in activity to the left prefrontal cortex which is also associated with a host of other positive emotions.
Cultivating the skill of compassion is beneficial to us individually, but as the Dalai Lama says, that’s not enough, “You must act.”
Here’s how you can start acting on your compassion:
Life is full of actions and reactions. This is what makes up the world around us from the trees we see, to the relationships that are kindled and to the babies that come from them. Every single thing we do matters. When Mahatma Ghandi said, “Be the change you want to see in the world,” underlying that was the simple assumption that everything we do matters. Now we know the science behind the wisdom of his words, and why it can not only help the world, but can have a significant impact on our mental health.
Part of understanding the science isn’t a whole lot different than the understanding of neuroplasticity. How we pay attention and what we pay attention to influences the way our