Roadmap to Compassion: Fuel for Tough Times
Facing the unknown can be unsettling to say the least, and many around the globe are embarking on an era of uncertainty. The United States seems more divided than united, Brexit has turned the United Kingdom on its ear, and the Syrian refugee crisis continues to affect millions. Unfortunately, these problems are just the tip of the iceberg (the melting iceberg, might I grimly add).
Thanks to the power of compassion, you can weather these unprecedented storms with more grace and less anxiety. Researched-backed techniques for cultivating self-compassion and compassion-for-others can allow you to stay present and courageous.
Some people see compassion as a soft, new-aged, angel-winged, rosy-colored concept. That could not be further from the truth. Compassion means you are able to stay present with suffering, and, trust me, that is not for the faint of heart. When you are compassionate, you do not become overwhelmed, you do not run away, and you do not pretend the suffering doesn’t exist. Instead, you face what is happening with clear awareness, wisdom, and non-judgment; then you offer relief.
Compassion takes courage, and cultivating compassion involves a few important elements—mindfulness, self-compassion, common humanity, and wisdom. By practicing these four components that give compassion its horsepower, you will be better poised to face the uncertainty ahead.
1. Mindfulness: The Ignition
Because of the brain’s default-mode network, you are very likely spending most of your time thinking ahead or looking back. That’s the way you’re wired. If your mind is anxiously looking ahead or is hooked on regrets of the past, you are not in the present moment.
When you’re not in the present moment, you cannot possibly see the suffering surrounding you. You also don’t notice your own suffering. Compassion cannot emerge if you don’t see suffering. That’s why mindfulness is like the ignition of compassion.
Start your compassion engine by cultivating non-judgmental awareness of what’s happening around you and within you. Staying present to what is, instead of imagining what could be, could decrease your feelings of stress and anxiety.
Try this simple breath-focused meditation to help you cultivate mindfulness. This practice can be a one-minute reset or a longer meditation. Do what feels best for you.
- Begin by getting into a comfortable position that allows you to be both alert and relaxed. Close your eyes or look down and un-focus your eyes.
- Take three deep breaths, filling your lungs to capacity and exhaling until your lungs feel empty.
- Now breathe at a normal pace, noticing the feeling of your breath as it moves in and out of your nostrils. Let your breath anchor you. Each time your mind wanders (which it will), bring your awareness back to the feeling of the breath.
- After your set length of time (it may help to set a timer on your phone), you can slowly and gently bring your awareness back to the present moment.