Would you like to grow more compassion in your life?
– to feel more compassionate toward yourself?
– to expand your ability to be kinder to those around you and to yourself?
I invite you to join me in experimenting with ways to practice compassion in 2014. Each month, we will share ideas for nurturing compassion. Please bring your own favorite tips to the “Comments” section.
In my experience, the dual aspects to compassion are that the more of it I have for myself, the more I have for others. The flip is also true: the more compassion my heart feels for others, the more I feel for myself.
First, below is a list of sample signals that could be helpful in recognizing it’s time to boost compassion. Then, you will find practices you can engage to increase your compassion and self-compassion.
Signals my compassion is low:
- feeling stress
- hearing the inner critic judging me or someone else
- feeling unworthiness, low self-esteem, or anger
Practices to Cultivate Compassion:
- Dial-it-down – I imagine there is a circular dial in front of me. You might imagine a digital version. While this can be done completely in your mind’s eye, I like to move my fingers as if I am actually turning a knob in a counter-clockwise direction. Two months ago, this method was shared with me and I began doing it. My critical mind had all sorts of comments on how it surely was not going to work. To my delight, it worked like a charm, from the beginning. I used it with whatever uncomfortable emotional state showed up (annoyance, resentment, anxiety, anger, sadness). I dialed each down to almost zero – – not sure why I didn’t use zero. Each time, the intensity lessened within moments. I could hardly believe it could be so simple.
- Dial-it-up – I shared the good fortune by telling friends about the dial-it-down approach. One of them wondered out loud about experimenting with a dial-it-up version of an uplifting emotion. Voila, here was another success! I use it with compassion, patience, kindness, peace, joy. Often, right after I dial down one, I dial up another. What would you like to dial up? to increase?
- Let your heart feel what is here – To start, for 7 days, set aside 10 quiet minutes a day to focus on whatever your heart is feeling. At the end of each session, I recommend jotting a few phrases about what you experience. When the 7 mini-sessions are completed, ask yourself if you feel a bit less stressed, more playful, kind, compassionate, grateful, and/or patient. If your answer to any of these questions is affirmative, I suggest you make a new agreement with yourself to continue practicing a certain number of days.
- Compassion journal – Consider starting a compassion journal. It can be a 3-dimensional notebook, or it might be a file on your smart phone, tablet, or computer. The important part of this for me is that whatever I choose is easy and quick to access. I often use a word or phrase to capture how I have experienced a moment of compassion. For instance, the doctor I took my father to yesterday spoke with much warmth in his voice (Dr., warm voice). Last week, I smiled at the supermarket cashier and asked when she got off work that day. When our eyes met, I felt a surge of contact with her. (Cashier, our smiles, contact). Reading over the journal entries from days ago also increases my experience of compassion.
What actions have helped you grow compassion in the past? Keep me posted on your adventures in your compassion garden.