Compassion is one of the subtle yet profound feelings in the world. This simple human emotion springs out of love and each one of us is born with it. Whether you smile at people with kindness or accept yourself at the end of a bad day, it is a sign of compassion which is hidden deep down in our hearts otherwise.
It is believed that compassion can elevate your happiness, help you build loving relationships, and aid in developing deeper connections with people around you. Researches also enumerate its other benefits like boosting health and longevity, acting as an antidote to depression, making you less self-critical and more self-confident as well as more resilient.
Sages of ancient lore even regarded the feeling essential to spiritual progress. In the Patanjali Yoga Sutras, it is recommended to have compassion towards the sorrowful in order to keep the mind peaceful and united with the Self. In the Ashtavakra Gita, it is proclaimed to be one of the five elixirs for attaining freedom.
Now, you may wonder how to be compassionate to live a better life. Studies show that stress is the main factor that makes compassion hard to practice.
Well, worry not, with some slight tweaks and the right perspective, you can start inculcating the habit of being compassionate and enjoy a more profound way of living.
Compassion is not making somebody a culprit and then saying, “Okay, I forgive you.” That’s not compassion. Your forgiveness should be such that the person who is being forgiven does not even know that you are forgiving them. They shouldn’t even feel guilty for a mistake. That is the right type of forgiveness.
~ Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar
How to develop compassion?
Start with self-compassion
It always begins with the self. You being compassionate to others while being harsh on yourself won’t make you a kind person. Studies show how you treat yourself greatly affects how we treat others. So, the first step towards a kinder self is to be kind to yourself.
Start by not carrying any guilt.
As Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar says, “A mistake happens through you when you are not conscious, when you are in ignorance. So, you are not responsible, it is the ignorance that was responsible.”
Instead, accept yourself, relax, and gain awareness. With awareness, you can dwell in knowledge and this will help you avoid making mistakes.
De-stress with yoga
Yoga is a time-tested, backed-by-science way to reduce stress. Reducing stress increases your energy levels and brings you to your natural self – a state full of compassion and love. Studies also show practicing any form of mindfulness makes one more compassionate. So, remember to add a handful of mindfulness in your yoga practice.
Give room to the person
We all come with different backgrounds, experiences, and emotional baggage. A persistently harsh boss is definitely an outcome of his / her past experiences. Whether you meet someone harsh or someone in need, remember they could be a victim of circumstances. The thought will instantly make you compassionate towards a person.
Do random acts of kindness
Include kind actions in your routine. Be it a kind smile, helping your colleague; try to include such kind gestures in your life consciously. Eventually, it will become a habit. You can also reach out to people in need. Donate to an NGO or volunteer at one.
Be in the right company
One tends to catch on the qualities of the company they keep. Company of the wise and compassionate instills similar values in you. So, make a conscious effort to be in their company.
Know that you already have it
To inculcate a virtue, you must assume that you already have it. But, for the virtue of compassion, you can even skip assuming and rather be confident that you possess it. Studies show that children as young as two years old exhibit qualities of altruism.
This shows that you were born kind-hearted. As life went by, you simply unlearnt your godly attribute. However, with a few practices and change in perspective, you can return to your innate state of compassion and love.
(With inputs from Prashant Lalchandani, faculty, Art of Living)