Thursday, August 08, 2013

Compassion is Not Kumbaya

“Love and compassion are necessities, not luxuries. Without them, humanity cannot survive.” ~ Dalai Lama
“If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other.” ~ Mother Teresa
“It is easy enough to be friendly to one's friends. But to befriend the one who regards himself as your enemy is the quintessence of true religion. The other is mere business.” ~ Mohandas Gandhi 
"Our human compassion binds us the one to the other - not in pity or patronizingly, but as human beings who have learnt how to turn our common suffering into hope for the future." ~ Nelson Mandela
I'm passionate about the work of nonprofits, socially responsible businesses, and activists, but lately I've been feeling like in order to solve our world's challenges, we need to do more. We need to change who we are on the inside, as well change as our systems, laws, policies, and businesses.

How do I change?

I can be a very judgemental, angry and self-centered person who would prefer to do things her way. It feels safer that way. To be compassionate, kind, generous, and collaborative feels like a bigger risk. To love is to be vulnerable.

It is a challenge for me to not judge someone who doesn't believe in gun control, or not be angry with the corporate customer service rep who can't answer my question because he needs to keep to a script, or not be selfish when I'm worried about finances, or be collaborative when I'm sure I know the best way. Those feelings come easily. They feel natural.

How do we change?

How do we make a cultural shift so that being compassionate, kind, generous, and collaborative are something we all aspire to practice each day? Not because we want to be "good," or because our religious or spiritual beliefs tell us we "should," but because we know in our hearts that it is what we need to do at this moment in history.  Because we know that being more compassionate, kind, generous, and collaborative every day is a practical practice we need to survive.

Judgement, anger, selfishness, and independence have their roles to play, but it feels like as a culture we're tipped too far away from values that may be viewed as old-fashioned, do-goody, or religious when in fact they are just plain essential.

How do you remember to be your kinder self?

Over time I've found that certain things help me to be a kinder, more compassionate, generous and collaborative person: meditation, exercise, eating healthy food, reading inspiring books, spending time with kind-hearted people, being in nature, creating things (e.g. cooking, crafting, blogging, podcasting), being exposed to new people, places and ideas, and being of service (e.g. volunteering). Sometimes the effect lasts a few hours. Sometimes a few days. Sometimes it's easier to remember to be my kinder self. Sometimes it's not.

It's a practice.

A practical practice.

For my happiness, and the happiness of others.

All photos are from Wikimedia Commons: Mother Teresa, Mohandas Gandhi, Dalai Lama, Nelson Mandela.


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  1. You probably already know about Michelle Murrain's new compassionate conversations project but if not I think it will be fascinating to follow and is right in line with your post here.

  2. Hi Heather,

    I didn't know about them. Thank you!

  3. Britt - Sande Hart is spearheading California becoming a "state of compassion" by engaging one city at a time.

    1. Hi Mary Clare,

      I didn't know about this initiative either. Thank you!

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