I possess a natural empathy and a desire to help people; whether that is to help ease the pain of chronic tension, to soothe the muscles following over-exertion or simply to relax and take away anxiety. I treat people holistically and as individuals

Amy Phillips - 07800 636266

Dekker Road, Dulwich Village. London. SE21 7DJ

thedulwichtouch@me.com

Friday, May 31, 2013 Wellbeing

Cultivating compassion

“If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion.” - Dalai Lama

Compassion is a feeling of deep sympathy and sorrow for someone struck by misfortune, accompanied by a desire to alleviate the suffering. Similar to empathy, it is an emotional reaction to other people and the problems that they face. Compassion requires empathy and understanding and it tends to go hand in hand with action. We empathise with a person, which brings about a feeling of compassion- this feeling urges us to act in a helpful way in order to try to alleviate their suffering. Cultivating compassion in your own life is a powerful way of helping, not only yourself, but those around you and the world as a whole. As every human being is capable of suffering, it is important that others recognize this. There is interdependence between all beings and the more we can recognize that we all have equal importance and an equal right to achieve happiness and relieve suffering, the happier everyone will be.

With the recent attack on a soldier in Woolwish, there have been many who are calling for a return of the death sentence for the perpetrators, and this has saddened me. How will more deaths help anyone? Does this type of revenge help the family of the man who was killed? I doubt it. I totally agree that what those men did was terrible, but from a compassionate perspective, for them to feel the necessary hatred to carry out such an attack, they must be suffering deeply. If we can help them to find happiness rather than punishing them, perhaps everyone would benefit. Of course it’s not that simple in such a case, but hatred and anger I am sure will not achieve any good.

Why should I cultivate compassion?
On a micro level, cultivating compassion is a way to make ourselves and others feel happier. There is a sense of achievement whenever our words or actions have a positive influence on somebody else so that not only does the recipient feel happier, but also the giver.
There is also scientific evidence that those who practice acting compassionately produce 100 % more DHEA, which is a hormone that counteracts the aging process, and 23 percent less cortisol, which is commonly known as the stress hormone. Sometimes it really does pay to act with selflessness.

How to cultivate compassion:
Spend time with the idea of compassion on a regular basis and meditate on it. Think of all the people you encounter, there are people you know and love, strangers who you may see but never speak to, and those you feel anger or hatred towards. Think about them all as the same. Of course they are all different too, but fundamentally all human beings strive for the same things and this is the key to compassion- the deep realization that we are all the same. Even the people we hate, the people who have done wrong to us or loved ones, or even those who have harmed whole populations such as terrorists or dictators. It may be more difficult to do this, but perhaps these are the most important people for us to feel compassion for. Anyone who wishes harm on another must be suffering in some way…if we act compassionately towards them we may help to alleviate their pain and stop them wishing to harm others. Compassion is very cyclical.

The other reason why this could be important for us is that holding onto the negative emotions of anger and hate will only damage us. The Buddha said: Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one who gets burned. The more we feel compassion, the less we will succumb to the powerful forces of anger and hatred. This doesn’t mean that we will never encounter them, but we will be better equipped to identify them and combat them with the equally powerful force of compassion.
I had been practicing the Buddhist meditation of loving kindness, the Metta Bhavana, which is aimed at cultivating compassion, for around 8 months when my flat was burgled. I was deeply upset by this, particularly as I was in the flat at the time, and of course there were many ‘what if’s’ and I felt as though the safety of my home had been invaded. I could feel anger rising deep inside me towards the person who had done this and this was fuelled by my husband’s even stronger anger when I told him. It wasn’t long before I recognized what was happening, and that the negative forces of my anger were doing far more damage to me, than the burglar who actually did. I sat in meditation and practiced the metta bhavana, aiming it at the burgler. My anger dissipated and calm returned…all in 20 minutes of compassionate cultivation.

There are many different ways of meditating on compassion, and the metta bhavana takes practice for those not accustomed to Buddhist meditation, but a simple variation is as follows:
1) Sit comfortably, in a chair or cross-legged on the floor, relax, yet keep your spine straight and your eyes facing forwards. Close your eyes. Imagine wishing happiness on someone. Concentrate on your heart and try to really feel that wish for happiness.
2) Concentrate that happiness on yourself. Imagine yourself relaxed and smiling. Do this for a few minutes (or longer). If you cannot concentrate or find visualization difficult, try repeating to yourself: May I be well, may I be happy. Try not to let the words repeat without meaning, really feel that you believe what you say.
3) Try the same for someone you know and care about, perhaps someone who actually is suffering. May they be well, may they be happy.
4) Now for someone you don’t know, and have no strong feelings towards. Someone you passed in the street or who served you in a shop. May he/she be well…
5) Now move onto someone you don’t like, who may have harmed you or others, someone you dislike or even feel anger/hatred towards. May he/she be well….
6) The final stage is to wish the whole world well, start by imagining your community, may they be well…then your country…continent….eventually imagine the whole earth being well and being happy.

This is a very peaceful and powerful meditations practice and whether you do it for 10 minutes or 30 minutes, try to do it regularly. Try the morning and try the evening and see how different they feel…find what works best for you!
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