We would like to share seven compassionate acts, one for each day of the week, for you to try out this month. See if these make your week more enjoyable!
Really let yourself listen to someone, without interrupting, evaluating, or becoming distracted. Listen not only with your ears, but with your whole body. Face the other person directly. Let yourself feel and understand what the other person is going through. Truly give your undivided attention. Listening with your full attention is an expression of compassion. French philosopher Simone Weil wrote: “Attention is the rarest and purest form of generosity.”
MOVING WITH COMPASSION
Try bringing compassion to your daily commute. Today’s suggestion is to strive to be a calmer and more generous driver. Willingly allow cars to pass in front of you. If they need to change lanes, give them plenty of space. When you see a car, consider sending good wishes to the person inside, such as, “May this person be happy and safe.” If someone is rushing or driving rudely, give the driver the benefit of the doubt. What if he is rushing to meet a loved one at the airport? Getting medicine for his grandmother? We don’t know the whole story. A similar thought-process could be used while biking or taking public transportation. Bring a special regard for others, whether you are walking, riding a bike, commuting in a bus, or driving a car.
Bring attention to your own sensations today. If you are feeling discomfort or pain, allow yourself to feel a sense of warmth and concern for yourself. If you are feeling stressed, maybe find a way to self-soothe: consider taking a few deep breaths or stretching the neck and shoulders. At some point during the day, give yourself permission to do an activity you really enjoy and that is good for you, such as curling up with a book or going for a walk. Let the intention that drives these actions be one of self-care and kindness to yourself.
GIVE THE BENEFIT OF THE DOUBT
Today, when you are inclined to judge someone (for example, “What is that person wearing!” or “Well, wasn’t that rude!”), we suggest that you let yourself hold off on judgment, even if it’s for an instant. Acknowledge that you were being judgmental, forgive yourself, and then try to offer that person nonjudgmental kindness in your own mind. For example, replace, “Wasn’t that rude,” with “I hope that person is OK. I wonder if they are having a rough day.” See where this thought-process takes you.
Tune up your observation skills to recognize the intricate and virtually infinite network of events, people, and resources that make your day possible. Reflect on the people that grew and harvested the cereal or coffee that you savor in the morning. Observe the furniture you use and contemplate the intellect, creativity, and labor involved in transforming natural resources into objects that literally support your body in your daily activities. Bring to mind the invisible network of generosity that pervades and sustains your life on a day-to-day basis and allow yourself to feel a sense of gratitude. Maybe you can express gratitude to specific people who you might otherwise not acknowledge in the usual rush of the day. Take a moment to simply stop and say, “Thank you. I really appreciate that you can do this for me.”
LIVE BY A VALUE
At the beginning of the day, think of a value that is really important to you. This could be something general like “courage,” “kindness,” “perseverance,” “generosity,” or something specific like “being there for my family” or “taking care of my health.” Choose something that is personally meaningful. Spend 2-5 minutes writing about why this value is important to you and how you have demonstrated commitment to it in the past. As you go through the day, try to let this value guide your actions and decisions.
MAKE A SPACE BEAUTIFUL
Cleaning and organizing may not seem like compassion, but surrounding yourself and others with a cleaner and more beautiful space can be a compassionate act. Our mental space reflects and is reflected in the physical spaces that we inhabit. It can sometimes be hard to settle and focus the mind in a chaotic room, while a luminous, fragrant room can make us feel better. Today, make a space more beautiful, whether it is your room, your workspace, or a public space like a park or beach, and enjoy leaving the anonymous mark of a loving mind for the next person who uses that space. That person might even be you!
About the Author
Elizabeth Pyjov graduated from Harvard University in 2010, magna cum laude, with a degree in Romance Languages and Literatures and Classics as a secondary field. She has worked for the Global Justice in New York City, Italian television at RAI International in Rome, the United Nations in Geneva, and at the Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education at Stanford Medical School. Elizabeth is fluent in Russian, French, Italian, Spanish, and English. She successfully received the CCT certification from the Stanford Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education in June 2013. She taught Stanford’s Compassion Cultivation Training to students in and around Stanford in the Fall of 2013.