Mindfulness is the first step towards developing compassion

When I look at my Happiness Project resolution progress chart (now stuck the wall) I notice a distinct lack of ticks next to my most recent resolutions. Changing my attitude towards others is proving harder than adding daily walks or a 3 item to-do list.

Thinking about my resolution chart recently, I realised it’s an interesting tool to track where my focus is at in my life at each stage. At the moment it seems cultivating more love than annoyance is not top of my list. It’s true, I have a lot of work to keep me busy right now and add to sources of stress. When I’m busy, tired, anxious, stressed (being effected by any of the ‘negative’ states or emotions I’m more likely to be short with others); but if I can work to change that, I know I’ll be helping myself and those around me.

“One of the best ways to make yourself happy is to make other people happy. One of the best ways to make other people happy is to be happy yourself.” Gretchen Rubin

 

This month’s resolutions are making it crystal clear how easily I can default to an annoyed tone, especially with boyfriend. It’s usually not necessary and I don’t even realise I’m doing it until it’s too late. So what can I do? Be more mindful of my annoyed response whilst it’s still inside me, and check it. Which probably means think before I speak, or perhaps more accurately observe before I speak.

“I truly believe that compassion provides the basis of human survival, the real value of human life, and without that there is a basic piece missing” – The Dalai Lama

 

I know I can be very quick to judge, which is why I added my resolution to ‘replace judgement with compassion’ to this month’s list. I’ve been thinking about where my judgement stems from, and it’s usually a bias towards my way of doing things/being in the world. I judge others for not acting how I act, living how I live. Even though I consider myself a liberal person who values and acknowledges all the differences in the world.

Our Western society has developed to be a very individualistic one, with individuality and difference being praised whilst also judged, frowned upon and hated. It’s an interesting dichotomy.

The Dalai Lama speaks of building empathy as a way to develop compassion. If we look at others and focus on our common humanity, our desire for happiness and to not have suffering, then we can more easily develop compassion. This mindset is also, I think, a way to accept and embrace differences by coming from a perspective of ‘we are all human’ similarity.

“It is in the very nature of the mind to compare and judge and evaluate” – Jon Kabat-Zinn

 

Perhaps accepting that to be judgemental is a natural human tendency can help us be less so. One of the basic tenets of mindfulness is to pay attention and notice your thoughts and feelings as they arise. By paying attention we can more easily let go of any strong attachment to these things. So, on I mindfully go with this month’s resolutions to generally be a nicer person in my interactions with others.

About ecarr

Ellen is a writer and theatre maker who has just taken the freelance plunge after too many years of 9-5 office life. She is a yoga teacher in training and passionate about pursuing your dreams.

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