Last week was difficult to say the least with the shooting in Atlanta that left 8 dead and created ripples of suffering, sadness, and frustration within the community.
For all the contention and debate though, especially at the political level, about what to label these violent acts or the precise mechanisms driving them, I do not think anyone would find the following claim to be unreasonable: there hate in this world — the kind that is literally ending lives and leaving wide-spread feelings of immense suffering in its wake.
While I do not know exactly what path must be taken to arrive at a world with less hate and suffering, I am convinced that compassion and your cultivation of it will be essential to paving a way forward.
Emphasis on world — I’m not just talking about the work place, or home, or your community, I’m talking about all of it.
Today I would like to share with you what compassion is, some research to illustrate its significance (hyperlinked for more info), and hopefully provide you with sufficient reasons & clarity on next steps so that you can begin to actively cultivate more compassion, and so that together we may foster the condition that make a more kind, gentle, and loving world possible.
First, a definition to work with: compassion is the concern for the suffering or misfortunate of others (Oxford Languages).
From the growing volume of research on compassion, we know that:
Compassion is an important mechanism for our survival as a species.
Practicing compassion makes you happier.
Compassionate and empathetic work places tend to be more resilient.
And perhaps the most encouraging finding of all: your capacity for compassion, for the benefit of your happiness and the well-being of others, can be practiced and cultivated.
Compassion can be practiced in two ways: formally and informally.
In the same way dedicating time to go to the gym is good for developing strength, dedicating time to formally practice, to actively think in a compassionate way is key to becoming more compassionate. Here’s a free 30-minute practice developed by Dr. Helen Weng — the same recording used in her research that demonstrated measurable changes in the brain after just 2 weeks of daily practice: https://ggia.berkeley.edu/practice/compassion_meditation
Informal practice, which is just as important, can simply be about you resolving to be more kind to the people you engage with, to be more aware of their well-being and any sources of suffering they may be experiencing, and to act and speak in a manner that may relieve these sources of distress.
Like any worthwhile endeavor, cultivating compassion takes time and patience but it’s well worth it because there is a more kind, gentle, and loving world waiting for us at the other end of it.