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Tuesday Tip: Break Down Barriers to Compassion

By The Healthy Minds Team

In this week’s Tuesday Well-Being Tip, expand your compassion beyond your family and friends.

Photo by Heather Morse on Unsplash

Whether your life has changed a lot or a little in the past 11 months of precautions against Covid-19 – it’s hard not to see that one thing a lot of us are sharing is a narrowing of our social circle and connections.

For many of us, traveling across the world, or even across town, used to allow us exposure to different types of people – or just people who were not living in our immediate household. We were able to expand our compassion because our circle was wider, just by the fact that interactions weren’t reserved for only those closest to us.

In addition, sometimes we create our own barriers to expansion when we avoid extending our compassion practice to individuals we find challenging. We hope no one suffers, but within our current well-being practices, how much is our focus on all beings? Not just those who we like, love or are in our closest circles. What about those we don’t like, we don’t see, we don’t even know?

Today’s Tuesday Tip is about breaking down these barriers and cultivating compassion for all. 

  • Let’s start small. First, focus on feeling compassion for yourself and those closest to you. Compassion is all about understanding that we, as humans, are united in our wish to avoid suffering. Start by reflecting on your own desire to avoid hardship in your life.  What are all the ways that compassion shows up in your life?  For instance, seeking support from a friend or partner in a time of need, or taking medicine when you’re sick. 

  • Next, expand to include people you care about – your loved ones, friends, and acquaintances.  They too want to be free of life’s challenges.

  • Let’s expand the circle to people we’ve been avoiding or ignoring lately – individuals who may have caused us pain in the past, or just push our buttons. People who would be part of our circle, if we didn’t have interpersonal challenges. We all have difficult chapters in our lives. We’ve all suffered. Some of us more than others. But no one is exempt. This is also true of the people we don’t like. The traits and actions you find annoying, or even harmful, may be rooted in deep emotional scars. That doesn’t justify anything, but it might just support your own compassion practice by giving you a new perspective. When other people are insulting, impatient, or overly critical, it usually has nothing to do with us. More often than not, moments of reactivity have roots deep in the past. While you cannot control them, or change the past – you can control how you react and if you cultivate compassion for this person or not. Bring to mind the fact that they have their own wounds and scars. Everyone suffers. Our compassion is rooted in our wish to be free from this suffering.

  • Let’s expand the circle even more to people we may never meet or ever see – all beings. Again, we’ll use the notion that we all share a wish to avoid suffering. Can you visualize individuals beyond your neighborhood to people across your country? What about people across the world? Can you wish them freedom from suffering as you “see” each new person, even animal, across the globe? If you’re having trouble, try thinking about the last place you were able to travel – and the individuals who live there. Can all beings be free from suffering? Can all beings be safe, happy and at ease? Try this 10 minute meditation for some guidance. 

Give this a shot for a few days. Keep trying to little by little expand your circle of connection. You can even join our founder, Dr. Richard Davidson, this Thursday, February 11 at 11 am CST, as he guides a live meditation on this topic of Widening the Circle of connection. Join a worldwide community as we expand our connections literally and figuratively in what will be a very meaningful practice.

Get more practices and tips by downloading the Healthy Minds Program App, freely available thanks to the generosity of our donors wherever you get your apps.

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