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A Day Of Compassion

Posted Jun 13 2009 12:17am

"If you want others to be happy, practice compassion.  If you want to be happy, practice compassion."            ~The Dalai Lama~

    What would happen if you set aside a whole day to really focus on treating others and yourself with compassion?  It's always interesting, at any rate, to spend a day behaving consciously.  When you pay attention to your first instincts, you may learn something about yourself.  Sometimes it makes you feel relieved, but other times it can make you cringe.  Consciousness could save the world at large, and individuals a lot of pain and problems. 
    Let's think about the petty aggravations in a typical day.  You wake up and see that your husband didn't start the dishwasher so you're faced with a machine full of stinky, sticky dishes.  Maybe your first thought is that he never does what you ask him to.  Is that really true?  If you allow that thought to remain it will affect the way you greet him when he stumbles out of the bedroom all smiley and happy to see you.  You'll probably greet him with a list of grievances that have all been stirred up just because he forgot to push a button. 
    One of my pet peeves at work it that the person who usually arrives after me walks in and doesn't say hello.  I know it's going to happen every day and I let it bother me.  After all, she's being rude, isn't she?  Maybe she just isn't a morning person.  Maybe no one in her family spoke much in the morning, so that's normal for her.  When she finally does greet me about 5 minutes after she arrives, she's pleasant.  I'm the only one who suffered.  If I thought about it compassionately I could have avoided that angst.
    We have a patient who is always a curmudgeon.  Every time.  No one likes to work on him because he's either silent or if he speaks, he's curt and complaining.  I finally remarked on it one day.  I said, "You always seem so unhappy to be here, did you have a bad experience at the dentist when you were younger?"  He looked surprised and then his face relaxed and he said, "I deal with terrible depression every day of my life.  Most days it's all I can do to get out of bed."  He seemed relieved to be able to explain, as if he knew we must be noticing, but couldn't let us know what was behind his demeanor.  Now that I know, it's just a part of him that I accept. I don't dread working on him anymore.  I don't try to make small talk with him because I know it just wears him out.  I don't try to joke him out of it, but I treat him respectfully and with care.  I always did, but my knowing seems to make him more able to accept my treatment of him. I treat him with compassion, not pity and that makes a  difference.
     Acting with compassion helps us to stop expecting everyone to be perfect.  Your boss doesn't compliment you enough?  Maybe he has the worry of the world on his shoulders.  You don't know what goes on in his home, what's happening with his kids, what patient he's worried about.  Your co-worker is slacking off?  Maybe her mother is starting to show the first signs of Alzheimer's.  She may not have even admitted it to herself yet, so how can she explain it to you?  Just do what needs to be done and don't worry about whether anyone will ever notice that she's not doing everything she should.  Make it a gift to show thanks for not having any big problems in your own life.  Stop analyzing everyone else's behavior and coming up with problems.  If you must analyze, do it with compassion.  It will change your, and their lives.
    Spend a day checking your thoughts and conversation for compassion.  It's only one day, if you don't like it, you don't have to keep doing it.  Resist the urge to react hastily.  Give someone the benefit of the doubt.  Say a kind word in response to a hurtful one.  What do you have to lose?  It might just make you and every one around you, happy.

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