To Begin Skills of Compassion

In the last posting I mentioned the skills that are needed to become compassionate. It is rare for anyone to just “turn on” these skills and start being compassionate even though we innately all have these skills. Most of us have to learn and cultivate these skills. If we want to be compassionate we can begin with learning to be “present in the here and now. This is the very basic requirement one need to become aware of the “right concentration”, “the right action”, “the right livelihood”…etc and the best way to learn it is with the practice of meditation.

Meditation is just a tool for building concentration and learning to be in the present moment; but there is a lot of misconception about it and sometime it scare people; they think it’s some exotic eastern religious practice. It’s true that lots of eastern religions use meditation to further their spirituality, it is a very precious tool; and now has become integral part of religious practice but it is not a religion by itself.  If you decide to take up meditation in preparation for mindfulness the simplest one is the type where you sit down in a quite place and notice your own breath going in and out of your body. When the mind wonders off to daydream about something else and is no longer noticing the breath going in and out we gently notice this and ask it to come back again to noticing the breath. One can sit for 1-2 minutes to begin with and gradually increase it by few minutes every week until you have reached about half hour per day. The most important thing is to do it everyday without fail, even if it only for one to two minutes a day. Overtime you will begin to notice subtle changes, like the mind seeming to be more clear and uncluttered, allowing it “room” to be creative.

If you can find a teacher to teach you meditation, that would be the best way.  Resources on the “Youtube” may also be useful to begin the practice. I have posted one below.

Once the concentration improves and you start becoming aware of your own mind we can start cultivating other skills I mentioned.


Skills of Compassion.

In the last blog we looked at what it is to be compassionate. It is now time to look at the skills we need to be compassionate. Lord Buddha thousands of years ago recognized this and recommended the following. Science is now catching up and suggesting the same skills.

Skill 1. The right view is knowing that suffering is caused by viewing the world in a way that’s not serving us and causes us to live in an illusion. We have to remind ourselves that we are not independent of everything; we are dependent on animals, plants, earth, sun, moon, water for our survival and well-being. To be independent of all this would mean we are like god himself, omnipotent. We all know we are not and yet we behave and act like we are. When we truly realize that we are not independent our behavior may change in a way that’s respectful towards others and our environment; we may not pollute the earth and the air, we may look at our fellow humans as fellow travelers in the same boat; what frustrate our needs will also frustrate theirs.

Skill 2.  The right concentration is that which allows us to focus in a way that is life-giving or life flourishing for all rather than self-motivated focus that doesn’t account for the needs of others.

Skill 3. The right intention is when our sole intention towards everyone is to relieve suffering even though there may not be any benefit for us.

Skill 4. The right speech is a communication in a relationship which is non judgmental, comforting and helpful. Non-judgmental does not mean giving up discernment.

Skill 5. The right action is one where we strive to help satisfy human needs that is life-giving or helps us to flourish.

Skill 6. The right livelihood we are lucky if we are doing a job that is promoting healing and human spirit. There are some jobs that are very bad for human spirit and people doing them become numb and “hardened”. In these jobs there is little opportunity to show kindness, promote healing and human flourishing. These jobs are bad for those that do them and for the human spirit as a whole.

Skill 7.  The right effort we have to make the right effort and be dedicated to learning and practicing the skills of compassion.

Skill 8. The right mindfulness we have to learn to be present in the moment so that we are fully engaged in life and not dead in the past or not yet born in the future.


The Compassionate Mind  by Paul Gilbert

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