A Great Guest Post from Project Happily Ever After

July 9, 2010

I want to bring to you today another great guest post from a blog that I am subscribed to called Project Happily Ever After. It is entitled compassion.

Here is the link to the post;http://us.mc1128.mail.yahoo.com/mc/welcome?.gx=1&.tm=1278680759&.rand=0n1

Many of you experienced the power of compassion yesterday. You read that I was conflicted about this series. You wanted me to feel good about myself. You filled my inbox with encouraging emails and you filled yesterday’s post with encouraging comments.

Every single time I read one of your emails or comments, I smiled and I felt dang good.

But here’s the much more beautiful part of it all: I’m guessing nearly all of you felt dang good, too.

That’s the beauty of compassion. It spreads happiness.

Compassion brings happiness to you by lifting you out of a self-absorbed misery. And it spreads happiness to the object of your compassion, too. It’s completely circular and heart warming and beautiful.

And now I’m worried that I’m sounding like a flower child who has just smoked a joint and is considering skipping through a meadow filled with buttercups. Do I?

No matter. I’ll just keep writing.

Misery is Self Inflicted
My Dharma teacher tells me that anger, sadness and nearly every other negative emotion stems from one root cause: self absorption. Whenever we feel these emotions, our thoughts are dominated by the following pronouns: me, mine, myself, and I.

Anger = I’m not getting my way.

Envy and jealousy = I want that and they/you won’t give it to me! That should be mine.
Depression = Nobody loves me. Nobody appreciates me. Nobody gets me. Nobody gives me the love I want.

Frustration and Anxiety = I am uncomfortable. I’m afraid that I’m going to be uncomfortable.

Fear = I don’t want that to happen to me.

Most of us don’t like to think of ourselves as self-absorbed. At least I don’t. But if you pay attention to your negative mood states, you will find that they generally stem from an inner absorption. They are all about me, myself and mine.

Happiness, on the other hand, comes from outer-absorption. It comes from shifting the focus from “me” to “you.”

Here’s an example. A few days ago, I opened my credit card bill and found that we were still $10,000 in debt. I was frustrated, scared, and anxious. It seemed no matter how hard I tried to cut back expenses and pay down the debt, I couldn’t make much headway.

To take my mind off things, I watched God Grew Tired Of Us, which is a documentary about Sudanese Lost Boys. Let me tell you: if you ever need to put the small problem of a maxed out credit card into perspective, watch this film. By the end, I wasn’t thinking about debt or money. I was thinking about these poor lost boys and about how I could help them.

I’d broken out of the “me” obsession and I had shifted into a “you” mode.

That’s compassion, and that’s exactly what many of you experienced yesterday. You probably came to this blog in “me” mode, feeling sad or angry about something going on in your marriage. Then you read my post and you shifted into “you” mode. Then, at least for a few minutes, I’m guessing that your negativity completely vanished.

But Does Everyone Really Deserve It?
It’s easy to spread happiness to the people we love and feel good about.

It’s not so easy to spread happiness to, well, you know. Certain. People. Who. Shall. Not. Be. Named. (The first person who guesses what book/film I’m alluding to here gets a free signed copy of Queen of Your Own Life.)

But, let me tell you something: it’s downright freeing when you can get yourself to treat People Who Shall Not Be Named with compassion. Here are some strategies that have helped me, some of which I learned from my class and some of which I just made up:

Remind yourself that you, at times, are a Person Who Must Not Be Named to someone else. You probably don’t intentionally set out to be this person in someone else’s world, but it happens. And you are not a 100 percent bad person. (I would argue that you are not a bad person at all). You’re just human, and humans have a tendency to irritate other humans. Assume that the person you find hard to love is just a hapless human who is not intentionally causing you discomfort.

See it as a challenge. Can you be the person who somehow manages to make Ebenezer smile?

See it as a gift. Perhaps this difficult person has been sent to you just so you can grow in your compassion and become a happier person.

Have some pity. It’s the same negativity (anger, sadness, envy, etc) that you are trying to shed that tends to cause most people to behave in less than admirable ways. The most difficult people among us are boiling alive in their own self-created hell pots. The poor things. Being able to see the suffering of others is usually the first step in finding the ability to offer them your compassion and love.

Contemplate the unknown. Could this person really be a divine being (choose your own divine being from your personal religious practice) in disguise?

Create your own reality. You can choose to think whatever you want about whomever you want. You can choose to believe, for instance, that certain people are evil and unlovable. Or you can choose to believe that they deserve the benefit of the doubt. How you perceive other people and the world at large is your choice.

Visualize it. Each morning I bring anyone I find hard to love to mind, and I mentally wish these folks happiness. When I see such people face to face, it’s a lot easier for me to smile and treat them with compassion.

Trust the process. Even if you just can’t bring yourself to see someone as a person who deserves love, then just remind yourself that acting compassionately will help you to feel better, regardless of how it affects the other person. Spreading your compassion is both the most selfish and most selfless thing you can do, because it helps you and it helps the other person.

But What If …?
So I’m sure you’ve got a scenario in your mind—some sort of hypothetical situation that just blows this whole compassion theory to smithereens.

For instance, the first time I heard about it, I thought, “But what if I’m standing face to face with a serial killer and the serial killer says he wants to eat me for dinner, because eating me for dinner would make him very happy? Am I supposed to let him do it in the name of bringing happiness to others?”

The answer: No, I don’t allow him to eat me, but I teach him how to meditate. Or I show him this post. Or I tell him that I love him, and then I run for my life.

Anyway, the point is this: compassion is not the same thing as enabling. In fact, it’s the opposite. The idea that happiness comes from possessions—new cars, new purses, new houses, etc—is a delusion. The idea that happiness comes from having other people in our lives (ie. “I’ll be happy once he loves me” and “I’ll be happy once she’s my girlfriend”) is a delusion. The idea that happiness comes from achievements or job titles or making the bestseller list or eating a human being for dinner is a delusion.

Sure, some of those things might generate some fleeting pleasure. But nearly all of them—as my teacher likes to say—are like licking honey off a sharp knife. They are sweet, and then they hurt like hell. That’s not happiness.

Happiness is in the letting go. It’s found in the acceptance of suffering. It’s found in humility, patience and love.

It’s about spreading happiness to others. It’s not greedy. It’s not about me. It’s about you, and about how I can help you feel happy today, tomorrow and forever.

You can spread happiness to others in a myriad of very simple ways. It happens when you walk into a room with the belief that every single person in that room deserves to be happy just as much as you do. It happens when you call your mother out of the blue, just to make her feel loved. It happens when you kiss a child’s boo boo.

And when it happens, it feels good, and it feels good for a long, long time. It’s not bitter sweet. It’s just sweet. It’s not licking honey off a knife. It’s licking honey off a spoon.

It’s warm and it’s gooey and it’s light and it’s so powerful that it makes you cry.

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