3 Ways to Awaken your Heart to Compassion

If you ever feel overwhelmed by the suffering you see in the world, or even experience in your own life, awakening your heart forces is a key. When we open our heart through our spiritual practices, then we become active in transforming suffering.

If our heart is closed, we can feel isolated or disconnected from the rest of the world. Maybe even overwhelmed by all of the suffering we see and experience.

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In awakening your heart to compassion, not only is it helpful for the person suffering, but it can bring you to a place of peace and love.

Here are a few practices to help you find compassion within your heart, for yourself and others.
Just Like Me Practice
Ever have an experience where you can’t believe that a person would act that way or say those words?  It seems so………. fill in the blank………. rude, immature, incompetent, inconsiderate,…
Realizing that another person is “just like me” in some ways can help you to dissolve the feeling of separateness or disbelief.  It embraces what’s similar, what’s human, and helps to develop compassion for others in your life.

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I first heard of this practice from the Buddhist nun, Pema Chodron. She shares,

“It is a simple human truth that everyone, just like you, wants to be happy and to avoid suffering.Just like you, everyone else wants to have friends, to be accepted and loved, to be respected and valued for their unique qualities, to be healthy and to feel comfortable with themselves.Just like you, no one else wants to be friendless and alone, to be looked down upon by others, to be sick, to feel inadequate and depressed.

The equality practice is simply to remember this fact whenever you meet another person. You think, ‘Just like me, she wants to be happy; she doesn’t want to suffer.’

Here are the steps.

  1. Bring the person to your awareness as clearly as you’re able to. See that this person is a human being, just like you.
  2. Now repeat these phrases while thinking of the person.
    • This person has a body and mind, just like me.
    • This person has feelings, emotions and thoughts, just like me.

    • This person has experienced physical and emotional pain and suffering in life, just like me.

    • This person has at some point been sad, disappointed, angry, or hurt, just like me. (You can say these one at a time….)

    • This person has felt unworthy or inadequate, just like me. 
    • This person worries and is frightened sometimes, just like me.
    • This person has longed for friendship, just like me.
    • This person wants to be caring and kind to others, just like me.
    • This person wishes to be free from pain and suffering, just like me.

    • This person wishes to be safe and healthy, just like me.

    • This person wishes to be happy, just like me.
    • This person wishes to be loved, just like me. 

3.  Create your own “just like me” statements, as desired.

  • When he did ________ to me, he was looking for respect. Just like me.”
  • “When she said ________ to me, she was wanting to feel important. Just like me.”
  • “Just like me, he is afraid of being unloved and unlovable.”
  •  Just like me, just like me, just like me.​​

4.  Close the practice by sending wishes for the health and well-being to the person.

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Loving Kindness Meditation
You can use this simple meditation to practice compassion first for yourself, then for those you know, and then for others you may not know. You can also use this for someone who upsets or frustrates you.

  • Find a comfortable position and take a few deep breaths.
  • Next, repeat the following in your mind-

May I be filled with loving kindness.
May I be healthy.
May I be peaceful and at ease.
May I be happy.

  • As you say the words, imagine breathing warmth and compassion into your heart and breathing out warmth and compassion toward yourself.
  • Then, direct those same words to someone close to you, saying:

May you be filled with loving kindness.
May you be healthy.
May you be peaceful and at ease.
May you be happy.

  •  Finally, pick someone you don’t know well.  Either a person or a group. Maybe a neighbor or maybe someone very different from you. Again, repeat the words for this person or group:

May you be filled with loving kindness.
May you be healthy.
May you be peaceful and at ease.
May you be happy.

Breathing out Compassion
The Tibetan Buddhists have a practice that is called Tonglen which means “giving and taking.”  You use your breath to inhale the suffering of someone and to exhale compassion.

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  • Find a comfortable position and take a few deep breaths.
  • Bring to your mind a person who is suffering. Imagine the suffering as a dark cloud around the person.
  • Inhale, imagining you’re breathing in this dark cloud.
  • As you inhale, picture the dark cloud transforming into a warm, golden light of compassion in your heart.
  • Exhale this warm light of compassion toward this person to dissolve the suffering.
  • Repeat a few times – inhale the dark suffering, exhale the warm compassion.
  • When complete, take a few deep, cleansing breaths.

This practice can be very powerful.  Overwhelming for some people. Be attentive to how you feel and if you may need to stop.

Bringing practices such as these into your life can open and awaken your heart.  Not only are they helpful for the other person, but they can bring you to a place of peace and love, even in difficult times. And, in so doing, contribute to the health and healing in the world.

This is the 4th in my series on Radical Self-Care. Watch for more over the next few weeks!  You can also access an audio of a mantra for Krishna, the Hindu god that radiates love and compassion, here in my Free Healing Library to help you awaken your heart to compassion!