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Do You Want to Be Happy? Practice Compassion

Updated on June 21, 2014
Compassion for others will change your life, even if you can't comprehend the circumstances
Compassion for others will change your life, even if you can't comprehend the circumstances | Source

Compassion for Others: Pain that Leads to Fulfillment

We're on our way to pick up groceries, my toddler chattering happily in her car seat.

Meanwhile, NPR reports the details of a humanitarian crisis that is a result of Syria's civil war. The number of refugees who have registered with the United Nations has exceeded the one-million mark. Half of this group is made up of children.

A woman describes the refugee camps' harsh conditions: snakes, scorpions, freezing cold temperatures with no heat. But after months of listening to the terrified screams of their children as bombs tear apart neighboring homes, these inhabitants gladly endure the discomfort.

I imagine at once what it would be like if those children were my own. The building around us shaking as bombs explode on our street. Gruesome sounds of death surrounding us on all sides. And there's nothing I can do to make it better or keep them safe.

The truth is, I can't imagine what it's like.

Still, tears well up and a pain grows in the pit of my stomach.

Compassion is altogether painful and comforting, like a hot bath on a cold day.

Being affected by others' suffering reminds us that we're not alone, that we're all connected, that we're all human.

"If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. if you want to be happy, practice compassion" -Dalai Lama XIV

War Child International

"War Child was founded upon a fundamental goal: to advance the cause of peace through investing hope in the lives of children caught up in the horrors of war and currently consists of three implementing offices: War Child Holland, War Child North America and War Child UK."

The Night Sky - Keane

One day I will be back in our old street,
Safe from the noise that's falling around me.

And we'll release this town from the people
Who are trying to knock it down,
And then only city lights will brighten the night sky
And there will be no sound.

Open the bars and open the markets;
Open the banks and open the churches.

And we'll release this town from the people
Who are trying to knock it down,
And then only city lights will brighten the night sky
And there will be no sound.

We've been cowering so long
Oh, what I would give.
I ask so little
But oh, what I would give
To stand at the bus stop,
Or browse in a bookshop,
To sleep and always be still!

And we'll release this town from the people
Who are trying to knock it down,
And then only city lights will brighten the night sky.

And I will be set free from the people
Who are trying to bury me,
And then only fireworks will light the sky at night
For all the world can see.

Meditation: Creating Compassion for Others

Now, I can ignore the world's tragedies with the best of 'em.

Sadly, I'm not always so moved by the injustices of the world. I say "sadly" because I would be a happier person if I were always compassionate. You can't be happy without compassion and genuine concern for others.

And like every other human being on earth, I want to be happy.

So how do we generate more of that compassion that makes us happy?

Studies show that meditation is an effective way to become compassionate and gain happiness.

Brain scans of Buddhist monks, taken along with those who don't meditate, led to an amazing discovery: Areas of the brain that are responsible for generating compassion are far more active in brains of those who meditate regularly.

The Buddhist meditation for generating compassion is simple: as you sit in meditation, picture a person you love unconditionally. Then picture strangers all around you--people you've never met. Try extending the love you have for your favorite person out to those you don't know, and even to those you don't like.

Everyone is someone's child. Everyone has hurts and hopes and a desire to be happy. Wish for every good thing to come to all people, and your compassion for others around you and beyond will flourish.

"A human being is a part of the whole called by us "Universe", a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings as something separated from the rest--a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty" -Albert Einstein

Compassion, Inc.

Do colorful ribbons and greenwashing really help make the world a better place, or merely line the pockets of corporate giants?

Compassion, Inc.: How Corporate America Blurs the Line Between What We Buy, Who We Are, and Those We Help

Charity: Exercising Compassion for Others

Here in America, we view charity as the donation of money or material goods to help others.

In reality, charity is much more than something you can grasp in your hand. Our responsibilities as human beings don't end after a check is signed.

Imagine if each and every one of us woke up each morning wishing for peace for our neighbors, not only those next to us but also to those who live around the world. Can you fathom the positive energy and peace that would be felt everywhere?

Everyone encounters positive and negative energy on a regular basis. We have all walked into work and felt the tension on a day when the boss is in a bad mood. It's contagious, isn't it? Eventually, everyone is angry and on edge.

But what about the days when the boss is in a good mood. Or even better, she didn't even come in that day? Everyone is positive, laughing, enjoying a little extra time for coffee and chatting.

If we consciously worked to promote this positive energy, could it create an impact on lives that would extend beyond our borders? I believe it would.

Wake up in the morning with thoughts, prayers, and meditations filled with love and wishes for peace around the world. These are acts of charity that can make a difference that's more powerful than any material donation.

"Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle." -Plato

Mindful Suffering: Radiating Compassion for Others

Everyone suffers. Every single person in the world.

Some suffer to a greater extent than others, but that doesn't mean each individual's suffering isn't real.

There are those who are starving, but that doesn't mean you don't get hungry. There are some who endure incredible physical pain, but that doesn't mean your headache doesn't hurt. Some live in harm's way each and every moment of the day, but this doesn't mean your fears aren't real.

Use your moments of suffering as opportunities to send out compassion for others.

  • When you're hungry, be one with those around the world who are forced to scavenge through garbage for food.
  • When you feel physical pain, remember that there are many who don't have access to common pain relievers found in your corner drug store.
  • When life's uncertainties cause you fear, send thoughts of peace to those who see terrorists roaming the streets right outside their windows.

In other words, make compassion a habit. It will change your soul.

A little girl calling on all Syrian children outside Syria to help and support those children trapped inside under Assad regime.
A little girl calling on all Syrian children outside Syria to help and support those children trapped inside under Assad regime. | Source

Compassion is More Powerful than Comprehension

I'm not even going to pretend, as I sit here in my Florida apartment, that I can even comprehend the suffering endured by millions of people who are stuck at the center of civil war.

That would be insulting.

But I can wake up in the morning and wish for peace to those who suffer. When my heart aches after my little girl scrapes her knee, I can reflect on the photograph of parents who carried their daughter's limp, wounded body to the hospital. When I sit in silence on my bed at the end of the day, I can send positive thoughts to those who aren't able to enjoy a restful night.

And this compassion for others will generate happiness, for myself and eventually for the world around me.

Thank you for sharing your thoughts!

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    • Radcliff profile image

      Liz Davis 4 years ago from Hudson, FL

      Thank you, Eddy! Have a good one.

    • Eiddwen profile image

      Eiddwen 4 years ago from Wales

      So very interesting and one for me to vote up.

      Here's to so many more to follow.

      Enjoy your weekend.


    • Radcliff profile image

      Liz Davis 4 years ago from Hudson, FL

      What a beautiful way to put it, pstraubie48. Thank you for your thoughtful comment and for the angels!

    • pstraubie48 profile image

      Patricia Scott 4 years ago from sunny Florida

      Absolutely. You cannot fully comprehend what another endures but you can feel compassion. Everyone has their own personal issues that cause them physical and emotional pain..everyone..and no one's pain is worse than another's. But having that little voice that causes us to reach across the miles to others or across the room to others even as you endure whatever burden you are facing makes so much difference in the long run.

      It makes a difference in the lives of others and it makes a difference in your life too.

      thank you so much for sharing this.

      Angels are on the way to you this afternoon. ps

    • Radcliff profile image

      Liz Davis 4 years ago from Hudson, FL

      Absolutely, WiccanSage. I wrote a hub on the subject of turning self-pity into self-compassion. People tend to think that they're showing themselves compassion by feeling sorry for themselves, but that's far from true. Recognize your human-ness and you will be able to extend that understanding to others, as well. Thank you for your thoughtful comment!

    • WiccanSage profile image

      Mackenzie Sage Wright 4 years ago

      This is a beautiful hub and I can see your passion for the topic shining right through your words. Another way I find learning compassion helps a person is that when you learn to be more compassionate towards others, you start extending it to yourself as well. So many people suffer from depression, are insecure and overly-critical of themselves; not that anyone should feel sorry for himself, but people need to be more forgiving of their own faults and mistakes. Great job and so much food for thought here.

    • Radcliff profile image

      Liz Davis 5 years ago from Hudson, FL

      So true, Chitrangada! I believe that compassion leads to charity, and true charity leads to action. If we exercise compassion on a regular basis and continually remember others who suffer, we will be compelled to act and physically help those who need it. Thank you for your kind words and for sharing your thoughts!

    • ChitrangadaSharan profile image

      Chitrangada Sharan 5 years ago from New Delhi, India

      You simply and truly touched my heart, by this hub.

      I do believe that most of us are compassionate. Any suffering, anywhere makes us sad and we do pray for the human sufferings to end, whether we know that person or not, whether we belong to the same country or not....

      At the same time, compassion does not mean offering charity only. Our responsibilities as a compassionate person does not end there. How much we can actually do to end the sufferings is something to ponder about.

      Thanks for this beautiful hub.

    • Radcliff profile image

      Liz Davis 5 years ago from Hudson, FL

      Thank you, bravewarrior! I love that pen name, by the way :)

      One of Lama Yeshe's books (that I posted in the article) talks about how charity goes beyond the material sense of the word, and how money isn't even the best form of charity. It really hit home because I think we often throw money at problems to appease our guilt or make us feel as though we've done something great. We tend to forget about the suffering of others as if we've already done our part in helping them by sending a couple of bucks their way.

      Thank you for the comment and the kind words!

    • bravewarrior profile image

      Shauna L Bowling 5 years ago from Central Florida

      This is an amazing hub, and so well written. What you say is true about sending out positive thoughts. You brought the concept home when you spoke of the tension or ease felt in the workplace depending on someone's mood. Or better yet, not showing up! I have experienced both sides of the coin, as I'm sure we all have.

      I love the concept of collectively sending positive energy throughout the world. It makes perfect sense and doesn't cost a dime!

    • Radcliff profile image

      Liz Davis 5 years ago from Hudson, FL

      Thank you very much. I definitely agree with you--a lack of compassion is at the root of all our problems today.

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 5 years ago

      Great article and so well written. Compasssion is one of the greatest virtues man can hold and live.

    • Radcliff profile image

      Liz Davis 5 years ago from Hudson, FL

      Thank you so much, Pamela. It is especially difficult to see children suffer in such unthinkable ways. As I looked for photos to put in this Hub, I saw images that literally made me break down and sob. There's not much you and I can do physically, but we can send our thoughts and prayers, and I for one believe in the power of these actions. I appreciate your comment!

    • Pamela99 profile image

      Pamela Oglesby 5 years ago from United States

      This is an awesome hub on charity. It is good to remember how blessed most of us are in our daily living compared to so many who suffer horribly. It brings tears to my eyes to think of suffering children and I pray for them all. You wrote this hub in such a beautiful way. Voted up and awesome.

    • Radcliff profile image

      Liz Davis 5 years ago from Hudson, FL

      Thank you so much, pstraubie48! I think of that John Donne quote often. I appreciate your beautiful words, the sharing, and the angels :)

    • pstraubie48 profile image

      Patricia Scott 5 years ago from sunny Florida

      Liz, you have written so poignantly of our connection to one another. As John Donne wrote..."No man is an island..."

      We are all interconnected and what diminishes one, diminishes each of us.

      Extending compassion brings us full circle in our relationship to one another.


      Voted up, sharing and ++++

      Angels are on the way to you this afternoon. :)ps

    • Radcliff profile image

      Liz Davis 5 years ago from Hudson, FL

      Geez Louise, Billy. You're fast! Thanks for the kind words and the share.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Wow! Lizzy, this is your best work by far. What a beautifully constructed article and the message is right on! Compassion = Happiness. I am moved by this....sharing on H.O.W.


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