At the Mindfulness Association, compassion is at the heart of all that we do. This is why we began on 16th March a daily online practice and chat, facilitated by one of our tutors, to support those feeling in need of support during the current coronavirus crisis. Here is the link to join us any evening (https://zoom.us/j/606060739) and our plan is to keep this going every evening until the crisis is over.
Our working definition of compassion is attributed to the Dalai Lama and is as follows:
“A sensitivity to the suffering of ourselves and others along with a deep desire to relieve that suffering.’
There are two aspects to this definition, the first is a turning towards and being with difficulty, and our mindfulness and acceptance practice helps us with this. This involves becoming sensitive to our own suffering and from seeing clearly what causes us to suffer, a sensitivity develops to the suffering of others.
The second aspect is to cultivate the resources to turn towards what is difficult without becoming reactive or overwhelmed. There are many ways to cultivate inner resources of compassion, resources of warmth, strength, wisdom and stability. And this is what many of us need now, in order to not be overwhelmed by the current crisis. If we become overwhelmed, we disempower ourselves and will find it more difficult to take care of ourselves and those around us. So how not to be overwhelmed?
One way is to cultivate cheerfulness as a way of life. We can do this by practicing gratitude and appreciation. The mind has a negativity bias and so in order to overcome this we have to be quite disciplined in our practice. Every day and repeatedly we can appreciate all the good things in life and be grateful for all the good things we have in our life. But this takes discipline.
Here are some ideas:
- Each morning, when you wake up bring to mind three things that you are grateful for in your life. They can be big things such as some of our loved ones or small things, such as a comfy bed or a cup of coffee.
- Set an alarm every day as a reminder to do the 10 finger gratitude practice, where you count on each of your 10 fingers 10 things you are grateful for or appreciate in your life.
- Take a walk in nature and appreciate the spring flowers and the new buds forming on the trees, or if you are in a built up area look up at the sky, especially if there is spring sunshine. Enjoy the sun on your skin.
- Before you go to bed each night reflect on three experiences you had during the day that gave you joy. Go over the memories and remember what happened and how you felt. Breathe in the experience into your heart and breathe it out around your whole body for 10 breaths.
- Before going to sleep set an intention to do one thing to look after yourself tomorrow and one thing to look after someone else.
One thing we recommend the students on our courses to do is to set up gratitude texting groups. You can do this in WhatsApp, by making a WhatsApp group of three or four people. Then whenever anyone in the group experiences something pleasant they can share it via WhatsApp with the others in the group and the group can celebrate each other’s pleasant experiences. So find a couple of friends and set up a group! Alternatively, you can add your positive experiences daily to the Mindfulness Association’s gratitude posts on our FaceBook page.
So, I wish you good luck in cultivating a cheerful attitude today!
Co-founder of Mindfulness Association