Is compassion enough to assure joyful living? Or must we go beyond compassion?
This post topic was triggered by a Gregg Braden video. For those of you who may not be familiar with Gregg Braden, he is a scientist who does, in my opinion, an amazing job of combining science, religion and spirituality in explaining our connection to God and the Universe.
In his video, Braden describes a conversation he had with the Abbot of a Tibetan monastery. During that discussion he asked the Abbot what the essence of the energy is that permeates and binds the universe together. The Abbot’s answer: compassion.
My immediate reaction was dismay. My gut told me that compassion didn’t feel right…that it didn’t go far enough to describe what produces joyful living.
Now I realize that the Abbot and I may have different definitions of compassion. Indeed, a good friend years ago explained to me that each of us carries our own dictionary with us and that the definitions in our dictionary are the result of our experiences. I couldn’t agree more, so I went to the dictionary for a definition of compassion. Here’s what I found:
Sympathetic pity and concern for the sufferings or misfortunes of others
Again, I realize that both the Abbot and I might not agree on this definition, but it’s what I’ll use for the remainder of this writing.
Compassion not enough
My experience is that pity and concern aren’t enough, it takes action on our part…action taken to alleviate the sufferings and misfortunes that others experience. Our actions can take many forms, it can be:
- An opportunity for the person to vent their frustration; in doing so, the person often finds the solution on their own.
- An encouraging word; often we only need someone to believe in us to propel us forward.
- Advice or an insight that helps the person see their situation in a different light.
- Giving a person a reason to smile because smiling instantaneously lifts our spirits and helps us regain confidence in ourselves.
These are but a few of the actions that we can and must take if we want to live joyfully every day of our lives. In other words, we must become selfless.
Once again, I turned to the dictionary for a definition and here’s what I found:
Concerned more with the needs and wishes of others than one’s own; unselfish
In the early years of my life I couldn’t imagine anyone being able to achieve that lofty goal. It wasn’t until somewhere around age 40 that I realized that it not only is possible it’s the key to joyful living.
The problem with the dictionary definition is not that it’s inaccurate, it’s incomplete. What the dictionary doesn’t tell us is that when we put others’ needs and wants ahead of our won we and they both experience great joy and great success. This isn’t a new concept, it’s been stated in a variety of ways over the years.
Zig Ziglar said “You can get everything in life you want if you will just help enough other people get what they want.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson said “It is one of the most beautiful compensations of this life that no man can sincerely try to help another without helping himself.”
Jim Rohn said that the enlightened among us give without expecting anything in return from the recipient, knowing that we’ll be repaid from somewhere in the universe.
The key to being selfless is not being devoid of wants and desires, it’s knowing that the odds of getting your wants and desires fulfilled is a function of how frequently you help others achieve what they desire.
I often tell people that I can never get ahead of the giving curve. No matter how much I give of myself, my experience, my time, my resources, I always get multiples back from God or the Universe.
Knowing that helping others assures both their and our success, their and our joy, makes it easier for many of us to become selfless. But that shouldn’t be the motivation behind our selfless acts. Lasting joy comes from regularly enriching the lives of others without expectation. For it’s in the giving that we feel purpose, value, a sense of a life well-lived and the joy and appreciation of those we help.
I’ve had this experience so often during my life that I know with absolute certainty that focusing my attention on helping others enables me to experience joyful living every day, multiple times a day. And, yes, my wishes do get fulfilled…often more quickly than I imagined because so many others are helping me.
I’m going to share with you the secret to joyful living. Some of you will be inclined to dismiss it for it seems too simple. Isn’t that the case with most things, the best solution is simpler than what we originally envisioned?
Einstein’s theory of specific relativity, a theory that explains how mass is converted to energy and vice versa, is expressed as:
That’s it…three factors to explain something as complex as shifts between mass and energy…throughout the entire universe.
Here’s the formula for joyful living:
Other-centric, not egocentric
You don’t have to trust me on this. Recall times when you did something nice for someone, how did you feel?
- Good about yourself?
- Wanting to help more people?
Now recall times when you felt:
Who were you thinking about during these times? Yourself? Your wants? Your needs? Yourself as a victim?
The simplest way to tell whether you’re being other centric or egocentric is by the emotions you’re experiencing. Helping others in their time of need generates positive emotions while egocentric behaviors result in negative emotions.
Each morning remind yourself that your mission for the day is to help as many people as you can…to leave them better off than when you met. Do this even on those days when things aren’t going as you’d hoped and you’ll find it much easier to deal with the challenges you face that day. You’ll probably even have people offering to help you overcome your challenge.
For our kids
As you gain more and more experience of living joyfully by being other centric instead of egocentric, your kids will pick up on this and emulate your behaviors. You can reinforce these behaviors by asking them the same questions i asked you above…ask them to recall times when they helped someone and how they felt; then ask them who they were thinking of when they felt sad, frustrated, angry, envious, fearful and depressed.
By recalling their own experiences they’ll validate the message that other centric behavior results in joy while egocentric behavior results in pain and suffering.
My wish for all of you? Decades upon decades of joyful living.
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