The reasoning is that ‘… all beings are equal in both their desire for happiness and their right to obtain it’,1 and that ‘once you have accustomed your mind to this sense of universal altruism, you develop a feeling of responsibility for others and the wish to help them actively overcome their problems …’.1
He believes that compassion can be developed and generated through patience and mindfulness.
Perhaps the key to managing our emotions is mindfulness and the ability to be aware of an emotion without reacting to it: feeling neither like nor dislike, just acceptance.
Mindfulness is a skill that is a combination of self-awareness, being in the present moment and paying attention.
When we are mindful we have just the right amount of attention engaged in something; enough effort to keep focused and alert, but enough relaxation to be calm and centred, so that we don’t get completely caught up in whatever is going on. When you are mindful you are aware of your state of mind, your feelings and your body.
According to Alyss Thomas,2 you can recognise that you are being mindful when:
- You feel that you are in flow and you are breathing rhythmically.
- You feel balanced and effective, involved but calm.
- You allow feelings and thoughts to surface into your awareness without suppressing them, but you don’t let them distract you.
- You can focus on something, but you can take care of yourself at the same time.
- When necessary you can focus and concentrate without getting easily distracted.
Being mindful will help you to recognise and become aware of emotions with a certain amount of detachment or distance, so that you don’t become overwhelmed or swamped by them. It is then easier to use logical thought to analyse the emotion if it is still bothering you.
Once you have achieved this understanding, you can choose to change your focus (let the emotion go), perhaps putting it aside so that it can be dealt with at a more appropriate time.
It is important to acknowledge and accept emotions, but it is not always necessary to react to them. Strong negative emotions may seem overwhelming when we first experience them, but can often be transitory. Feelings, fears and emotions all pass with time, especially if we do not feed the flames by focusing on them exclusively or dwelling on them too much.
It is also possible that a sudden ‘mood change’ may be an emotion that you are sensing from somebody around you. Many sensitive people are completely unaware that their so-called ‘moodiness’ is due to the fact that they are tuning into other people’s energy fields and picking up other people’s emotions. Being mindful will help you to realise that ‘this emotion may not be mine’ and to move on without being affected by it or reacting to it.
So what are you feeling now? After writing about compassion and mindfulness I am feeling inspired and motivated! Focusing on positive emotion really does make you feel good!
Before we finish, find a memory of a moment when you were at your most compassionate: a moment of loving-kindness, thoughtfulness, caring. Tune into that moment and remember how it made you feel: soft, gentle, warm, loving, powerful.
Now hold that feeling in your heart so that it may lighten and brighten your day, lift your spirits, and give you the strength and tranquillity to face whatever lies ahead.