Compassion is a powerful force and, along with counseling and medication, can be used to combat depression and low self-esteem.
In Buddhist understanding, compassion is our underlying true nature. It is not something that we need to develop or acquire.
From an ordinary perspective, we can acknowledge that we get a good feeling when we have been kind to someone or helped another in some way. On a deeper level, if we allow ourselves to arise as compassion, generating a loving intention to bring benefit to all, we are in essence, being our true selves. We can think of an analogy of the sun shining equally on all in every direction.
Depression is widespread in our society and manifests in many ways in the lives of those suffering from this mental illness.
Minor Depression, (a sustained depressed mood) is a form of depression that is very treatable with compassion. The practice of compassion is not only useful for combating this type of depression but can be used by anyone at any time!
Research has revealed that those who practice compassionate meditation may benefit in that they may actually feel a reduction in their behavioral responses to stress. Minor Depression is often a reaction to daily stresses we experience in life.
One of the ways depression can be experienced is with a focus on oneself, exclusively.
We might consider it similar to having our fingers on our wrist, monitoring our emotional pulse. In this case we are constantly asking ourselves, “How do I feel?” With a compassionate intention, we can take the focus off of ourselves, gradually, developing a new habit. Instead of thinking about ourselves and how we feel, we can turn our attention to others and ask, “How can I help?”
Another useful method of incorporating compassion in our lives is to replace the negative thoughts we have habitually been practicing with altruistic intentions.
For example, as we are thinking “I hate myself,” we can then turn that thought into “May all beings be free of self hatred.” These kind of ‘wishing prayers’ can be quite effective in turning our minds away from our own suffering, whether it is physical or mental, and can uplift our emotional state.
We can use it at any time throughout our day. As we walk through the doors of the classroom, we can think, “May all beings walk through the door of liberation.” As we sit down to eat a meal, we can think, “May all beings be nourished with love and happiness.” As we clean our home, we can think, “May all obstacles to joy be removed from all beings.”
As the Dalai Lama says, “If you want others be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion.
Happiness, according to Spiritual Teacher, Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo, is nothing more than a habit. She suggests, “instead of grieving that you don’t have the love in your life that you want, give love to others unselfishly, with no thought of what’s going to come back to you. Look beyond our own lives and ask ourselves, “How, in what way, do we actually touch our environment and make it better?”
Slowly as we develop the habit of this type of aspiration prayers, we may find that our own suffering diminishes. We can feel we have the personal power to change the content of our lives and not fall victim to the kind of repetitive negative thinking that can cause us to spiral down into depression and hopelessness.
We can realize that we are not only changing ourselves but our environment for the better by positively affecting those around us.
With this sense of control in our lives that cannot be taken away from us, we can experience a lasting joy that we have the power to create our own happiness. We can experience safety and peace, knowing that we have a new tool which can be used to build a happier, more fulfilling life for ourselves, and one that we can share with others.
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Apprentice Editor: Brenna Fischer / Editor: Catherine Monkman