Cultivating Compassion One Breath at a Time

breathwork

Watching men in high positions fall like autumn leaves has inspired me to start a daily compassion practice. I have no doubt that if these men had more compassion and empathy, they would not assault women. I don’t want my sons to become highly “successful” only to fall from grace from a lack of compassion.

Dacher Keltner at UC Berkeley’s Greater Good Science Center discovered that there isn’t a universal look of compassion, but there is a universal sound of compassion. People around the world make the same sound when they sympathize with the suffering of others—“Aaawwwwhhhhh.:

Moreover, modern research reveals that making this sound stimulates the vagus nerve which lowers inflammation in the body and leads to more pro-social behavior. The vagus nerve runs from most of the major organs in the body to the brain stem. It also runs through the vocal chords and the inner ear.

Making the “aaawwwhhh” sound stimulates the larynx and the inner ear and, thus, the vagus nerve. In addition, Stephen Porges found that when our exhale is longer than our inhale, we also stimulate the vagus nerve and feel more connected with other.

So I am setting a goal of saying “aaawwwwhhh” as many times a day as possible. When I am stuck in traffic, I say “aaawwwhhh.” When my sons start to whine about how they only get to play 2 hours of video games, I reply, “aaaawwwhhh.” Every time I hear a news story about men committing heartless acts, I say, “aaawwwhhhh” for them, for myself, for men in general, and for the victims.

When my aunties in Hawaii would see someone do something harmful, they would make the universal sound of compassion and say, “poor ting.” They felt sorry for individuals who were so disconnected with aloha (love) that they felt the need to cause conflict with others. In essence, my aunties were saying, “Awwwhhhh, poor thing has no aloha.”

Every time I make the universal sound of compassion, I feel warm vibrations resonate through my body. I feel grateful to connect with others through suffering. Everyone becomes my family regardless of what they look like or what they have done.

So grateful for this simple practice.

What daily practices do you do to connect with others?

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NOT Getting Hugged by Amma

Amma at StanfordOn Monday, I went to a Conversation on Compassion with Amma at Stanford. Here are a few highlights:

  • “Compassion is the most important factor in life”
  • “Compassion is the first step.  If we can take that step courageously without fear then everything else will follow spontaneously.”
  • “When we have compassion then all the decisions we make and the actions and their results that follow will have a special beauty, spontaneity, and power to it.”
  • “Human’s calculations can always be wrong. But decisions taken from compassion and actions that are compassionate can be never wrong because compassion is a law of nature.”
  • “When we give up the individual mind and tune to the universal mind which happens in compassion, then we can never do anything wrong because it is not us acting, but it is the universal power. Compassion gives us the ability to tune into the universal power.”
  • “When love attains perfection that is when the flower of compassion happens.”

 

After the conversation, Amma announced that she would give darshan to all the attendees (near 2,000), but she asked that only attendees who have never received a hug come up so Amma could have time to hug everyone who wanted one.

Since I have been getting hugged by Amma since 1999 and I was wearing an “embrace the world” t-shirt that I bought at Amma’s ashram, I knew that I should remain seated, but I REALLY wanted to get a hug from Amma–especially when I saw that they were giving large gift bags to all who received a hug.

Unfortunately, during her talk Amma said that there are three types of people.

  • The first type of person–what they get they eat.
  • The second kind of person–what they get they eat and they also try to take the other person’s food and eat that as well.
  • The third kind of person–whatever they get, they eat a part of it then give the rest to others around them.

I knew that if I went to get a hug, I would be taking from someone else, so I forced myself to refrain from getting a hug.

But something wonderful happened. As I watched Amma hug others, the craving and jealousy drained out of me and was replaced with sympathetic joy (mudita). I saw the glowing faces of the people walking off the stage, and I could feel their joy and gratitude which somehow became my joy and gratitude. I got a taste of the universal mind and power that Amma was talking about.

It was the best non-hug that I have ever received.

Have you ever felt empathic joy? Please share.

 

Related Articles

http://everydaygurus.com/2013/06/03/embracing-the-world

http://everydaygurus.com/2012/11/14/free-hugs-hug-for-freedom

 

 

“Guru is a four letter word”

Yesterday, I had a double guru experience. My son was home sick, so I couldn’t work. Instead, I finished watching a documentary called Kumare.

kumare

Here is the synopsis of Kumare:

“A provocative social experiment-turned-documentary, KUMARE follows American filmmaker Vikram Gandhi as he transforms himself into a wise Indian guru, hoping to prove the absurdity of blind faith. Instead, he finds himself forging profound connections with people from all walks of life — and wondering if and when to reveal his true self. Will his followers accept his final teaching? Can this illusion reveal a greater spiritual truth? Winner of South by Southwest’s Audience Award, KUMARE is an insightful look at faith and belief.

Watching this film simultaneously engendered doubts about gurus and inspired me to the spiritual powers of ordinary humans. Vikram Gandhi sets out to pose as a guru, but ends up transforming others lives, as well as his own, in the process. Still, I felt a bit jaded.

Then last night, I attended a Conversation on Compassion at Stanford University. A guru I had never heard about named Sadhguru eradicated any doubts I had about spiritual leaders, enlightenment, or gurus.

sadhguru at Stanford

Interestingly enough, Sadhguru started the talk by explaining how he entered spirituality as a skeptic, much like Vikram Gandhi.

“Even if one has the wrong intentions, but travels the right path, one will find the truth.”

Sadhguru acknowledged the skepticism around gurus: “Guru is a four letter work.” He explained that a guru is merely a “live roadmap,” not meant to be worshiped. He also assured everyone that when we are dealing with what is inside us, no one is better than anyone else. We might be in better physical shape than others or more intelligent, but when we look inside, we are all the same.

What most impressed me about Sadhguru was his insistence on serving others (although he didn’t see it as service since we are all one).

“If we do not do what we can do that is a disastrous life.”

“If your heart is full of love, then you can never do enough.”

Hearing these statements, I immediately thought about Rarasaur. It is my duty to help Rara. I will continue to send letters, love, and what money I can afford to help her out.

I hate to personalize this guru juxtaposition, but I couldn’t help but see it as a call and response. I started the day with some doubts, yet within hours those doubts were quickly abated. Part of me feels like I was calling on the Universe to show me a sign, and almost immediately the Universe answered. Coincidence? Serendipity? Destiny? It really doesn’t matter, because I’m a believer.

Do you believe in destiny, serendipity, or fate? Please share.

 

Compassion Can Make You More Attractive–Thich Nhat Hanh Re-load

A week ago, I published an article about a conversation I had with Thich Nhat Hanh. Thanks to the generosity of Dr. James Doty and the Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education (CCARE) at Stanford University, I am able to share the video of this short interview with you. To see the whole Conversation on Compassion with Thich Nhat Hanh go to: http://ccare.stanford.edu/videos/conversations-on-compassion-thich-nhat-hanh/

For more interviews with compassionate men visit http://peaceinrelationships.com/offerings/

Compassion and Money

At my other website, I’m starting a new series called The Compassion Interviews, where I interview some of the most compassionate people I can find.

The series kicks off with Dr. James Doty, founder and director of the Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education (CCARE) at Stanford University.

In this interview we discuss:

  • Why compassion is more important than money
  • What it is like to be in close contact with His Holiness the Dalai Lama
  • How transcending socially conditioned roles can save the world
  • What we can do today and everyday to cultivate peace, compassion, and happiness in our lives

I’ve included a short excerpt from the interview below that discusses how losing 70 million dollars during the dotcom crash, then taking a company public for 1.3 billion dollars of which he donated all of his shares to charity were two of the best things that ever happened to Dr. Doty.

For the full interview click here: http://peaceinrelationships.com/the-compassion-interviews-dr-james-doty/

Thank you for watching, smiling, and/or sharing.

Have you learned valuable lessons through failure or charity? Please share.