“I just have three things to teach: simplicity, patience and compassion. These three are your greatest treasures.” – Lao Tzu
Achievers today are driven by a burning ambition to make it to the top. Given that we live in a meritocracy where society handsomely rewards only those who accomplish outstanding feats, it’s no wonder so many of us are resolute in our desire to rise higher on the ladder of success. The allure of receiving adulation and material rewards is hard to resist.
Yet there has been a lot of good that has come from the structures established in a merit-based society. Without it, it is highly unlikely that our civilization would have made such notable strides that led to the acceleration of human progress. Over the past 100+ years, we have made astounding advancements in medicine, transportation, telecommunications, and information technology.
These achievements are a by-product of the pioneering streak of various innovators and dreamers. These luminaries were propelled by the desire to attain breakthroughs and make worthy contributions to their community. It was during this fertile era that several revolutionary thinkers emerged, such as Einstein, Thomas Edison, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Nelson Mandela, and many others.
However, just like anything else in life, the race to achieve greatness can be taken to extremes. We’ve all heard stories of individuals who let their success get to their heads and behave in dysfunctional ways. Their delusional and ego-centric attitude may lead them to assume that everything revolves around them.
Others may unknowingly allow their busyness and stress to spiritually derail them, and lose sight of what really matters. They risk becoming apathetic and disconnected from the authentic and visceral part of their being. Meritocracy has sucked everything out of them because of the all the demands and pressure that goes into reaching the higher end of the totem pole.
Suffice to say that our current environment is not conducive towards the cultivation of character within an individual. Within our mainstream culture, there is too much focus on getting more, instead of becoming more. We want more money, better-looking partners, nicer homes, pricier clothing and fancier vacations, to the exclusion of the development of virtuous traits and intentions.
There is absolutely no way that we can tackle the current global problems if society continues to generate zombie-like workaholics who wear blinders. We need individuals who are conscious, open and willing to go the extra mile to make their own unique offering to the world. Subjects who are willing to tackle pertinent issues such global warming, the threat of terrorism, and eradicating major inequalities.
Even in our own backyards, we can find innumerable pressing issues that need to be addressed. Perhaps you have a family member suffering from a mental illness who’s in dire need of support, or there are children living in a nearby neighborhood who need help getting access to decent education. If you open your eyes, you will definitely find plenty of opportunities to express your humanity.
The truth is that the real heroes of today don’t have to enforce brute force and aggression to get things done. Instead, they need to draw on the abundant reserves of compassion, maturity and serenity that lie within them. An exemplar who demonstrated this ability with finesse is Mahatma Gandhi.
Gandhi’s doctrine of non-violent protest to achieve political and social progress in India during the British colonization was exceptional. He preached a moral, moderate and humane way of dealing with opposition and hate. In a situation that usually incites feelings of hostility and bitterness, Gandhi guided his people to adopt a benevolent and pacifist approach towards the fight for freedom.
Now I realize that not all of us can be Gandhian in our ways, but if you look closely, you’ll find that deep within you, there is a compassionate entity that’s waiting to be awakened. If you are driven by a genuine desire to be of service to others, you can easily actuate this part of you. I believe the best way to create a shift in your patterns is by following specific daily practices that trigger those chosen qualities in you.
Here some effective ways by which you can inculcate the qualities of compassion and mindfulness within your internal makeup:
- Make time for self-reflection: We have to be intentional and deliberate about creating space for quality me-time within the midst of our packed schedules. These time-slots should be non-negotiable and interspersed during your week, which you can utilize to unwind, meditate and engage in self-reflection. By allotting these pit stops during our week, we give ourselves the space to slow down and re-center ourselves. This practice will induce mindfulness and calm within our internal world.
- Engage in acts of contribution: If we wish to develop our compassionate side, we should be willing to step outside our ego-driven paradigm of existence and connect with others through performing regular acts of kindness. Your contribution could be as simple as tossing a few bucks to homeless person on the street or giving up your bus seat for an elderly lady. The more often you express your compassion through various good deeds, the more pronounced the trait will become in your character.
- Seek better company: There is some truth in the idiom ‘birds of a feather flock together’. We are powerfully influenced by the people that we spend the most time with. Their mannerisms, behaviors and beliefs have a stealthy way of seeping into our system without us even realizing it. If you’re hanging out with a superficial and selfish crowd, you’ll find yourself inadvertently displaying those same traits. It’s critical that we remain vigilant about whom we socialize and work with, and aim to spend more time with those who inspire us and bring out the best in us.
- Take breaks from the mainstream media: In a world of ‘selfies’ and Snapchat, we are submerged in a virtual whirlpool of ubiquitous self-promotion. To add to the mix, we also have the media vying for our attention so that we buy their products and services. The mainstream press provides a media diet that is the equivalent of junk food, and seldom imparts news and information that can enhance our well-being. Taking a break from all the media hype and mayhem will tremendously benefit us. We can disconnect ourselves from the TV, Internet, phone and radio, and use that time to be in nature, read a book, cook, garden, or whatever we find soothing and uplifting.
It is only when each one of us shifts on an individual level, can we bring about a momentous collective shift in the consciousness of the planet. Just like members of an orchestra band, we will learn how to play our instruments in harmony with each other, so that we can create one common, beautiful song.
All my best on your journey,
Question for you: Do you agree that the world needs more compassionate and mindful people? What can you do to be part of this group of individuals?
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