How to be More Compassionate with Barry Kerzin
“What is compassion?” asks Barry Kerzin, a medical doctor and a Tibetan Buddhist monk, who, among several other accomplishments, provides medical care to His Holiness the Dalai Lama. It’s eight o’clock at night, and though Ranch guests are tired after a long day of exercise, relaxation, and fun, several of them have gathered in Oak Tree auditorium to listen to Barry’s talk, Opening the Doors to Compassion. The question lingers in the air. “Compassion is unconditional acceptance; it is a sign of a healthy mindset,” one guest explains. Another guest chimes in, “It’s empathy – the ability to put yourself in other people’s shoes.” Barry compliments each response, and then provides a technical Buddhist definition, “Compassion is the relief of suffering from pain.” He then clarifies that compassion can take shape in the form of a wish to relieve the pain of a person or all living beings, or it can be an action that relieves the pain of others.
1. Everyone Wants to be Happy
“Everyone is capable of compassion, and it is important to cultivate it so that it can flow naturally, even in the face of anger, jealousy, and pride,” Barry explains. One way to bring about more compassion is to recognize that everyone desires happiness. Upon meeting people for the first time, think, “He is just like me; he wants to be happy.” When you practice this consistently, you will find that your relationship with people will change, barriers will come down, and you might feel closer to the people you meet.
2. Cultivate Compassion for Everyone
It can be easy to have compassion for the people we love and are close to, for our kindness to them is reciprocated. However, it’s important to have compassion for those we don’t know. When you encounter strangers, try to recognize that they help us survive and thrive – they are kind to us by what they do. For example, the “stranger” you see on the street may be the chef who cooked your dinner at a restaurant, or a gardener who planted the flowers at a public garden you enjoy. Then there are people that you may feel uncomfortable being around, so-called “enemies.” Remember that these people want happiness too; they don’t want to hurt. Yes, you can disagree with the actions these people take, however, try to separate the actor from the act. It takes courage to have compassion for “enemies;” however, doing so will bring a sense of peace and connectedness.
To have a healthy mindset, recognize that all people are under multiple influences like their own unique situations, ideas, preconceived notions, their childhoods and several other factors. Remember that people you are not fond of and even your “enemies” are under these influences, and that they just want to be happy. This awareness can help cultivate more love, compassion and forgiveness.
3. Anger Blocks Compassion
Anger is an obstacle for compassion. If you feel anger bubbling up, quickly try to reduce it. Look inward for the early signs – sweat, a flushed face, feelings of irritation and impatience. Breathe deeply. If you are angry at a person, say to yourself, “That person is not happy. People who are not happy don’t provoke.” Try to imagine that the anger is in the form of a crystal ball. Imagine that you are standing on concrete, and you drop the ball, and it shatters into a thousand pieces. Or imagine your anger embodied in a cloud in the sky and it drifts away and disappears. Reducing anger will allow for more compassion.
4. Compassion Meditation
Barry guided the guests through various meditations to help cultivate more compassion. Watch Barry’s Compassion Meditation for a step-by-step example of how you can begin the practice.
5. Self -Compassion
It’s important to practice self-compassion and self-care. Instead of judging yourself when you are hurt, observe your experiences through a kind and caring lens. If it’s hard for you to feel compassion, simply remind yourself that everyone wants to be happy. You may be surprised when you experience your feelings of compassion expand – slowly but surely!