I graduated college two weeks ago, moved from a small, rural town in Northern California up to Seattle (a city I’ve never even visited until now!) and started an editorial internship, where I was rushed into almost eight hours of work on the first day barely understanding what I was doing. Coming home on the bus after my first day, practically in tears with sore muscles and an empty stomach, I felt like I wasn’t cut out for the “real world” just yet. I questioned everything. Why did I move? Why did I leave my boyfriend and my home for big city adult life that I’m just not prepared for? In times like these of confusion, fear and uncertainty, I find it difficult to care about the universe’s problems, or even give a stranger a smile. I can feel so caught up in my own troubles that finding peace with myself and ultimately, peace with the world, just doesn’t make its way onto my agenda.
But late that night when my boyfriend called me, his voice very faint and drifting, I did ask him what was wrong. He told me about problems with his own career and the frustration he feels with his industry. After we talked it over for a while and I offered my advice, he told me how I had cheered him up and he laughed over the phone. I envisioned his sweet smile widening over his face and smiled too. In that moment, I realized that compassion breeds peace and we must be compassionate towards each other and towards ourselves to keep that inner peace thriving. I went to bed calmly and peacefully and actually had a really good day at work the following morning. In order to ignite this peaceful glow within ourselves and keep it burning bright, we must reach out to others and reach within ourselves and give ourselves some self-love. Below is a list of ways that can help breed compassion both on the outside and inside to help you feel more at peace and happier, while tackling everyday challenges.
It is no secret that meditation calms the mind by slowing down our thought processes and requiring us to look within ourselves. But we can also use guided meditations to create more compassion within our hearts and steer our minds away from daily negativity.
Below are two guided meditations to try, one to encourage compassion and the other to help release ourselves from upsetting thoughts.
Meditation for universal love
Begin seated comfortably or even lying on your back or in child’s pose. Close your eyes and slowly and gently come into the rhythmic sounds of your breath. Once you have fallen into that lulling pattern, begin to state the phrase, “I am connected to all beings and all beings are connected to me.” Focus on those words and let them pour into you. As part of the same universe we are all interconnected, all woven into the same fabric of matter. While we may have separate lives and different purposes, we are all still attached and effected by the creative powers of this universe. Recognizing our intrinsic interconnection is one of the first steps in harvesting compassion for each other.
Meditation to detach from negative thoughts
Begin seated in a comfortable position, preferably cross-legged with hands resting gently on thighs. Close your eyes and turn inward. Breathe in and out slowly and deeply for a few moments. Then think of a moment where you felt hurt, upset, angry—something negative you internalized. Hold on to that thought. Feel how it feels and soak in that mental state for a moment. Then breathe in and breathe in all of the negativity and pain. Keep breathing in and then hold at the top of your breath, and then release. Release and with that exhale, imagine a positive wave of white light flowing out of you, notice energy escaping and maybe even tension release from the corners of your body. Repeat again and again until you feel the negative energy subside and gradually detach from you. When accomplished (although it does take some practice), you should feel lighter and freer, as if a huge load was lifted from your shoulders. You might also feel cleansed, awakened and your heart and soul have a feeling of uplifting presence.
Have you ever watched the rays of a fading sunset dance upon the bright, blue ocean at dusk? Hugged a giant redwood tree in a dense forest? Watch cool water slip off mossy rocks into a lily-pad pond in the summertime? Spending time in nature and watching its magnificent activity can help you cultivate a deep appreciation for the world and its simple and surreal wonders. I suggest going to the beach, on a day hike or dip in the river and really take the time to immerse yourself in the nature’s beauty and look around you. You can do this natural activity by yourself and journal about it or what may even help you gain a greater sense of compassion—go explore nature with a loved one and as you two cherish the world around you, you’ll feel a greater sense of love towards that to person and better able to translate that towards others as well. I know this personally from experience every time I go out into the forest or to the ocean with my boyfriend, when I feel a little more inclined to hold his hand and everything just feels a little bit sweeter.
Just as calling up my boyfriend led to a compassionate moment between us just having a conversation can really help bring you closer to people and relate to them more. Every time I make the conscientious effort to talk to someone—whether it be calling up my mom or chatting with a co-worker, I realize more of our human connection and even become a little happier just by being social.
Mantras provide us with sacred sound energies that have the power to change our inner selves and reach our highest potential. Chanting mantras on a regular basis can bring you more joy and certain ones can cultivate compassion and love for the world around you. My favorite one, that I learned from a former yoga instructor, for achieving greater compassion is the one below. Either chant this mantra after your daily yoga practice or meditation to better recognize and understand our inherent connection and impact of our lives to the others around us.
“Lokah Samastah Sukhino Bhavantu”
May all beings everywhere be happy and free, and may the thoughts, words, and actions of my own life contribute in some way to that happiness and to that freedom for all.
Which is your favorite way of inviting more peace to your day?
Also by Jessica: How to Do a Moon Salutation
Related: Think Yourself Toward Compassion
Photo: Jessica Renae; Alexandre Dulaunoy via Flickr