Compassion is the keen awareness of the intersection of all things.– Thomas Merton
Last week was pretty amazing. On Tuesday, I saw His Holiness The Dalai Lama speak on a panel about The Importance of Education in Promoting Universal Human Values. I finished the mindfulness meditation book, Wherever You Go There You Are by Jon Kabat-Zinn and on Thursday I started a Basics of Mindfulness course through UCLA’s Mindfulness Awareness Research Center.
The more I really dig into mindfulness and commit myself to practice the more the word compassion stays with me. Cultivating compassion for our fellow human beings can be a key tenet as we continue to move into the 21st century. Especially if we want to make this century a peaceful one, marked by advances and inventions that do not lead to war, but to further human connection.
Compassion is defined as, “a feeling of deep sympathy and sorrow for another who is stricken by misfortune, accompanied by a strong desire to alleviate the suffering.” 
A few weeks ago in a Take a Moment post I shared some of my own words regarding the tragedy in Charleston:
“True compassion and love and a desire to know and understand our neighbor is the only way forward. We CANNOT, we MUST NOT, continue on this path of hatred and violence.”
I really believe that’s true. We are all connected in so many ways. According to the Dalai Lama, “basic human nature is compassionate.”
There are so many acts of violence taking place in our country and in places around the world in every moment. As we learn about these events it is important that we look first to our similarities as human beings. It is important that we look at what connects us rather than what divides us.
If you can start by looking, with a gentle and kind curiosity, towards your neighbor, towards your acquaintances, towards your perceived enemies. Thinking about who they might be, thinking about the tough circumstances they might face. Thinking about the triumphs they have had or could have in the future.
Compassion is not about viewing yourself as superior and therefore a benefactor. Compassion doesn’t make you better than anyone else. Compassion is about seeing each human being as precious and similar, so that your empathy, kindness and desire to alleviate suffering, comes from a place of equality.
A kind curiosity, rather than distrust and fear, that is cultivating compassion and understanding, a desire to make things better for all individuals.
Recognizing our Interconnectedness
None of us exists as an island. Especially in the 21st century. We are inextricably linked to thousands of people on a daily basis through everything we do. When we go grocery shopping, when we drive down the street, when we take our kids to school, when we log on to our computer, when we connect to social media. Each of our actions connects us physically or virtually to thousands of people near and far.
“Everything is interdependent and there is no isolated, independent core “you.” You are only you in relationship to all other forces and events in the world – including your parents, your childhood, your thoughts and feelings, outside events, time, and so on.”  – Jon Kabat-Zinn
Recognizing this interconnectedness is really the first step in cultivating compassion in the 21st century. Young people have a great capacity to embrace this compassion principle. They have grown up with this technology and are much more aware of how the world is connected. They can be the small changes this world needs for the spread of love and kindness.
Teaching Compassion in Education
The panel I attended on Tuesday was about education and the role it can play in promoting universal human values. Universal human values is a complex way of saying having enough compassion to ensure that all human beings can live in peace, with freedom, safety, learning, equality, and human dignity.
The Dalai Lama said, education is linked with human progress and that core curriculum in schools should include compassion and a sort of training of the heart. Logic is all well and good but it can go to waste when we don’t have sincere concern for and a desire to understand and improve the lives of our fellow human beings.
The question is how to bring this about In a school setting. I would be interested to see educators put their heads together to evolve compassionate, mindfulness practices and teachings for the school setting.
Educators can play an important role and be an example on how to make broader impacts on consciousness, creativity and compassion through their daily lessons with their own students. Even encouraging small acts of kindness as a daily practice could go a long way in teaching kids.
I hope to make my own contribution in cultivating compassion and kindness in schools as I work towards becoming a Social Worker and a Mindful Schools instructor.
The Dalai Lama, said he has noticed a shift from the previous generation. The hope is that the youth grasp on technology and their understanding of our interconnectedness can play a role in creating a broader vision of what the world can be. He encourages young people to be examples of compassion in action. I hope to be an example of this myself. He said, “with the vision and compassion of this generation, the 21st century can be an extraordinary time.”
Mindfulness meditation and the practice of feeling your own body, your own breath is a form of self-care and self-love and as Kabat-Zinn mentions, “Mindfulness is about waking up and living in harmony with oneself and with the world.” 
As it is with so many things, the best place to start cultivating compassion may be with your own mind and heart. By practicing self-compassion and caring within ourselves, that positive energy, that spark can then be shared with the world. Our own goodwill towards ourselves spreads like wildfire to our family, our friends, our acquaintances, and even to those with whom we may struggle.
Spreading Compassion through Loving-Kindness Meditation
Loving-Kindness meditation is a cultivation of love and kindness within ourselves that can then be sent out to those individuals we know and that we may not know.
So take some time with yourself today. In a time of hurt, or not. Whether it be something small as a self-criticism or as big as a major mistake. Take some time, to breathe, and to treat yourself as you would a small child. Place your own comforting hands on your heart, or simply place them in a way that feels kind to you. Do that, and while you are taking in and releasing slow breaths say the words,
“May I be happy. May I be well. May I be safe. May I be peaceful and at ease.”
Continue to generate this loving-kindness practice for yourself and as you seed this caring feeling within you, you can then send out this feeling of caring using these same words from your heart to your family, to your friends, to your acquaintances, and even to those you struggle with.
“May you be happy. May you be well. May you be safe. May you be peaceful and at ease.”
Finally as this compassionate energy has continued to build you can direct this kindness to all beings.
“May all beings everywhere be happy. May all beings everywhere be well. May all beings everywhere be safe. May all beings everywhere be peaceful and at ease.”
Imagine the energy of love and kindness that can be sent out using this meditation. Imagine if you did this for just five minutes each time you logged in or logged off of social media, each time you entered or exited a freeway, each time you woke up or went to sleep.
Mindfully living in each moment, recognizing our interconnectedness with all human beings, being an example for young people, and having a loving emotional-connection within ourselves, that is then shared; this is how we begin cultivating compassion for the world in the 21st century.
“We can change the world simply by changing ourselves. If I become a center of love and kindness in this moment, then in a perhaps small but hardly insignificant way, the world now has a nucleus of love and kindness it lacked the moment before.”  – Jon Kabat-Zinn
I am so grateful for you today. Thank you for spending a moment with me.
Sources:  Compassion. (n.d.). In Dictionary.com. Retrieved from http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/compassion;  Kabat-Zinn, J. (1994). Wherever You Go There You Are: Mindfulness Meditation in Everyday Life. New York, NY: MJF Books.