In My Mind's Zen Garden
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How to Develop Love and Compassion in Everyday Living

Sky and Clouds

EVERY DAY, THERE IS THE CHANCE THAT we will face a lot of negativity in the course of that day.

We all face varying degrees of pain and suffering, inconvenience and animosity from others. This is part of life. But it’s the way we deal with these situations that determine how happy we will be, and whether or not our happiness is affected by them.

I recently chanced upon the following Dalai Lama quote:

Developing love and compassion and reducing anger and spite is a universal activity which requires no faith in any religion whatsoever.the Dalai Lama

The fact that the above statement doesn’t require someone to be of a certain religion, or lack of one, makes me think that these words of wisdom are more universal in nature.

Many times, it is HOW we react to the environment around us, and how we handle challenging and stressful situations in our lives, that determines Life’s overall experience .

We are what we think.

“Never let life’s hardships disturb you… no one can avoid problems, not even saints or sages.”Nichiren Daishonin

Handling Everyday Situations That Can Cause Stress

Isn’t it simple to say that it’s how we handle the stresses in our lives that determine our happiness?

Take traffic jams and inconsiderate drivers, for instance.

We could find ourselves yelling at other drivers while we fight the traffic to and from work. Personally, I’ve been in many situations where drivers are rude, crazy and drive with disregard for others’ safety, including their own. And it gets to the point where everyone is basically fighting their way through it all.

I have this exercise that I do every time I’m on the freeway heading to and from work.

I start breathing slowly. And there are some yogic breathing techniques that I do, but basically it’s slow, deep breathing, which in turn calms the mind. And once calm and in a different frame-of-mind, one begins to look at other drivers differently with a feeling of equanimity, and realise that we are all in the same boat.

It is not enough simply to wish that love and compassion should increase in us, we need to make a sustained effort to cultivate them.the Dalai Lama

Ways to Develop a More Compassionate Attitude

  • Try to look at another individual (especially someone who is antagonistic towards you) with compassionate eyes. Try to look at the situation from his/her perspective.
  • Compassion means looking at someone more sympathetically, or trying to imagine yourself in his/her shoes. It all has to do with understanding and tolerance.
  • Believe that you can control a situation, and steer it in a more positive direction, instead of reacting negatively.
  • Keep in mind that there are two sides to a coin, and this applies to many situations in life.
  • Practice deep breathing and meditation whenever you get the chance. This always calms the mind, and puts one in a less stressful mindset, which helps in how we react to negative stimuli around us.

If You Have a Competitive Personality

I think if you have a healthy competitive spirit, there’s nothing wrong with that. Whatever the situation, people out there are competing for jobs, trying to get into a good college, or competing in sports. Competition is a fact of life in many scenarios, and there are winners and losers, just like there is day and night.

In fact, the Chinese philosophy of the law of opposites holds true… yin and yang.

But you can be competitive and not bring all those negative traits into it, such as envy, jealousy, greed, hate, etc… life is full of opposites like front and back, light and dark, hard and soft. It’s our mental attitude and how we perceive things that can affect our happiness.

In Zen, the clearing of the mind is emphasized. And, this has a lot to do with living in the moment, free from any perceived notions and attitudes. Clearing the mind of mental clutter actually can improve one’s performance just as much as it can improve our mental attitude.

We all could use a little attitude adjustment.

Compassion and Forgiving Yourself

Many times the stresses in our lives come from our attitude towards ourselves. For better or worse, sometimes the people around us are a factor, because we allowed them to influence us a certain way. Are we right? Are we wrong? Should we have resentment with ourselves? Towards others?

If we step passed the notion of right and wrong, or win or lose, just for a second (in terms of how we perceive ourselves), we can forgive ourselves for past failures and mistakes made along the way. Life, after all, is a process… mistakes are made all the time, and people fail at things… However, like riding a bicycle, you get back on and try to ride again.

It’s important to forgive yourself, just as we should forgive others. There is a connection here that ties us to those around us. If you feel confident and good about yourself, others will feel good about how you feel too.

We are all connected in a network of social communication and interaction.

Imagine how nicer the world would be, if people were more forgiving….

And the act of forgiveness begins with you.

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About the author:
Has 3138 Articles

Carlos Rull is a musician living in the San Diego area. His interests include Yoga, Eastern Philosophy, Zen Buddhism, and Gardening. He plays drums, piano, and composes New Age & Ambient music, and his albums are available on iTunes and Amazon.com.

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