If you want to be happy, practice compassion. HH Dalai Lama
Have you noticed how mainstream media is espousing mindfulness, compassion, empathy, and happiness suggesting that these qualities are good for your overall health and well-being? Unfortunately, such news doesn’t seem to seep much further than being a good read or news program. The fact is, Americans when compared to other countries on happiness, rank about 20th. In my work in health care and sexuality, it’s very rare to encounter true well-being and happiness within the walls of my office. I am optimistic (because I’m an optimist), because this culture is very thirsty for authentic happiness.
The reason I write, teach, and counsel patients about cultivating qualities such as compassion, empathy, insight, relationship attunement, exercise, healthy nutrition, etc.…. is because these qualities are the path toward happiness. Notice I didn’t mention more money, more vacation, more golf, more shopping, another home, because materialism has failed as a path. And yes, you can guess that not even more orgasms will be the ultimate happiness path. Studies suggest that once you earn an income of $60,000 year, anything over doesn’t necessarily make you happier. In fact, as incomes increase, happiness indexes show a decrease in happiness.
Our capacity to be fully present and recognize another’s suffering, generates happiness. Compassion, meaning our ability to hold another’s suffering and a desire to alleviate their suffering, is a very active process. Many of my patients hold a position of why does their partner have to feel a certain way, why can’t they just get over their “problem” and get on with it. Despite their insistence for their partner to "get over it", neither person is happy and they stay stuck in a holding position of “rightness” at the expense of a loving partner. I must admit having been in that situation at a time in my life when my partner stated that I should take the emotions out of it when I was in great duress. Afterall, as he said, he was more logical than me, and I was more emotional. Interesting conclusion.
When we are skillful in the ability to be compassionate, empathy springs forth, which provides the “relating to” the emotion the person is feeling. When we relate to their feelings of sadness, insecurity, jealousy, fearfulness, or shame, we are in resonance and attunement, which let’s the person in despair know, I’m here for you, it’s all okay. Within this space, intimacy is borne and a genuine and authentic acceptance experienced. Ultimately, compassion provides the gateway to deeper love and happiness. A very active and generous process that welcomes life as it shows up, just as it is, without judgment. An interesting side note, research concludes that this active process is a very felt sense, meaning, it can't be faked. Either it's genuine or contrived. As I say to patients, check up on your life for the evidence. If your life is reflecting intimate relations with your partner, rejoice, and keep cultivating this genuine attitude. If your life is or has reflected conflicted relations and resulting breakups, well, practice the exercise listed below as these qualities can be developed. It's living a more skillful life, rather than choosing insanity of doing the same thing over and over and wondering why the results are the same.
The unfortunate news to these underdeveloped states of mind such as compassion, it leads to poorer health, increases in blood pressure, anxiety, stress, inflammatory processes, and relationship breakdown. I’m certain the reason our divorce rates are so much higher in the US as compared to other countries, is skillful attitudes of compassion have not been developed or even encouraged. As a culture we place greater value on human “doing” rather than human “being”. And it is within the space of "being" where whatever arises moment to moment just as it is, brings well-being of body and mind.
Here's the good news, there is very compelling data that continues to emerge on how to cultivate positive states of well-being that lead to healthier and happier people. It requires a good dose of daily discipline to master the skillful life of happiness, but I know it’s truly possibly for you. Below is a helpful method that when practiced daily for 20 minutes (with hopes of at least 30), you will begin to experience a more peaceful and spacious life. Give yourself a 30-day challenge and you can check up on yourself. See if you experience greater well-being and ask those around you if they are experiencing you in a new way.
- Have your stopwatch set for 20 minutes to avoid clock watching
- First set a powerful intention for the reason you are choosing to sit for 20 minutes, such as, “I want to be happy”.
- Sit comfortable, either in a chair or on a cushion with legs crossed or in full lotus position (feet rest on thighs).
- With you back stretched upward, butt fully anchored to your sit and your head extends upward, chin slightly tilted in toward chest, jaw relaxed, shoulders relaxed down and back, eyes in closed position or a slight gaze downward, hands rested on your knees or lap, take a few breathes in and out and relax here.
- For a count of 21 breathes, count in breath 1, out breath 1, until you reach 21.
- If thinking occurs, which it will (the brain thinks by default, just as your heart beats by default), bring your attention back to your breath. Label thinking as “thinking”.
- If you loose count start over. If you begin to get restless, remember your intention for sitting, you want to be happy. Think of those you love and that you are also doing it for them. Then return to your breath and counting.
- Once you make it to 21 (which by the way may take you a week or longer, but be patient--remember you want to be happy), and then bring your awareness to the center of your chest. Imagine a golden ball radiating outward. Within the rays of this golden radiating ball is a heartfelt concern for yourself and those people you love, continue with this for a few breaths. Then expand this golden ball out to your neighbors, to your community, to the United States, then to the entire world. Continue to generate this heartfelt concern.
- Discursive thinking may continue to invade this process, just label it “thinking” and return to your visualization breathing this heartfelt concern to the entire world.
- When your alarm sounds, slowly bring your attention to your entire body, the sounds in the room, and slowly open your eyes and bring your full attention to the room you are in. Breath a few more full breathes before you move from your position.
- It’s a good habit of dedicating your time to yourself and those you love and if you feel greater worldly concern, dedicate your practice to the entire world of beings.
- Good job and keep this going for 30days. Let me know if you have any questions or concerns.
May you all have happiness and may your health and sexual well being prosper.