Yesterday, Lisa and I spent part of our day at the local public library. While looking for a place to sit she found an interesting self-help book, “Head to Heart: Mindfulness Moments for Every Day” by Jenifer Madson. Contained within its pages are prompts to ponder each day, one per day for 365 days. We both thought it was an interesting idea and worthy of a series.
I’ve previously written about my morning routine, my efforts to forge new habits, and briefly touched on my daily meditation. I don’t believe I ever discussed why, how, etc… so that’s next on my To-Do list.
For Day 2 of 365, Madson writes:
When compassion is present, there is no room for condemnation, anger, or confusion. Think of someone you are angry with, someone you often find yourself judging or criticizing. As you think of them, replace your feelings of frustration with statements of compassion, such as, “I am willing to understand this person even if I don’t agree with them, and I wish them every happiness.”
As a Fulbright scholar from 2011-2012, Madson’s comments hit close to home. Senator Fulbright described the program that bore his name the following way: “The Fulbright Program aims to bring a little more knowledge, a little more reason, and a little more compassion into world affairs and thereby increase the chance that nations will learn at last to live in peace and friendship.”
When I was abroad that year, I lost sight of Madson’s lesson and Senator Fulbright’s words over an extremely trivial matter. Two of my fellow Fulbrighters held large birthday parties that I openly criticized. Their birthdays fell late in my grant year at a time when I found myself in the later stages of culture shock (see graphic below). I saw their actions as the personification of American excess and felt it was rude to exhibit such behavior in our host country. They were, of course, entitled to celebrate however they wished—those were their birthdays, not mine. I could have been more compassionate and understanding, and realized perhaps they were just as homesick as I. I didn’t have to be a grade A jerk.
Over the past few years I’ve grown to learn part of becoming a man is having the courage and willingness to admit your mistakes and apologize wholeheartedly once that realization dawns on you. I owe each a written apology.
How about you? How do you find and practice compassion in your life?