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Training and Developing Your Compassion

We often think of compassion as an innate trait. You’re either compassionate, or you’re not. But what if compassion was actually more like confidence, happiness, or tranquility – all traits that we can develop if we put our mind to it?

Compassion is a trait that can be developed

Developing more compassion will help you improve your relationships with others, both personally and professionally. Have you ever met someone who was so warm and compassionate that you couldn’t help but respond in kind? When others sense that you care about them, they’ll naturally care about you in return.

Moreover, a compassionate life is simply more enjoyable to live than a self-centered one. It’s counter-intuitive, but one of the best things you could do for your own wellbeing is develop your sense of care for others.

So how does one develop compassion?

Developing Compassion with the Multiplying Goodness Meditation

This meditation comes from the Search Inside Yourself book, page 204.

  1. Begin by connecting with the goodness within you. Connect with your inner sense of love, care for others, joy and of course compassion. Sometimes imagining these emotions as white light emanating from your body can help you intensify your connection to these emotions.
  2. As you inhale, imagine breathing all this innate goodness into your heart. In the brief moment between inhale and exhale, imagine this innate goodness multiplying by a factor of 10. Now exhale and imagine yourself blowing this innate goodness out into the world. It can help to imagine this as blowing white light out into the world. Repeat this visualization for about 2 minutes.
  3. Now, connect with the sense of goodness within everyone that you know. It might help to imagine specific people. All those emotions you just experienced – love, care, joy, compassion – also exist in others. It can help to imagine those emotions as a white on top of their body. Now when you inhale, imagine you’re breathing their sense of goodness into your heart. Repeat this visualization for 2 minutes.
  4. Now expand this visualization to everyone in the world. Everyone in the world has these innate positive qualities as well. Connect with those emotions. Again, it can help to visualize this as white light. Breathe in this innate sense of goodness from everyone in the world. Repeat this visualization for 2 minutes.
  5. Finish the meditation by meditating on your breath for 1 minute.

This meditation can help you tap into your own sense of compassion, as well as develop more of a felt connection with the rest of the world. This in turn will also help you develop more care for others, as well as help improve your empathy.

To your happiness and success,

- Search Inside Yourself

What is Resistance (in Meditation?)

In the mindfulness community, the term “resistance” is commonly used word. But what does this term really mean? And how does it affect your meditation – and your life? Let’s take a deeper look.

What is resistance?

What is resistance (in meditation?)

What is Resistance?

Resistance is simply any way in which you’re not embracing the present moment, exactly the way it is. Resistance can be very obvious or very subtle. Here are a few examples:

  • “I wish I was less tired” (more obvious)
  • “I wish my back doesn’t hurt when I meditate” (more obvious)
  • “I should be more present” (more subtle)
  • “I need to stop resisting” (more suble)

Why Avoid Resistance?

Resistance fundamentally means you’re saying to the world, “I don’t like it the way it is.” However, the world is exactly the way it is – which means the more you resist, the more unhappiness you create.

Accepting things the way they are will not only allow you to enjoy life more, but also helps you facilitate change. When you accept something, it becomes more fluid and malleable. The first step to losing weight is accepting your body the way it is. The first step to ending a dispute is accepting where both parties are at. The first step to feeling more energized is to not resist your tiredness.

A Common Misconception

Meditation teachers often put resistance into two broad categories: craving and aversion. Craving is wanting something that isn’t here (e.g. “I wish I had more money.”) Aversion is wanting something that is here to not be here (e.g. “I wish I didn’t have to do today’s presentation.”)

Because meditation teachings advocating non-craving are so common, this often creates a misconception that desire itself is bad. And that part of mindful thinking is getting rid of desire. That’s not the case.

Part of mindfulness thinking is getting rid of resistance. Resistance combined with desire creates craving – in other words, you want the world to be different. This creates unhappiness and more resistance. However, on the other hand, desire can exist without resistance.

Instead of fighting the present moment, desire can be an enjoyable experience in and of itself. You can want to have financial success, and allow that desire to drive you further in life. Yet that desire doesn’t have to mean you resist the way your life really is. You can have both. Desire without resistance can actually be very healthy.

A Practice in Non-Resistance

Why not spend a few minutes getting to know your own tendencies towards resistance? Just give this short meditation a try.

  1. Find a place to sit and meditate. Set aside 5 to 10 minutes for this exercise.
  2. Bring your attention to your breath. Spend 1-2 minutes on whatever meditation works best for you. Once you feel present and grounded, move on to step #3.
  3. Start paying attention to how you’re embracing or resisting the present moment. Whenever you notice resistance, just smile and compassionately shift your attention to accepting that experience. Don’t resist the experience of having resistance.

With experienced meditators, resistance can often be more subtle. It might be the desire to feel more present, or a subconscious notion of how meditation is “supposed” to be. Notice these tendencies as well, and just smile, embrace it and continue your meditation.

To your happiness and success,

  • Search Inside Yourself

How to Mindfully Navigate Disagreements and Arguments

Disagreements and arguments can be either a source of frustration and anger, or a source of growth and understanding. Poorly navigated disagreements can create animosity and distance between all parties involved. On the other hand, a good disagreement can actually help move the organization forward, while bringing everyone involved closer together.

How to navigate disagreements mindfully.

How to navigate disagreements mindfully.

How can you turn a destructive disagreement into a constructive one? Mindfulness is the key.

Disagreements Are Essential for Growth

Researchers have found that a lack of disagreements is actually a huge red flag in organizations. An often cited example is in the medical field. In hospitals where nurses are afraid to point out mistakes made by doctors, avoidable mistakes happen far more frequently. Surgeons end up performing the wrong procedure on patients, because the culture in the organization forbade nurses from speaking up.

More efficient – and safer – hospitals cultivate an atmosphere where nurses are encouraged to point out any concerns they have before a procedure. In fact, in these hospitals, the whole operating team gets together before any procedure to walk through the process and to walk through any potential problems. Hospitals who manage to cultivate a culture of open dialogue often find their “medical mistakes” rates drop dramatically.

Destructive Disagreements vs. Constructive Disagreements

A destructive disagreement is one that’s based on emotion. It might be one person lashing out at another, one person being defensive towards the other, one person exerting power over another, or any number of other reactive situations. The core driver of the conversation is emotional.

A constructive disagreement on the other hand is based on a foundation of shared values. You both care about the same thing, and are disagreeing over the specific method of getting there. The nurse and the doctor both care about the patient’s health, but the nurse has a concern about the procedure. The CEO and the CFO both want the best for the company, but the CFO has concerns about how the books are kept. The writer and the editor both want the piece to be the best it can be, but the editor is insisting on a top to bottom rewrite.

All of these examples stem from a foundation of a shared goal, even if both participants have lost sight of that. The key to changing conversations from destructive to constructive is to move from focusing on the reactive emotions in the conversation to focusing on the shared values in the conversation.

Mindfully Moving Towards Constructive Disagreements

So, if you’re having a disagreement with someone, how do you mindfully steer that disagreement in a more constructive direction?

  1. Take a break if possible. Getting distance will help you calm your emotions and be able to get more perspective.
  2. Examine your emotions. What are you feeling? What emotions are you experiencing? Which parts of you are feeling reactive? Look below the surface. Is any part of you feeling hurt, disregarded or undervalued?
  3. Listen to what they’re saying verbally. Acknowledge any emotions you might be experiencing as you listen, but don’t let them get in the way of really hearing what they’re saying. Mindfulness practice really helps with this. Just being aware of your emotions removes much of the power they have over you. You’ll start driving the conversation from a place of values instead of reactiveness.
  4. Listen to what’s unsaid. Understand where they’re coming from. Try to feel out what emotions they’re experiencing in the disagreement, and try to understand why they’re having that reaction. What concerns haven’t been aired? What’s causing the tension in the conversation?
  5. Then, look below the emotions and re-focus on the values they share with you. Mentally focus on your shared values and then verbally acknowledge it. Acknowledge that you both want the same thing. Talk through any of the disagreements you’ve had, but approach it as if you’re on the same side of the table instead of on opposite ends.

Mindfulness allows you to bring yourself out of a reactive or emotional state. Use mindfulness to return yourself to emotional equilibrium. As you become less reactive, they will as well. Once the heated emotions start to diffuse, you can focus your attention on the content of the issue, with a foundation of shared values.

To your happiness and success,

-          Search Inside Yourself Team

What to Focus on During Meditation: 20 Ideas

Most types of meditation involve paying attention to your mind, then gently bringing your attention back to a chosen focal point if your mind wanders. The focal point itself varies from meditation to meditation. What you focus on can make a big difference on your meditation experience.

Time to Focus

Try shifting your meditation’s focus to
one of these 20 ideas

So why not experiment with what you focus on? Here are 20 ideas for things to try. See which one(s) create the most powerful experience for you.

1. The Breath. This is perhaps the most common type of meditation. Focus your attention on your breath, and simply bring it back to the breath whenever your mind wanders.

2. The Body Scan. Pay attention to the physical sensations in your body. Start from the top of your head and slowly move your attention down. When you get to the floor, change directions and slowly move back up.

3. The Present Moment. Instead of focusing on something specific externally, simply focus your attention on being in the present moment. Experience what’s happening right now, moment by moment.

4. Emotions. Focus on your emotions. What are you feeling? What are the layers and subtleties to those emotions?

5. Emotional Triggers. Trace an emotion back to its cause. What triggered that emotion? Are there unconscious emotional triggers at play? Don’t beat yourself up about anything – simply observe your emotional triggers with compassion and curiosity.

6. Compassion. Focus on your own sense of compassion. On your care and love for others around you. Allow this feeling to grow and expand.

7. Forgiveness. Bring to mind a person who has wronged you, or whom you perceive to have wronged you. Allow yourself to feel and experience all the emotions associated with that experience, then slowly let them go. Choose to forgive.

8. Your Core Values. Explore what your core values are. What do you really care about? What do you stand for? How are those core values present right now?

9. Inspiration. How inspired do you feel right now, in the present moment? Explore the intricacies of what makes you feel inspired, or why you don’t feel inspired.

10. Your Goals. Think about some of your most important goals. What comes up when you think of them? Do you feel excited? Pressured? Do they feel challenging or undemanding?

11. The Humanity of Others. Think of the people in your life. Remind yourself that they’re human, just like you. They’re a conscious, feeling, thinking being, just like you. Tap into a shared sense of humanity with the people around you.

12. The Suffering of Others. Becoming aware of the pain of those around you can be a potent way to develop more compassion. Think of people around you who are in pain – those you know personally, or people you see suffering who you don’t know personally (such as the homeless in your city.) Or you can even think of distant people in the world, like kids in Africa. Let their suffering in, and respond with love and compassion.

13. Happiness. Focus your attention on your own sense of happiness. How happy are you now? What does it feel like to put your attention on your happiness? How could you increase your sense of happiness in your life?

14. The Heart of the Rose. A simple meditation from “The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari.” Meditate in front of a rose, and simply focus on appreciating its beauty. Notice the color, the fragrance, the softness of the petals – even the dangers of the spikes. Fully appreciate the rose for what it is.

15. Breathe in Light, Breathe Out Stress. On your inhale, focus on breathing in positive emotions like love, compassion and inspiration. On your exhale, focus on expelling negative emotions from your body, such as stress, anger or resentment.

16. Soothing Music. Play a piece of soothing music in the background. Focus just on the music, on allowing yourself to really experience the music fully.

17. White Light. Meditators often find that visualizing white light is calming and rejuvenating. Visualize this light flowing into you through your breath, or emanating from your heart.

18. A Conversation. This meditation is useful when there’s a conversation that your mind is stuck on. First, let yourself think about that conversation for a few moments. Then, bring your attention back to the present. Now pay attention to the thoughts, emotions and physical sensations that arise. This can help dispel any lingering feelings related to that conversation.

19. Conscious Eating. Try meditating while you’re eating. Try to savor every bite, and really experience your meal as you’re eating it.

20. Space and Expansion. The vast majority of matter is made of space. See if you can feel a sense of vastness, to feel space itself. You are, after all, floating through space at this very moment. Can you experience what that’s like, not as a concept, but as a present moment experience?

These are 20 very different potential ways you can focus your meditation. Try out the ones that sound most interesting to you. Let us know how it goes!

To your happiness and success,

-          Search Inside Yourself

How to Use Meditation to Improve Your Public Speaking

World-class public speakers generally have a few traits in common. They’re relaxed on stage. They’re spontaneous and often interact with the audience during their speech. They’re expressive and bright; the audience often feels uplifted, inspired or moved after the speech. They know how to “flow” on stage. While much of this comes with practice, meditation can help you cultivate all of these qualities much more quickly.

Use mindfulness to improve your public speaking

Use mindfulness to improve your public speaking

Most people have trouble with public peaking because they approach the subject from a place of fear. Their mind creates mental images of disaster scenarios, and those mental images further intensify their fear. In response, they try harder to memorize and recite the speech word for word – taking their attention away from the moment, and from the audience with whom they’re trying to create a connection.

Instead of trying to overcome fear by memorizing a speech word for word, meditation allows you to dissipate the fear in a natural way. It won’t completely get rid of nervousness, but it will allow you to have a positive relationship with the natural nervousness that comes with speaking. It’ll also allow you to be in the present moment – and allow you to be spontaneous, relaxed, and expressive.

So how can you use meditation to improve your public speaking?

Meditate at Least 5 Minutes a Day the Week Before Your Speech

A big part of the nervousness that comes from speaking in public comes from a “buildup” of stressful self-talk. The week leading up to a talk, thoughts like these often pop up:

  • What will the audience think of me?
  • What questions might the audience ask? What if I don’t have an answer?
  • What if the projector breaks?
  • What will this mean for my career if I mess up this speech?

Over the week, this can create a buildup of stress that only gets worse. Meditation can not only help break you out of this cycle, but turn the cycle into a cycle of positive self-talk.

The first step to putting an end to this kind of mental imagery and self-talk is to become aware of it. With regular meditation, you’ll start to very quickly notice when your mind is creating unhelpful self-talk. You’ll also be able to practice stopping that kind of self-talk. Not through force, but through gently guiding your mind back to awareness – or to more positive and self-reinforcing thoughts.

Meditating every day leading up to a speech can work wonders for your nerves when you’re actually on stage. It’ll dispel the “buildup” of stressful thoughts leading up to the speech, which will have you much more relaxed when you’re actually on stage.

Being Relaxed and Spontaneous During Your Speech

Meditation can also be a powerful tool when you’re actually up on stage.

The first step starts as any other meditation starts: accepting the moment exactly as it is. If you’re feeling nervous, start by breathing and allowing that experience to exist, as it is. Stay in the present moment and accept whatever the moment brings.

In improv, one of the core tenants is the “yes, and” philosophy. Like meditation, improv actors are taught to accept the moment as it is, and to add on top of it. This philosophy can be very powerful when used on stage. Instead of stopping the flow of the moment, improv actors are able to take whatever is happening in the moment and turn it into an opportunity to connect with the audience. This concept applies not just with improv, but with all public speaking.

A great example of this is Google’s Gopi Kallayil’s mindfulness speech. During his speech, the projector broke down. Instead of letting anxiety about the situation detract from his speech, he used the situation spontaneously to create a mindfulness exercise. He shared with the group exactly what was going on in his mind, and how he was using his breath to calm himself down. He turned the situation into an educational moment and involved the audience. Instead of freezing up or apologizing, it became a valuable part of his speech.

The “right response” to these kinds of situations is different from speech to speech. But the key to being able to come up with a good response on the spot is to simply accept the moment as it is – to say “yes and” – and to add to it.

Meditation and mindfulness can help you make big improvements to your public speaking. Best of all? It only takes a few minutes of practice a day for it to make an impact. Why not give it a shot the next time you have a big speech?

To your happiness and success,

-          Search Inside Yourself Team

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