What unites us...
Last updated 10/19/2021 at Noon
If we strip away all of our differences, we discover that each of us shares a wish to be happy and content, free from hardship and suffering. How different groups go about achieving this end divides us, but these most fundamental motivations serve to unite us.
Life is filled with ups and downs. Sometimes we experience success. Other times we are confronted with disappointment, setbacks, and failure. We strive to achieve the life that we imagined for ourselves but we may also “bump up against our limitations.” We forge intimate connections, but we also experience unexpected losses.
This is the beauty and pain of being human.
“The more you open your heart to this reality instead of constantly fighting against it, the more you will be able to feel compassion for yourself and all your fellow humans in the experience of life.” See https://self-compassion.org/the-three-elements-of-self-compassion-2/.
We deepen our sense of connectedness to others by recognizing that: we are not alone in our suffering, the universe has not singled us out for punishment, everyone faces challenges.
We may learn to extend kindness and compassion to a broader swath of humanity (these techniques are found in the Healthy Minds app).
Draw an imaginary circle around yourself, large enough so that you can populate your circle with all of the people you genuinely wish to be happy and content, free from hardship and suffering.
Start with sending compassionate wishes to yourself: “May I be happy and content, free from hardship and suffering.” (If you find this step too difficult, skip to the next step and imagine someone you love sending compassionate wishes to you).
Next visualize someone you love dearly, with whom you have a fairly uncomplicated relationship — maybe a dear friend, a child or grandchild. Imagine sending them positive energy in the form of a wish for them to be happy and content, free from hardship and suffering. Picture their response to your compassionate
Continue to populate your compassionate circle with people you love — your intimate partner, close friends, and family: “May you be happy and content, free from hardship and suffering.” Observe their response.
Expand your compassionate circle by adding closer work friends and acquaintances, wishing them happiness and an end to hardship and suffering.
See if you can make room inside your compassionate circle for people you don’t know very well, such as someone who walks their dog in your neighborhood or a clerk at the grocery store who restocks the shelves.
Imagine sending your compassionate wishes to these “neutral people,” wishing them happiness and an end to their hardships and suffering.
We also interact with “difficult people.” Even they might find a place within your compassionate
Think of an individual who gets on your nerves, perhaps an annoying acquaintance or someone with whom you work or volunteer.
What would their friends and family notice about this person? What would they appreciate? What qualities might you have overlooked that would improve your attitude toward them?
Picture this person standing within your compassionate circle, sending them positive wishes for their happiness and an end to the hardships that they
See if you can add other “difficult people” to your compassionate circle.
If you are like most people, you will find it more demanding to extend kindness and compassion toward someone you don’t like. How would you respond to this self-assessment question from Healthy Minds app?
I want all people to be happy, including people I don’t like
A. Not at all
B. A little bit
D. A lot
E. To the highest degree
Just like you, people we don’t like want to be happy and content, free from hardship and suffering. How they go about seeking happiness and avoiding suffering may put us at odds with them, but we are all motivated by the same basic desire.
When we focus on our shared humanity, we see that what unites us is more substantial than what
When we extend kindness and compassion to people we dislike, we are well on our way to embracing aspects of our own personality that we find objectionable, deepening self-compassion.
Finally, we may enlarge our compassionate circle to include all of humanity, the creatures that share this world with us, and the earth itself.