Last week my daughter came down with chicken pox. Half term, lots planned and now housebound for seven days. Wonderful! Yet, as that familiar inner matron kicked in and I began the inevitable fussing and organising, I realised this was not an excuse to play top mum. It was an opportunity to stop and re asses.
Compassion has been bouncing on and off my radar a lot recently. A few months ago the amazing Shalini, who I met briefly at a conference, invited me to be part of a team setting up a free 28 day programme called Compassionate Me. I was honoured. After nine of us met to brainstorm ideas of the different things we could offer to help build, promote and support a practical and exciting scheme, I have been giving a lot of thought as to how I could make twenty eight days of March more memorable and powerful.
So, in a moment of rare peace and quiet, while my spotty little one sat glued to the high pitched squeal that is the Disney channel, I decided to ask myself a few key questions to help me focus on my thoughts towards compassion and how I would like to be involved with this project.
What do I think compassion means?
To me, compassion is being aware of how you treat others and how kind and caring you are to them and yourself. A while back, a film called Pay It Forward came out, about a boy whose school set a project where each child had to do a good dead. The recipient then had to do a good deed for three other people, rather than paying it back. It was an assignment to put into action a plan to change the world for the better. How rewarding would it be to know that because of one random act of kindness, you were infecting the world with more happiness! Compassion means noticing ourselves and listening to others. It means living life in a society where there is less fear and negativity and a little more selflessness.
Do I think I already show some compassionate? If so, how?
I consider myself a good person. I can’t do enough for friends and family. I am still a fan of snail mail and love sending cards to friends for birthdays as well as anyone going through challenging times. I mentor others who have been through cancer treatment and are struggling to adapt to life afterwards and watching them find the confidence and self esteem to fly again is incredible.
Why do I feel I want to be more compassionate?
I have been reading a lot about compassion and it has dawned on me that if I wanted to practice true compassion towards others it had to start with myself or where was the sustainability? It may sound selfish but from what I have read, I reckon this might actually be a bit of a wake up call on lots of levels, including knowing my limits and learning a bit more about myself. Truth be told, I am very good at caring about others but not always me! I often criticise and judge my actions and the things I say. I excel at putting myself under pressure and compare myself to everyone and everything from Barbie to Mother Teresa! Its time to lighten up!
How have others shown me compassion in the past?
I feel lucky to say I have some amazing experiences of others showing compassion towards me. My most memorable was ten years ago. A stranger came up to me in a restaurant one evening. I was wearing a head scarf while going through cancer treatment. He approached our table and apologised for interrupting but asked how I was doing. He then told me I would be ok, I would fight this and get through it and I looked amazing. He said he had been through it and it was important to show some solidarity. I was blown away and have carried this random act of kindness with me to this day. The girls I was with however, decided the headscarf look was clearly a great one for attracting members of the opposite sex!
Throughout my experiences fighting the big C, I found that the kindness and compassion demonstrated by doctors, nurses, volunteers, patients, friends, family as well as strangers, was incredible but I feel strongly that this sort of care and consideration shouldn’t just be valued when we are unwell or going through a challenging time or dealing with professionals whose job it is to care for others, but in every day life to every day people, for no particular reason at all, except because it could make all the difference to someones day.
What do I think I will find challenging?
Being kind to ourselves need only involve sitting for five minutes with a cup of tea (and drinking the whole thing while its still hot and maybe sneaking in a chocolate cookie too!) or having a long soak in the bath at night (again, while it is still hot and not luke warm! Are you noticing a theme?!) because it is really hard to appreciate any time for ourselves. We are so good at being busy, but never truly nurturing us.
The idea of walking up to a perfect stranger offering to buy him a coffee or helping an OAP pack her shopping will definitely be a push out of my comfort zone. I will have to perfect the skill of anonymously leaving pay it forward cards around Surrey without looking like Im stalking someone but surely that is one of the main reasons I want to do this? To make a small dent in the often insular attitude society seems to display so often.
What do I think will help me stick to this programme?
I have noticed how much more motivated I am if I am in a group environment. Take swimming; I have been recommended to swim once a week but can I get to a pool? I find swimming a very solitary sport and unless it is a class and I know people going, I find it hard to motivate myself. A programme like Compassionate Me could be perfect as it is an active forum of people with similar goals. I love the idea of weekly support tips, daily videos and blogs to help inspire and make me feel part of a network.
Mindfulness and compassion go hand in hand. With the fast paced lives we all live, it is easy to miss things and overlook special moments, the small things about ourselves as well as others. To sit in peace and stillness (is once a day asking too much?) focusing on the intentions for the day will be a really good habit to commit to more affectively.
How can I make my experience a bit different and stay motivated?
For my role in the team, I have offered to vlog daily about all the things I am doing to be more compassionate while following the weekly themes. This will be interesting! Writing is my safety blanket but I have never vlogged before, so in an effort to be compassionate to myself, I want to give myself this opportunity. I like to think that by doing this, I will be demonstrating compassion to others too by sharing and showing what we, as the team, are doing so others can draw support and encouragement from us.
At the end of the day, we are all individuals. We are all unique. Surely compassion encompasses all the elements of uniting our differences and celebrating what amazing people we are through love, kindness, respect and consideration ultimately creating more happiness, but this does take a lot of practice. It isn’t easy. From what I can tell, the first step is awareness. Some days will be harder than others, but if we begin a process like this and we are willing to take the next steps, compassion will naturally grow. If we only do one good deed for someone else this month, imagine the shift in positivity and the wave of smiles on peoples faces from one end of the globe to another. Now how heartwarming is that? x