"Good morning, Tadpole. How are you today?" he asked politely. He's never this friendly first thing in the morning so I was wondering what was up. "Good morning to you," I replied. "I'm well, thank you. And You?" Robustly, Dharma exclaimed, "I'm wonderful. This is a great day! Today is another day that we have been given to help someone who is struggling. To be able to help someone who is in need is truly a great gift, Irwin. We are both very fortunate." I knew, of course, that he was right. Even though at 5:30 in the morning I don't always feel very fortunate....
"A frog must never look down upon another unless he is helping him up. Do you know why that is, Student?" "Sure!" I said. "It's because we never know when we may be the one who is down, who needs someone's help. And too, Sir, all frogs (and humans)are created equal, no matter their status in this life. No one should be above another." I'm very impressed, my son. You've learned well." (Side note here, I rarely impress Dharma so this was a HUGE deal for me!)
And with that, Dharma elaborated on the reasons why compassion is so important. As the Dalai Lama once said, "If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion." Any way you slice it, compassion is one of the key elements to living a happy and purposeful life. And compassion can be simple, like carrying a bag of groceries for someone, or opening a door for them. It can also be a grand gesture such as providing shelter for someone who is homeless...or giving them a job. Compassion knows no age, no gender, no nationality, no culture, no religion. Compassion is a universal gesture. Compassion is something that everyone understands.
Compassion offers us both long and short-term benefits. Compassion has been proven to keep us younger by producing a hormone that slows down the aging process and less of a hormone that speeds it up. It's no wonder, then, that the Dharma Frog looks so young despite his many, many years (decades, really) of life! Compassion makes everyone, frogs and humans alike, happier, more grateful, and deepens our sense of purpose. It makes us better at relationships, too.
Dharma left this morning, after finishing up his breakfast. But before he hopped away, he left me with five excellent ways for sharing and showing compassion.
1. Make compassion a part of your every day life. It doesn't have to be great big things. Just be aware of opportunities to help someone in need.
2. Focus on what you have in common with others, rather than your differences. When you come right down to it, we're all pretty much the same. And we want the same things for ourselves and our children. The world seems a lot smaller when when you look past the differences and focus more on our similarities.
3. Practice random acts of kindness. Give someone a flower, for no reason at all. Pay for a stranger's cup of coffee. Or smile at every single single person you meet today. You never know, it may well be the best thing that happens to them them all day.
4. Practice loving-kindness meditation. Sit somewhere comfortable and in a quiet place. Close your eyes, breathe in and out slowly for a few times, then repeat this phrase silently to yourself, "May I be safe. May I be healthy. May I be of service to others. May I be happy. May I live with ease" Feel free to substitute whatever statements resonate with you.
5. Talk about the power of compassion with others, especially your children. Encourage them to be compassionate in their own lives. Compassion breeds more compassion. And can't the world use all the compassion it can get right now?
After the Dharma Frog left, I sat quietly and contemplated what he'd said. He is right. He always is. Being able to serve others is a gift, a blessing; and certainly something that we should be grateful for every day. And compassion should begin with being kind to ourselves. And with that thought in mind, I think I'm going back to bed for a bit. Then, when I wake up (again), I will do my best to be compassionate to all I meet today.