By Diana Raab, Ph.D.
On July 6th, His Holiness the Dalai Lama turned 80 years old. That day has also been also named National Compassion Day. Many years ago, I saw the Dalai Lama speak at a local university. Knowing that I would be inspired by his words, I stood in line for the event holding a brand-new Moleskine notebook. By the end of the day, the pages of my notebook were full. I realized that the Dalai Lama not only shared a great deal of wisdom about the world in which we live, but he discussed subjects that begged future exploration.
The Dalai Lama’s talk inspired me to live and write with even more compassion. To me, the word “compassion” relates to the emotional or spiritual component of our being. When you speak or write with compassion, the receiver can feel it immediately. Sympathy and empathy are two other similar responses to circumstances; however compassion, in my view, is a way of life. Having compassion for another person or the world-at-large, means that you have strong feelings about them and are enthusiastically and wholeheartedly “holding a space” for them.
Also, when you feel compassion for someone or a situation, you are suspending judgment or disbelief. You are simply being present. You are meeting the person or the situation where it is, accepting the circumstance just the way it is. If laughter is needed, then you offer laughter. If support is needed, then you offer support. If tears are needed, you offer tears.
Undoubtedly, the Dalai Lama has been a prime example of living a life full of love and compassion, always offering kindness and grace. The word compassion may be broken down into “com” meaning “with,” and “passion.” Many poets write with passion because they write about subjects of great meaning to them. When it comes to compassion, there are no rules. Having and writing with compassion involves writing more from the heart than the head.
Here are some writing prompts that can help you practice writing with compassion. While writing, keep in mind the above discussion about compassion.
1) Write about an illness or an unfortunate event experienced by a loved one.
Try writing this in the third person. Writing about a difficult situation that someone else has encountered is a way to help you share the experience with them. Use as many events, emotions and images as you can so the readers feel as if they are present with the writer.
2) Write about a situation in which you helped an individual or a group in need.
Writing about when you helped someone is a way to chronicle a good deed — plus it’s a way to use compassion to provide your reflection on the situation.
3) Write about a situation in which you had to suspend your belief.
Sometimes we have to use compassion for those in need even if we don’t agree, believe or understand what they are going through. In other words, we need to drop our own personal belief system and extend loving kindness.
4) Write a compassionate letter
Writing a letter is always a good way to share and express difficult emotions. Write the letter from your heart using “embodied” writing. Feel the words rise from a part of your body to the page.
5) Write from the voice of someone who has experienced misfortune, sharing that person’s story.
What you write can be about someone close to you or someone who you know about. It should be someone’s story that resonates with you.
6) Make a list of ways in which you practice compassion.
This list can be all-inclusive. For example, include practices within your circle of contacts as well as the world-at-large.