I was at Freedom Acres Farm Animal Sanctuary doing yoga with some friends over the weekend. I met a pig named Pumpkin who decided to join us for yoga. My friends had never been to an animal sanctuary before, and it was fun watching them interact with animals we normally think of as food. A few years back, I witnessed a pregnant cow arriving at the Full Circle Farm Sanctuary for the first time. I will never forget the sheer terror in her eyes until she realized she was in a place where nobody would harm her or her baby. These experiences remind me of how much we have in common with each other and with animals and other sentient beings. If you’re not familiar with the term, “sentient” simply means “able to perceive or feel things.” You might think of it as the ability to make decisions or feel pain. For example, Pumpkin the Pig decided she wanted to explore my friend’s purse, iPhone and shoes before lying in the sun on her yoga mat and quickly falling asleep.
As I continue my work teaching the path to self-actualization, deep joy, creativity and fulfillment, I’ve come to realize what a profound role compassion plays. Compassion is the 10th step in my book, 12 Steps to Mind-Blowing Happiness. It’s one of the final steps because it’s so close to divinity. It’s critical in the process of extinguishing anger but is often misunderstood. It often gets confused with sympathy and empathy.
Sympathy is defined by Oxford as “feelings of pity and sorrow for someone else’s misfortune.” Think of it as “Isn’t that sad?” Empathy is defined as “the ability to understand and share the feelings of another.” Think of it as, “I feel your pain.” Mirriam-Webster defines compassion as, “a feeling of wanting to help someone who is sick, hungry, in trouble, etc.” In other words, “I see you suffering, and I want to help.” Compassion motivates us to action.
We all want to be treated with compassion. Is it fair to ask for something that we aren’t willing to give? The breakdown happens when we try to qualify and classify other sentient beings whether it’s by species like with Pumpkin the Pig, or with race, politics, socioeconomic class, gender, sexual orientation, complexion, disability, religion or any other identity. This is a quote from 12 Steps to Mind-Blowing Happiness:
“Imagine the opposite of a society built on violence and inhumanity. Imagine a world where every soul was self-actualized, every animal had a right to live, and all men and women were equal regardless of race, class, background, sexual orientation or identity. The only way to create this type of world is to change ourselves.”
Now that we’ve dreamed this amazing world, how can we get there? How can we learn to be more compassionate? Here are my tips:
- Keep visualizing. We cannot create change if we can’t even imagine it. Practice visualization on your own or with guidance. 12 Steps to Mind-Blowing Happiness offers visualization exercises for each step. And, vision boarding season is here! I’m hosting the “Dream. Create. Do. 3-Step Vision-Boarding Workshop” on Sunday, December 5. It’s virtual so anybody can attend. You can sign up HERE.
- Watch compassionate films. – There are many movies that document the plight of both people and animals. Some of my favorites are Food Inc, The Game Changers, Vegucated, Cowspiracy, Lovelace, Time: the Kalief Browder Story.
- Read books. – A few books that might inspire you to understand others and grow your compassion are My Grandmother’s Hands by Resmaa Menakem, Pleasure Activism by Adrienne Maree Brown, Addict Nation by Jane Velez-Mitchell and Skinny Bitch by Rory Freedman and Kim Barnouin.
- Volunteer. – Spend time helping people who aren’t in your normal circle. And, yes, animals are totally people. Try your local food bank, homeless shelter, adult literacy center, animal sanctuary or any place where you feel you can be of service. Try someplace outside of your traditional church, sorority or fraternity, or school charities.
- Meditate on compassion. – There are many ways to meditate. One form of meditation is contemplation. Find a comfortable seat and think about how much you want compassion for yourself. You want to be at peace and free from suffering. Obviously, all living beings want to feel the same way. You’ve seen that other people and animals feel pain. Even a roach or a mouse in the house will run for their lives if you try to kill them. Clearly, they feel pain. Meditate on this truth and what you can do to create a more compassionate world.
Learning and growing always requires some effort. The possibility of a compassionate world is its own prize whether that world is in your family, your community, your city or the entire world.
I wish you freedom, alignment and effortless abundance!
P.S. Today’s picture is of me at the animal sanctuary doing tree pose next to Pumpkin the Pig, who was fast asleep and weighs in at 800 lbs. Talk about a gentle giant!