I woke up this morning and I saw something that annoyed me. I noticed almost immediately how unhelpful it was for me to be annoyed, which gave me a temporary sense of satisfaction. But I still went down the rabbit hole. The details are unimportant because I am sure all of us could easily relate: "How could that person possibly have made that choice? Don't they know how inconvenient their choice will be for me? Don't they know what I want?" I could just sense the anger bubbling over and I felt almost helpless. My mind came up with all sorts of logical reasons to justify an angry response.
Then I read an article about compassion by His Holiness the Dalai Lama that allowed me to break free from this round of anger. He reminded me that "as human beings we all have the potential to be happy and compassionate people, and we also have the potential to be miserable and harmful to others." I was primed and ready to send out all kinds of misery and harm and the Dalai Lama's words reminded me that we are all suffering. If I go through life hoping people make choices primarily based on my needs I am going to encounter all kinds of misery of my own. He says:
"Whether people are beautiful or plain, friendly or cruel, ultimately they are human beings, just like oneself. Like oneself, they want happiness and do not want suffering"
The good news is that we all can work to reduce our propensity to do negative things and instead cultivate compassion. The Dalai Lama believes that for every person, "given patience and time, it is within our power to develop this kind of universal compassion." I think he's right. Whether I am sitting on my meditation cushion practicing loving-kindness, engaging in activities for the benefit of others, or trying to reduce my use of plastic for the good of the planet, I have the power to make choices that align with my values. If I'm not careful, I also can make sucky choices, get wrapped up in angry thoughts, and feel annoyed.
I have the choice to respond to a perceived slight with compassion rather than anger. Today the Dalai Lama woke me up to the truth that "we need more compassion and altruism everywhere" and I highly recommend reading his article (adapted from his book, The Compassionate Life). But starting tomorrow, or perhaps five minutes from now, I will need more reminders to not believe everything I think.
What are your tricks to remember to act with compassion and love?