This is the seventh of 10 posts I’m writing about how to combine gratitude and compassion for a happier life. This series was all sparked by a remarkable finding from brain research as expressed by Dr Amit Sood of the famous Mayo Clinic:
“Because of the way your brain works, the pursuit of gratitude and compassion will make you happier than the pursuit of happiness itself.” – Dr Amit Sood
This insight has really made me think about so many aspects of my life.
How can I implement this in practice to turbo-power my happiness? How can we all?
I’ve come up with a simple 4-part framework for combining gratitude and compassion, and I’m sharing how to do that using 10 different examples in 10 posts. In each post I focus on a different area of gratitude as a jumping off point.
This week my gratitude reference point is Growth.
One of the things I’ve discovered on my journey is that mindset always comes first.
If I want abundance, then before I do anything else I must condition my own subconscious mind to help me find it and choose it.
I work on my personal growth in order to expand my capacity for more abundance in my life. I’m talking about all forms of abundance: health, relationships, financial prosperity, love, meaning, purpose and happiness. Any goal or desired outcome.
When I condition my subconscious correctly, it will spend all day everyday looking for, sorting for, collating, assessing and unconsciously selecting for me anything and everything that will help me achieve my goals.
So before I DO anything I make sure my mindset (my subconscious programming) is aligned with me achieving that goal.
Then it’s soooooo much easier to attain, because my subconscious does all the heavy lifting for me. It feels effortless.
It’s not really effortless, because my subconscious is working hard for me (as it is designed to do) but it FEELS effortless because I’m not conscious of the effort.
There are tons of great tools for conditioning your subconscious mind.
For money and prosperity, which is a mindset area that many people have a lot of subconscious blockages around, my book “The Abundance Code” (available on Amazon) takes you through a process of subconscious reprogramming that is easy, powerful and effective.
I also love Tim and Kris Hallbom’s Wealthy Mind program, which is an incredibly affordable DVD based course with a workbook that’s really good if you want to do a total overhaul on your money belief system. I’ve known and studied with Tim and Kris for years, and we interviewed them for The Abundance Code film. Their depth of knowledge and experience in the area of belief change is second to none.
Another tool that I use all the time in order to work on my mindset and keep it in tip top shape, is hypnosis. I have a whole range of hypnosis tracks loaded onto my iPad and I listen to them when I want to relax (hypnosis is very relaxing) or when I’m going to sleep.
I like Glenn Harrold’s hypnosis programs (www.glennharrold.com), but there are many others available. Search the word “hypnosis” in YouTube and you’ll find plenty of free resources.
With the technology and resources available today I can have regular relaxing hypnosis sessions – in my own home, lying in a park, by the beach or wherever I choose (not while driving though… don’t do hypnosis and drive!) AND it doesn’t cost me much.
Years ago I would’ve had to find a good hypnosis practitioner, make an appointment, drive there, drive back, pay $$ for each session… but these days thanks to technology it’s easy for me to condition and maintain my mindset.
I’m so grateful for that, because I know from experience that having my mindset working FOR me and not against me makes ALL the difference.
It can be challenging to keep your mindset in tip-top shape if you are constantly being bombarded with negative and fearful messaging by the news media, violent TV shows, games, and maybe be even negative co-workers, family members or friends.
Sometimes it requires definitive action to turn the volume down on this mental noise – we may choose to turn off the TV, stop watching negative and violent programming, or stop hanging around with people who complain a lot or are stuck in the victim loop.
But making those kinds of choices in a sweeping way is not always practical or possible.
A lot of people say “but I want to be informed so I can be part of the change I want to see in the world” or “I need my job and I can’t control how my coworkers are, or who my boss is” or “I know my family can be negative but I love them and I’m not willing to disconnect from them”… and those are often really valid considerations.
So, what to do?
In these cases, compassion and empathy are great tools.
Looking at the other person’s negativity not as something you need to buy into, but as something that is representing their pain, their fear and possibly even a cry for help. I’m not saying you have to ‘save’ them… but compassionate listening in a space of non-judgment while actively acknowledging their feelings can really be a transformative practice.
It’s possible to acknowledge and respect where someone is coming from, without agreeing with their views. And you’re much more likely to be able to offer them positive resources for change, and have them take that stuff on board, if you’ve really listened to their pain first.
For example, if your coworker is complaining about taxes being too high and saying they think that unemployed people should just get off their butts and get a job instead of expecting to be supported by society… you might not agree with that but you can listen compassionately and acknowledge that this is upsetting them, without necessarily arguing the point, or trying to convert them to your point of view.
Saying things like “What I hear is that you feel a bit ripped off by it because you work so hard, is that right?” Or draw them out on related points, genuinely exploring their views with interest, and not with judgement. Perhaps you might ask “So how do you feel about your tax dollars supporting sick people who don’t have good health insurance? Do you feel the same way about that?”
Then you might point them to check out some studies of social outcomes in countries with good social security safety nets, as opposed to ones where the tax dollars get spent largely on the military or corporate bailouts. If you do this without making them feel wrong, after really listening to their point of view, and inviting them to check out the resource you’re offering and make up their own minds… that’s going to have a much better chance of positive transformation than just taking opposite sides and having a heated argument.
You never know, they may just point you to a resource that opens your mind a bit more on the topic too.
If we avoid making everyone who doesn’t think exactly the same way as we do ‘wrong’ then we get to debate a range of topics in a really interesting and healthy way, instead of judging the person who has a different opinion.
Opinions can change. Especially if we are open to learning. I have a lot of opinions, but I’m not attached to all of them. Some of my opinions are not really based on a depth of knowledge about the topic. They might be more like quick assessments than fully formed opinions. So I might learn something really valuable from genuinely exploring another person’s point of view.
Actions are on another level to opinions, of course. I won’t tolerate abusive behaviour, and if I see it happening to someone else I hope I’ll have the courage to stand up for them as well.
But opinions… there’s no harm in exploring them as much as possible without jumping to judge the person who’s having them. Philosophers of old used to use healthy debate as a way of really exploring a topic fully. Sometimes they’d even argue opposite positions to their true beliefs just for fun and to explore the logical elements of that position. Debate can be incredibly rewarding, if done respectfully.
This is based on a Buddhist practice called Metta. It involves imagining sending ‘loving kindness’. What’s that? I imagine it to be like the feeling you get from a loving, nurturing hug.
Firstly, for all the times in my life that I’ve judged people for their opinions, I send loving kindness to myself. For all the times I struggled to make my own life better, without actually working on my mindset as a first priority, I send loving kindness to myself. I know I could have made a lot more progress, a lot more quickly if I’d worked on my mindset earlier… and I forgive myself for not doing that.
For all the times that I didn’t really listen to what the other person was saying, didn’t explore it in a meaningful way because it contradicted my own pre-formed beliefs, got angry at people who held alternate viewpoints while discussing heated topics that I felt passionate about, started making a debate personal by saying things like “if you really think that then you’re a fool”, or lost my cool and maybe even walked out… I send loving kindness to myself.
(The practice of compassion always begins with the self. If we can’t practice self-compassion then it’s going to be very hard for us to have compassion for others.)
Secondly, for all the people I love, respect, and admire… I send them loving kindness for all the times they feel unheard and unacknowledged for their viewpoints. And for the times when they’ve struggled to stay out of judgment, and struggled to stay in respectful dialogue. And for the times they resisted working on their mindset because they felt too afraid, or stuck, or they didn’t know how to make meaningful changes. They may be struggling in this way without me knowing it. I send them loving kindness.
Thirdly, for all the people I don’t even know who may be struggling in this way… I send loving kindness. For all the people I do know but don’t have much of a relationship with, who may also be struggling with this… I send loving kindness. If they are in pain, and struggling to heal themselves or make meaningful mindset changes to shift out of that, I send them loving kindness.
Fourthly, for all the people I know who actually irritate me, or people that I’m currently having issues with who may also be feeling unheard, unacknowledged, or even attacked and vilified for their views… I send them loving kindness.
What can I do this week to put it into action? How can I express my gratitude for being blessed with some really powerful mindset tools, while at the same time practice compassion for myself and others who sometimes get sucked into a negative spiral?
This week, I pledge to keep doing the practices that I know help me stay in a positive and resourceful mindset. Like daily meditation, eating clean whole foods, hydrating and limiting the amount of time I spend on social media or watching traditional media. Reading transformational books. Hanging out with positive people who like to think deeply about things and discuss them in a healthy way. Being grateful. Acknowledging my daily wins, however small.
One app I use a lot is called The Five Minute Journal. It literally only takes about 5 minutes a day and is split between morning and evening. The morning is a framework for listing 3 things you’re grateful for, 3 things that will make your day awesome and 1 affirmation statement. The evening is for listing 3 ‘wins’ (awesome things that happened that day), and a reflection piece on what could you have done to make that day even better. It’s a deceptively simple process, AND it really works to keep you in a positive, growth-oriented frame of mind.
I pledge to respect and enquire into alternative viewpoints to my own, when I feel like my mindset is in a good position to be able to do that. Instead of just staying in a like-minded bubble, which can be like an echo-chamber. There’s a balance to be struck: making sure my own mindset is strong and stable enough to seek out alternative viewpoints, so that I can listen without allowing myself to get sucked into a spiral of negativity. It’s something to keep a real eye on. (What’s the saying? Always fit your own oxygen mask first!)
I will work to stay out of judgement and really listen to alternative ways of thinking. If someone believes something I don’t agree with, I will seek to acknowledge the validity of their feelings (feelings, not opinions) and try to understand why they think, feel and believe the things that they do. I will work on having compassion and empathy for their point of view, and especially compassion for the root causes of that kind of thinking… while also being grateful for all of the wisdom and learning that I’ve been able to access in the process of forming my own views on the world.
What can you do to combine gratitude and compassion this week?
Let me know in the comments if this post has helped you!
To YOUR Abundance,
Julie Ann Cairns