Elephants Cultivating Compassion

Kindling Kindness: Raising our Capacity for Cultivating Compassion – PS99

In cultivating compassion, we grow empathy and positive regard for self and others. It encourages us to train our hearts and minds to stay open and offer our best to others.  Growing our understanding of difference, attending to small ways to connect with other, developing our own inner resources to be of service are some of the habits of this literacy.  

Cultivating Compassion with our Compassionate Voice 

Kindling Kindness - Cultivating Kindness LiteracyIn the last episode on Reframing Reality, we talked about ways of shifting perceptions and reframing our worlds.  Today’s literacy of Kindling Kindness can be said to start with a type of reframing–stepping into someone else’s shoes–where we take on that person’s perspective, developing more empathy and cultivating compassion for who they are.

From the perspective of Appreciative Voice, Kindling Kindness is the compassionate voice, where we encourage our natural capacity for goodness and empathy. Kindling Kindness also encompasses gratitude and mercy, life-giving positive emotions and qualities that altogether encompass a Tibetan Buddhist term ‘bodhichitta,’ or infinite altruism,

In focusing on Kindling Kindness as a needed literacy for the dailification of Appreciative Voice, we’re saying that it’s just as important to be skilled in kindness as it is to be able to read and write – maybe more important. Neil deGrasse Tyson, the astrophysicist and director of Hayden Planetarium said it beautifully:

“Imagine how different the world would be if, in fact, it were ‘reading, writing, arithmetic, empathy…”

A New[ish] Assumption About Humans

The mainstream western view, until recently, has been that human nature is based on self-interest and selfishness, which can lead to behaviors of defensiveness and aggression.

But, when looking at the larger spectrum of human history, researchers have realized that our species’ survival has depended on cooperation, which requires a certain level of empathy and compassion. This take on human nature rejects the idea that self-interest is always dominant. That’s a big deal.

We have a huge capacity for cultivating compassion and goodness, not just violence and other destructive emotions and behaviors, the kinds of things we see on the nightly news.

In other words, we’re not as bad as we’ve been taught to believe we are.

From I to We

What causes us to extend ourselves and connect, from I to We, where we make that appreciative choice to reach out and acknowledge our connections and empathize with those around us?  That ’We’ might extend from family and friends to all humanity; it might also encompass cultivating compassion for the natural world, for all beings and all existence, everywhere.

The best place to begin is with self-compassion, and there are many meditations and activities which can help us build that. Ultimately, if we can’t kindle kindness for ourselves, we can’t do it for the rest of existence. Another big deal to realize.  The good news is that we can and must take it moment by moment, step by step, day by day, cultivating compassion for me, kindling kindness for you and you and you.

“So the human capacity to care for others is not something trivial or something to be taken for granted. Rather, it is something we should cherish. Compassion is a marvel of human nature, a precious inner resource, and the foundation of our well-being and the harmony of our societies. If, therefore, we seek happiness for ourselves, we should practice compassion; and if we seek happiness for others, we should also practice compassion!” [H.H. the Dalai Lama, Beyond Religion: Ethics for a Whole World.

The Appreciative Voice Literacies Guide

Seven Literacies to living and leading in these times

The 7 Literacies of Appreciative Voice

A summary and infographics of all the literacies, offering a definition, a description and daily practices to amplify your appreciative voice, plus the articles and podcast episodes to explain each.

Dailifying Appreciative Voice: Pausing, Praying, Meditating, Envisioning

In this episode, we offer a few personal experiences with different methods for cultivating compassion and kindness.

Most of us know that it’s a good idea when in a difficult conversation or entering what might be a tough meeting, to pause for a moment and center, reflect on what we feel and want, and perhaps to send our intentions for good outcomes, praying for understanding and kindness.

Here’s a loving-kindness meditation – the simplest version –  from Sharon Salzberg, that Robyn uses daily to connect:

“May I be safe.

May I be happy.

May I be strong.

May I live with ease.”

Sallie offered a story of the power of group compassion, the possibility of sending our healing intentions to others, envisioning them well and whole. This life-changing work came through science writer and researcher Lynne McTaggart’s experiments with intention and interconnection, all well-documented in her latest book, The Power of Eight. It’s a method available to us all

The Literacy Continuum

Becoming adept at cultivating compassion is key to Appreciative Voice and Choice.

Where might you place yourself on a continuum for Kindling Kindness?

Maybe closer to zero, if you feel like these ideas are somewhat new to you. Or, if you feel farther along the path to mastery, you might find yourself closer to 10!  Let us know!

LIteracies continuum

The next episode will feature the literacy of Powering the Positive, the power of positivity and strengths used to move toward solutions.

Five Life-Saving Questions

  1. How is this person [or other being] in front of me like me?
  2. How are we connected? how might I acknowledge the connection we already have? How might I invite into connection?
  3. What might this person[s] need now?  Need from me?
  4. How might I be helpful? How might we connect?
  5. What’s the best I can offer here? How might I be of service? alleviate suffering?


It’s your choice to find and express your Appreciative Voice.

Connect with Sallie and Robyn

Sallie on LinkedIn

Robyn on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Google +Positivity Strategist 

Links to Resources Mentioned

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The Compassionate Instinct: The Science of Human Goodness

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Love 2:0 Born to Be Good: The Science of a Meaningful Life

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Beyond Religion: Ethics for a Whole World

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The Age of Empathy: Nature's Lessons for a Kinder Society

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Lovingkindness: The Revolutionary Art of Happiness

Links to Articles Mentioned

Fredrickson, Barbara L.; Cohn, Michael A.; Coffey, Kimberly A.; Pek, Jolynn; Finkel, Sandra M. (Nov 2008) Open hearts build lives: Positive emotions, induced through loving-kindness meditation, build consequential personal resources. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Vol 95(5), 1045-1062.

Conference on Compassion Meditation: Mapping Current Research and Charting Future Directions at Emory University in Atlanta, sponsored by the Emory-Tibet Partnership. 2010.

Pace, Thaddeus W.W., Lobsang Tenzin Negi, Daniel D. Adame, Steven P. Cole, Teresa I. Sivilli, Timothy D. Brown, Michael J. Issa, Charles L. Raison (2009). Effect of Compassion Meditation on Neuroendocrine, Innate Immune and Behavioral Responses to Psychosocial Stress.

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