Today at San Diego State University, His Holiness the Dalai Lama spoke to a sellout crowd. There he was, up on the big screen, not dribbling the ball down center court, but instead challenging the audience with his simple yet profound messages. Today’s topic, Compassion Beyond Borders.

Although I do not associate myself directly with any particular faith or religion, I love the philosophy and beliefs behind Buddhism. I often sit in on a meditation session that is led by an aspiring Buddhist. After a 20 minute meditation he speaks about the various Buddhist principles. The primary focus however is kept to the basics, learning how to quiet the mind as a way of dealing with the daily stress we each experience. Why we resist a discipline like this is hard to understand, particularly since we experience first hand the peace and serenity after each session.

His message today focused on the importance of applying compassion in our lives, and the critical need for this today in a global world that is filled with challenges. It was his explanation of why this is so difficult for us to do that made this more real and personal. We are emotional beings and most of our actions are a result of responding to our emotions. We begin our lives expressing our emotions which help us to get what is so important at this time, nourishment for our physical being, and love for our personal being.

Over time, we develop fears, concerns, anxiety, stress which provoke negative emotions, which in turn drives our behavior, often with negative outcomes, which only serve to reinforce our negative attitudes. He challenged our education system which primarily focuses on developing our mental ability while ignoring the topic of how to manage our emotional selves. In addition, he states that we tend to place greater focus on our physical being, when instead we should be placing greater importance on what is driving our thoughts and behaviors. This is more important since getting our inner self in order will result in our outer or physical self to be healthier and happier.

His message reminded us that it is not our physical being that we bring into the next life, but instead our soul or the essence of our being, that is made up of our beliefs, attitudes, values and what we did with these in this life experience. This carried into the conversation regarding the importance of learning how to quiet the mind so that we can understand our emotional self and what is behind these feelings, and to replace negativity with compassion.

Compassion as he put it, is all about separating the person from their negative actions and consequences. If they harm themselves, ourselves or others, it is really not the person at fault, but the fears that they have adopted which drives these negative behaviors and outcomes. Compassion is accepting that we are all human and prone to these behaviors. This does not have to mean that we condone these behaviors and take no action, but to be careful to allow judgement and our own issues to drive our own negative responses.

The challenge is to begin by applying the concept of compassion and forgiveness to ourselves, “cleaning our own house” so to speak, before we begin to tell others how to clean up their own act. Loving people do not harm others, and are happier, which should drive us each to want to develop our loving nature. It’s a win-win scenario, we are happier which inspire others to be happier. We are better parents, employees, leaders and citizens too!

For me, I will continue to work on applying meditation techniques in my life more often in order to quiet my racing mind which so easily turns to judgements, negative thoughts, stress and anxiety. I will judge less and offer more compassion, beginning with my thoughts. I will recognize more those times that I am in stress and anxiety, and challenge myself with quieting my mind so that I become more proactive than reactive. And mostly, I will learn how to provide compassion to myself who can be so prone to feeling guilt, shame and fear.

With gratitude and compassion…

Michael