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A Lesson On Compassion From Social Media

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The last subject I wrote about was self-observation which is also sometimes called witnessing. I wrote about using self-observation as a spiritual practice on a daily basis. I also wrote about how we can use this method of witnessing our inner world as a method of meditation. This post assumes you have a regular practice of self-observation.

Compassion

In your practice, do you ever notice whether or not you feel compassion? Have you ever felt compassion for a stranger? Do you know what that feels like? Have you noticed whether or not there have been times when you think you probably should have felt compassion but you really didn't?

If having more love in your life is one of your goals, asking these types of questions and answering them honestly would be helpful. In my experience, opening my heart and thereby allowing more love into my life has been an active process requiring conscious effort over a long period of time.

Compassionate Content on Social Media

This brings me to something I've been noticing lately. I've noticed the interests of certain groups seem to be represented more strongly in terms of compassionate content on social media. Have you noticed that? An example of compassionate content would be Facebook posts or tweets on Twitter expressing compassion for people you don't know personally who have been affected by some harmful or negative incident like a plane crash or derailed train.

That brings me to another question: when what I've called compassionate content is trending on social media after an incident, what do you think is going on in the hearts and minds of people responsible for this trend? They're probably feeling compassion right? I think that's obvious. That's how social media usually works.

Another question would be, when this type of compassionate content is NOT trending on social media after an incident, what's going on in the hearts and minds of those very same social media users? For some reason, the same high numbers of people are not feeling the high levels of compassion at the same time right? (Or perhaps they're all just busy at the same time?... highly unlikely.)

Turning the pointing finger around

Now we've seen that varying levels of compassion in similar situations can drive us to act in different ways as illustrated by the simple social media trends example above, let's turn our attention around to look at ourselves more closely.

First of all, the purpose of asking ourselves questions is to 1) see ourselves more clearly and 2) understand how we impact the world. The idea is to ask ourselves the questions we would ask another person if we wanted to understand their motivations.

So let's dig deeper using the social media trends example above. If I wanted to understand more about why I do what I do, I can ask myself: "Why did I feel more motivated to express compassion using social media when event X happened and not event Y?" My answer would probably be that I felt more emotional when event X happened and more compassion for the people affected. Then I can ask myself "Well, why did I feel more compassion for the people affected by event X and not as much for the people affected by event Y?" This is what honest self-inquiry with self-observation looks like. Remember, the idea is not self-judgment but self-discovery.

By asking these questions I might learn that deep down I don't feel as much compassion for people, who are "different" -- different in the way they look, speak or who have a religious background I don't understand. I might find out I feel more compassion for people who look more like my family and friends. Most people would say that's normal right? I agree. It is absolutely very normal. And that's a spiritual problem. Those of us consciously on spiritual paths are trying to become better than the norm. We want to be extraordinary -- the change we wish to see in the world like Mahatma Gandhi said. If this is the case, then shouldn't we strive for more compassion in our own hearts than the average person settles for? Notice I said "settle for" because it is a choice.

Universal Compassion versus Selective Compassion

A couple of very important questions I think for anyone on any spiritual path should be: "How can I be equally compassionate to all types of people?" and "What are the barriers within me that prevent me from feeling compassion in certain situations?" If you keep on asking those questions sincerely the answers will come to you over time. Generally when you start asking questions very sincerely, guidance comes from within or from somewhere or someone else.

This is just one example of how you can use the practice of self-observation to enhance your quality of life. A life with a more open heart is a life with more love. Who doesn't want that? The magic begins by observing ourselves and asking the right questions. Every time you interact with a stranger, every time you use social media, every time you speak to a coworker, every time you speak to your child, you can practice self-observation. Observe your reactions, observe your thoughts, observe your attitude and observe your levels of compassion. Be honest. Through this process of self-transformation, humanity can become a group of universally compassionate individuals instead of a group of selectively compassionate ones.

If you've been practicing self-observation and as a result experienced a deepening of compassion towards others I'd love to hear about it. You can comment below, Follow me on Twitter @DeviSawh, find me on Facebook or Instagram.