It is important to appreciate the contribution compassion and warm-heartedness make to happiness. – Dalai Lama
What does that mean?
This quote addresses a portion of the sources of happiness. It lists compassion and warm-heartedness as significant contributors to our happiness.
If you have read any of his ‘The Art of Happiness’ books, you know that he doesn’t think the possession or acquisition of things is high on the list of happiness causing things. Or at least lasting happiness.
For that, a deeper emotional connection is required. That is where compassion and warm-heartedness come in. Compassion allows you to connect with the needs of others.
Warm-heartedness allows you to connect with the happiness and positive emotions. In each case, happiness is multiplied and sorrow divided. I don’t know about you, but that always makes me happy.
Why is sharing important?
Sharing. How did I come up with that from compassion and warm-heartedness? Can you imagine describing being either of those without implying that there was another person involved? Yes, you can have compassion for yourself, but isn’t that the reconciliation of you and yourself, the kindness and the hurt parts of you?
Could you be warm-hearted in isolation? You could probably imagine being so, but to actually do it, I believe it takes another person. In each case, what you are doing is sharing their emotions, and giving them some of yours. With compassion you are taking their sorrow and giving your love. With warm-heartedness, you share and exchange your warmth and theirs.
For me, it is this act of sharing which is key to happiness. The sharing brings a feeling of closeness, of intimacy, and of belonging. For those receiving, it nurtures and supports us when we feel isolated and weak. And for those who are giving, it rewards our protector and nurturer instincts. In short, we become happy.
But where would this be without sharing? I recently heard a researcher speak about getting and giving. College lab-rats, I mean test subjects, were closely observed when given a chance to get $10, and again when they had a chance to give away $10. Guess which one caused more activity in the pleasure centers of their brains? We are wired to give, for it makes us happy.
Where can I apply this in my life?
Not everyone has a $10 factory in their basement, so handing out money for happiness isn’t the most practical route. Besides, eventually word will get out, and then you won’t have friends around you as much as money grubbing takers, and that’s not exactly the same thing.
Money friends are are even worse than fair weather friends. The fair weather friends will stick around when you’re broke, and only split when the going gets tough. Take a moment and sort through the people you hang around with, socially, at work, etc, and see if you can spot any people who are just in it for the money or the easy life. Neither are bad, but it’s good to know who is who, right?
Money friends are gone the second the cash runs out. But that gets us back to the concept of sharing. Were the money friends sharing anything with the sugar daddy? Perhaps, but not much. The fair weather friends were a little more reliable, and a bit more sharing, at least until it came time to share in the effort, the work, or the pain.
But what about strangers? Can you share with them? Can you have a relationship with them, just from compassion or warm-heartedness? Longtime readers will remember me mentioning the time I delivered Thanksgiving Day groceries to needy families. They were complete strangers, but some of my best memories come from that day.
What about you, are some of your best memories based around sharing with others? Take a moment and consider what sharing has meant to you over the years. Think about it from both the giving and the receiving side. Yes, sharing is supposed to be equal, but when you share story with someone, you speak and they listen, right? Both sides benefit from the sharing.
Doesn’t it feel good? Even the remembrance of sharing done years, or even decades, ago can still awake the compassion and warm-heartedness from that day. Do you notice a pattern? Where or in what circumstances is most of your sharing done? What makes you more or less likely to share anything with someone?
In short, we’re trying to find ways to connect more often, with more people, in a more deep and meaningful manner. Even improving one of these will bring a measurable increase in happiness. If we can do more than one, it will be even better. Even if it is with different people at different times, what can you do to improve your sharing?
Can you share a pleasantry with a stranger? Saying ‘Hi’ to a stranger isn’t that difficult or time consuming. Can you add another person to the list of people with whom you regularly share things? Can you share more deeply with someone with whom you already share a great deal?
Can you imagine how your life would change with just a little more compassion or just a little more warm-heartedness? Or are you too happy to care?