Compassion is our first instinct

I'm deeply touched by all the expressions of solidarity and compassion with regards to the war in Ukraine I read and see around me. My daughter's teacher initiated a project where the kids decided to sell cookies to collect money to give to charity, my friend collects clothes and other articles to share with refugees who've just arrived here at 5 am in the morning before she goes to work. I hear about a Ukrainian lady who hosts two refugee families in her small apartment and when the cooperative which owns her apartment heard about it, they decided to make an apartment available for these two families free of charge.... all these news make me very hopeful and confirm one of my favorite quotes from Darwin: «Sympathy is our strongest instinct, sometimes stronger than self-interest».

The human species depends on compassion more than any other animal for survival. Our brain has developed more cells and structures than any other brain to feel what others feel and care about it. When we feel compassion and engage in compassionate actions, we feel both empathy and feelings of warmth and care. Feeling compassion and engaging in compassionate actions makes us feel good, connected and meaningful. Last but not least, engaging in formal compassion practice has shown to make us more prone to engage in pro-social behavior.

There are many ways in which you can practice compassion.

You can engage in a simple breathing practice, breathing in to your heart, and out from your heart, sharing your intentions with the world.

You can practice formal tonglen practice, breathing in suffering, breathing out light.

You can practice classical compassion practice, wishing healing, freedom from suffering and ease to those you love, to yourself, to people you don't know and even to those who inflict suffering. My teacher Jack Kornfield has just shared a beautiful compassion practice in times of war.

Or you recite the classical sanskrit mantra lokāḥ samastāḥ sukhino bhavantu लोकाः समस्ताः सुखिनो भवन्तु, may all beings everywhere be happy and free (from suffering).