Be inspired, Practice, Get involved – that’s the triptych offered by Karuna-Shechen to cultivate our altruistic potential. We all have personal inclinations to prioritize one or more aspects of this trio based on our sensitivity and perceptions of importance. However, the triptych functions as a whole. We encourage you to spend time nurturing each of these pillars because neglecting any of them can create an imbalance, potentially leading to inaction, empathetic distress, or a lack of purpose.

The Importance of Engagement

Inspiring and practicing allow us to feel enthusiastic, driven by ideas, and approach life with more perspective and serenity. However, the journey doesn’t end there. The purpose of meditation and inspiration is not self-development per se. It’s not about understanding the causes of suffering in isolation and liberating oneself to lead a serene life in isolation. Without engagement, inspiration and training only serve to feed the ego, in a self-centered dynamic that is contrary to the essence of meditation.

Indeed, the goal of meditation is to free oneself to better contribute to the world. Self-awareness is not an end in itself; it is a means.

The importance of transforming oneself to better serve others and contribute to a better world.

Matthieu Ricard

Developing our emotional intelligence should help us realize the suffering we inflict on ourselves and, in interdependence, on those around us. The first step in engagement is to stop causing suffering to the people with whom we are in a relationship.

Before wanting to help people, start by stopping causing them suffering.

P. Rinpoché

It’s not about making it our mission to save the world or performing glorious acts of generosity that would find their place in the media. It’s about embodying altruism in everyday life with presence, nurturing our human qualities in our daily interactions and choices. If engagement seems inaccessible, it’s because we set goals based on the exceptionalism of engagement models. In reality, we simply suggest harnessing mindfulness for collective well-being by directing your compassion towards everyone around you, practicing sharing and compassionate listening as much as possible.

This form of engagement remains challenging nonetheless. It requires regular efforts without necessarily expecting immediate rewards. Sometimes, it’s more challenging to empathize with an angry neighbor, a friend in distress, or someone sleeping on our doorstep than with people living in poverty or war far from us. Nevertheless, we can extend our compassion to all and act where we can daily, with a smile, a helping hand, or an extra dose of patience.

The best way to connect with someone is to listen. Simply listen. Perhaps the most beautiful thing we can offer is our attention. A loving silence has much more power to heal and connect than the best-intentioned words.

Rachel Naomi Remen

The Importance of Practicing

Engagement is extremely important, but our desire to promote the training of the mind is not without reason. The practice of meditation provides access to inner resources that promote engagement and inspiration.

Indeed, if we only rely on inspiration and engagement, there’s a risk of falling into empathetic distress. This occurs when a person is overwhelmed by the emotions of those around them, their suffering, stress, and difficulties. Empathetic distress can significantly impact daily life, manifesting in various ways. It can lead to significant emotional exhaustion, leaving individuals devoid of energy and unable to manage their own emotions or respond to everyday demands. Moreover, it can increase the risk of burnout, compromising one’s ability to function normally at work or in private life. Interpersonal relationships can become complicated, leading to social isolation and difficulties in maintaining meaningful connections. Additionally, concentration and productivity can be disrupted, and personal needs neglected due to constant concern for others.

Mind training through mindfulness is an effective tool to preserve one’s integrity. Understanding mental patterns and mastering emotional intelligence tools to establish a genuine connection with our bodies are what enable us to both take action and avoid burning out. Meditation, nurturing our compassion, allows us to look outward and genuinely desire to act for others. It also guides us to listen to ourselves, set boundaries, take time for ourselves, and determine what is right or wrong at any given moment.

Finding the balance between taking care of oneself and taking care of others.

Resilience Program

The practice of mindfulness reunites us with our bodily sensations and allows us to learn or relearn to identify our emotions through our sensations. Training ensures that this connection between sensations and emotions is nurtured and reinforced, leading to emotional intelligence: our bodies tell us what we feel, rather than relying solely on our intellect, and from this information, we can position ourselves in relation to situations and the people around us. The more aware we are of this connection and the more we practice it daily, the more accurate our relationships with ourselves, our emotions, and others become. Engagement is also gradually guided by our feelings, which are truthful.

Training allows us to shift from empathy to compassion. Instead of placing ourselves “in the shoes” of someone in distress and being overwhelmed by their emotions, we listen to them with kindness, offering our assistance. This also means transitioning from a desire to help others to alleviate our own mirrored suffering to a selfless act. We are also better equipped to genuinely listen to the needs expressed by the person, rather than assuming what we can offer based on the emotions we believe we share. With emotional contagion no longer taking place, we can sometimes accept that we can do nothing more than be present to alleviate and accompany suffering, not necessarily resolve it.

If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion.

 The Dalai Lama

Action becomes both accessible and effective when we have a clear understanding of our own feelings and reactions and can recognize where others’ feelings begin, all while listening with an open mind.

Training, by revealing our thought patterns, also allows us to cultivate inspiration. For example, meditation might make us aware of a tendency to get angry in the face of injustices or a fear of the future. We can then use this information to inspire ourselves and take action, such as channeling our outrage into a driving force for engagement or seeking content that highlights alternatives to a bleak future for which we can mobilize.

The Importance of Inspiration

Constantly being in action, whether in mental exercise or in engagement and service to others, can lead us to lose sight of the purpose of our actions. We need sources of inspiration, people, and acts that motivate us and ignite the spark to keep going.

Indeed, performing actions and training without motivation can lead us to go on autopilot, simply out of habit or a sense of duty. However, action and training are joys guided by inspiration. Moreover, our actions can become obsolete if we don’t update them by regularly comparing them to the actions of others who share our intentions. Their ideas and discoveries help us broaden our perspective, whether we decide to adopt them or not. Inspiring helps us always align our values as guides for our choices and reminds us why we act. Perhaps inspiration also allows us to occasionally question these values and adjust to our internal changes. Otherwise, we risk confining ourselves to our disconnected world.

In a way, it comes down to occasionally refocusing on ourselves to ensure sustainable training and engagement. Taking time to recharge, marvel, or educate oneself is not futile; these are not wasted moments. It is an essential preparatory ground for the other two aspects of the triptych we propose. It involves opening up to the world, making connections, conversing, reading, listening, and accepting joy, anger, sadness, enthusiasm, or any other feeling evoked by the world around us.

Wild nature inspires wonder, wonder inspires respect because we respect what inspires us, we don’t destroy it, we don’t alter it, and respect leads to the desire to “take care of”.  

Matthieu Ricard

Inspiration also allows us to cultivate wonder, which is one of the motivations for action. For example, we suggest engaging in environmental preservation not “against its destruction” but “for the preservation of its beauty.” It’s being awestruck by a mountain landscape, the scent of a flower, or someone’s gesture that drives us to advocate for our causes.

The triptych Be Inspired, Practice, Get Engage is indeed a balance that holds only when all three pillars are nurtured. Relying on only two of the three pillars, even if it seems easier, can expose us to the risk of inaction, empathetic distress, and a loss of meaning. To cultivate our altruistic potential, we can consider that it’s part of our development to embrace the pillars we tend to neglect. Today, as you read these lines, you can already start looking benevolently at the aspect missing from your balance, the one slightly tilting your altruistic potential. Let’s begin together.