In my day-to-day life as a human being it is very normal for me to notice myself pass harsh judgements of others, become aware of inner voices of self-criticism, and recognize when the company I keep point the finger at other's imperfections.

The gift which contemplative practice and eastern philosophy have given me is the second voice that chimes in after unsupportive judgment.

Empathy, compassion, and tenderness is an amazing tool we can employ throughout life.

With ourselves it is the capacity to step back and say 'I am doing the best that I can'.

It is our ability to lower our expectations, or simply acknowledge the reality of where we are in the now, versus where we 'should' be.

It is often our own self-judgment that is the largest obstacle to experiencing the sweetness of life.

What is one way you could remind yourself to be tender to your own heart next time you hear the negative voices flood in?

When it comes to others, compassion is our wherewithal to walk a breath or two in another person's shoes.

It is easy to look at the surface and create stories about someone's facial expression, clothing, or speech; but what if that person just got fired, or had a family member die, or found out they have a chronic health condition?

Empathy is remembering that many people walk out in the world with daily struggle, fear, or lack of worth.

Next time you find yourself pointing the finger at another or in conflict, pause, step back to contemplate:

  • What is behind the surface layer of this being?
  • Who or what has informed their views?
  • Would I see the world from their vantage point if I had grown up in their life?
  • How can I be compassionate towards them even if I don't agree wholeheartedly with all of their ideals.

As Aesop beautifully reminds: “No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.” I would add: to both myself and others.