Let’s start by collecting the information you’ve already found for yourself. Get out a journal or a piece of paper you can refer to later on. It’s a good idea to check back on this personal document once or twice a year to see if some of your beliefs and values have changed with age and experience.

Write down “I value:” and then list some of the…values that harmonize with compassion. Recall that your deepest values are the things you’d like to spend your time and money on in this lifetime, and remember that you’ll have to distill those values down to their purest essence. So while you might value your coin collection, it wouldn’t be a deepest value. You might actually be valuing stability as gained through investment or recreation as gained through organizing your coin collection. In this basic form, your values are unlikely to conflict with compassion because there will be a way you can spend your time and money on that value without harming anyone, even if there are other ways that could potentially be dangerous.

Next, write down “I have the following virtues…” Write down the…virtues…that help you be compassionate. These are traits you already express at least some of the time that might aid you in your quest to live compassionately. It’s okay if they sometimes trip you up in your quest; as said before, sometimes our greatest virtues can be our greatest weaknesses. Take for instance the virtue of honesty. Your honesty can help you and others avoid potentially dangerous situations and it reduces harm when you’ve done something wrong. Though honesty can also result in hurt feelings, it still counts as a virtue that can help you live compassionately.

Write down, “I would like to embody the following virtues:” and list here the virtues that don’t yet describe you but that you would like to invite into your life. patience would be on this list for me. Perhaps by the next time you review this document, you’ll be able to switch virtues from this list to the “I have” list.

Finally, write down any morals that can help you live compassionately that might have been left out. You can write them as, “I believe that the following things are inherently good:” and create a list. Sift through the moral codes you may have learned and adapted from spiritual teachers, school, parents, or other sources for anything you may have missed. It’s okay to duplicate some of the things that you wrote down as virtues or values. Sometimes there’s an awful lot of overlap, and that’s a good thing. It means that you have a solid moral system that works well. Write down in your calendar a reminder to review your moral code at the New Year, or perhaps twice a year — once in the spring and once in the fall, when you set your clocks forward and back. When you review your code, you can rewrite it if you have new things to add or rearrange.

Alexandra Chauran in Compassion is the Key to Everything