Louise L Hay, spiritual teacher, once taught me to always remember that every single one
of us is doing the best we can with the knowledge, awareness, skills, and resources we have
at any given time. Sometimes I forget and can get hooked into self-righteous judgement.
A friend and I were talking about the latest book from a fairly well known other spiritual
teacher, someone I knew, and whose humility and compassion for others, shone out.
"I don't like the book; he doesnt write from the heart!" said my friend.
At first I felt I wanted to defend my author friend. I wanted to ask,"What exactly makes
you so sure he does not write from the heart?" Is that statement of dislike, more a reflection
of the friend who said it.
Then my thinking took me to projection, where we often see in others what we are not
preapared to acknowledge in ourselves. Could this "lack of heart" be something the friend
I was speaking to also lacked, just couldn't see it. And then I zipped my mouth. Both were operating from the best position they knew how and who was I to judge?
None of us have it all figured out, even the ones we might be tempted to put on a pedestal. Do any of us want to be judged for our mistakes when we’re doing the best we can? The world doesn’t need more judgment. You don't need more judgement, either your own or that from anyone else.
We need more COMPASSION; every single one of us has the opportunity to grant this every day, starting with compassion for the self.
Once you are aware of what you are doing and how it may not be helping, give yourself the option to just let go of any(need for) judgement. No berating of yourself for judging; just be aware and stop.
What is compassion? How do we do it?
"The whole idea of compassion is based on a keen awareness of the interdependence of all these living beings, which are all part of one another, and all involved in one another." So wrote Thomas Merton, American Catholic writer and mystic, Trappist monk of the Abbey of Gethsemani, Kentucky, poet, social activist, and student of comparative religion.
When we experience the world that we are all part of the whole, then why would we do evil or negativity to another who is simply a reflection and part of ourselves?
Compassion is a quality of our soul; what we do to ourselves, we do to others. It is a lack of love for ourselves that inhibits our ability to extend compassion towards others. What we don’t love, have or give to ourselves, we have nothing to give to others. If we make friends with ourselves, then there is no obstacle to opening our hearts and minds to others. When we can Love ourselves, not in any narcissistic or romantic sense, then we can Love others without conditions.
Compassion is not taking over another person. Mothering is not about smothering. John Gray, author of Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus, wrote, "When we experience the pain of another person, we instinctively want to take away that pain. But by taking away the other person's pain, we also take away his or her opportunity to grow. To be truly compassionate, we must be able to share another person's suffering and pain -- knowing there is nothing we can do to relieve it and that we are not responsible for it, and yet knowing and understanding what that pain feels like."
I had a friend once who each time I was down or low or struggling would always want to fix me. She got angry and ended the friendship because I was not healing. She thought she was being compassionate. No, she was trying to fix me. I had lessons to learn, in my own time, and in God’s own way. Her love was conditional. But compassion is an expression of unconditional love, our natural spiritual connectedness. There's no room in that state of being for fear to exist, for a desire to have someone be different – just to accept the moment, the person.
"We can remain in a state of love when we recognize that everyone is doing the best they can to get their needs met." ~ said Eckhart Tolle and we must give up the egoistic desire or need to have some change or be fixed as if they are broken.
As Marshall B. Rosenberg said, "What I want in my life is compassion, a flow between myself and others based on a mutual giving from the heart." When we try to fix someone, it is from our head, our ego, not from the heart.
There’s no point getting angry when someone does not do as you wish or command, when to you they seemingly won't listen or refuse to see your point of view, or just doesn’t care. Compassion recognises their right to be themselves and let it go. One way, you suffer, the other way you remain your mindful self. One way you are living from your ego, the other, the compassionate way, is of the Higher Self. Compassion is real-life meditation.
When we look at someone with compassion, we are able to see beyond theier skin colour, their ethnicity, their religion, their financial means, their health. In compassion we unconditionally connect to the primary essence that binds all humans together as one. Love. Like the Hindu greeting "Namaste," which Ram Dass, American spiritual teacher and the author of the seminal 1971 book Be Here Now, translates... "I honor the place in you in which the entire universe dwells. I honor the place in you which is of love, of truth, of light, and of peace. When you are in that place in you, and I am in that place in me, we are one." Wouldn't it be absolutely amazing if we could relate to every person who comes into our lives in this way?
Love, and loving service to our fellows, connects us so we do not live isolated lives and life becomes meaningful.
"The only ones among you who will be really happy are those who have sought and found how to serve... The purpose of human life is to serve and to show compassion and the will to help others." ~ Albert Schweitzer
Jesus once said that the care we offer to even the smallest child or the weakest old man is received as if it were offered to God. When societies and governments are no longer at the loving service of all people, then arrogance, corruption, and exploitation risk killing at least denying out true human development and fulfillment. Only by loving and serving others, even in the simplest of ways, will humanity regain a sense of happiness, health, and hope.
True communication leads to understanding, from which compassion naturally follows.
Let understanding of self and others, understanding of how we are all interconnected, be your starting point. Compassion will do the rest.
A guided Compassion meditation
Allow 15 - 20 minutes
“No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.”
Compassion and Health
Overwhelming evidence suggests compassion is good for our health and good for the world.
Human suffering often inspires beautiful acts of compassion by people wishing to help relieve that suffering. What propels someone to serve food at a homeless shelter, to run a food bank, to pull over in the rain to help someone with a broken down vehicle, or feed a stray cat?
Research—from neuroscience, evolutionary psychology, behavioural health, developmental science, and other disciplines—has suggested that compassion is an evolved part of human nature, vital to good health and even to the survival of our species.
What is compassion?
The definition of compassion is often confused with that of empathy. Empathy, is the visceral or emotional experience of another person’s feelings. Of experience life as another does. It is an automatic mirroring of another’s emotion, like feeling sad at a friend’s sadness. Compassion often involves an empathic response and an altruistic behaviour but it is rather defined as the emotional response when perceiving suffering and involves an authentic desire to help alleviate that suffering.
Compassion’s health benefits
Compassion is important to our survival and offers tremendous benefits for both physical and mental health and our overall well-being and speeds up recovery from disease and may even lengthen our lifespan.
Inflammation is at the root of cancer and other diseases and is generally high in people who live under a lot of stress. It has been found (Cole and Fredrickson that people who were happy because they lived a life of hedonistic pleasure had high inflammation levels but people who were happy because they lived a life of purpose or meaning (sometimes also known as “eudaimonic happiness”) had low inflammation levels. A life of meaning and purpose is one focused less on satisfying oneself and more on others. It is a life rich in compassion and altruism.
Another reason compassion may boost our well-being is that it helps take our mind off our own problems, it can help broaden our perspective beyond ourselves. When you do something for someone else, your focus shifts from “it’s all about me” to a state of other-focus. If you’re feeling down and suddenly a close friend or relative calls you for urgent help with a problem, your mood is likely to lift as your attention shifts to helping them. Rather than continuing to feel down, you are more inclined to help; in doing so, you gain some perspective on your own situation as well.
Social connection strengthens our immune system (research by Cole shows that genes impacted by social connection are also involved in immune function and inflammation), helps us recover from disease faster, and may even lengthen our life. People who feel more connected to others have lower rates of anxiety and depression; studies show that they also have higher self-esteem, are more empathic to others, are more trusting and cooperative and, as a consequence, others are more open to trusting and cooperating with them. It is a positive self-feeding cycle. Social connectedness therefore generates a positive feedback loop of social, emotional, and physical well-being.
Ccompassion is contagious. Social scientists James Fowler of the University of California, San Diego, and Nicholas Christakis of Harvard have demonstrated that acts of generosity and kindness beget more generosity in a chain reaction of goodness. Think of the “pay it forward” movement, where the chain reactions that occur when someone pays for the diners who come after them at a restaurant or the drive-in at MacDonalds. People keep the generous behaviour going for hours because our acts of thoughtfulness and compassion uplift others and make them happy. If the people around us are happy, we become happier in turn.
A number of studies have now shown that a variety of compassion and
“loving-kindness” meditation practices, mostly derived out of traditional
Buddhist practices, such as the one above, help cultivate compassion.
That said, the type of meditation seems to matter less than just the act of
meditation itself. So find your own best way.
Thanks to compassion, we are moving toward a world in which the practice
of compassion is understood to be as important for health as physical exercise
and a healthful diet. And now the practice of compassion is taught and applied
in schools, hospitals, prisons, the military, and beyond.
To your compassion!