Today Lori-Lyn Hurley invites us to consider COMPASSION.
I’m really liking this series of prompts as they’re such open invitations. I like approaching complex things that way, and the concepts Lori-Lyn is asking us to reflect on are complex and multi-layered.
It’s easy to assume we know what compassion is, and yet I think sometimes we have a need to clean up some of our thinking and language around this. Because the way I see compassion used and spoken about is often tinged with the energy of pity. And judgment. And perhaps even fear.
And I don’t believe that’s what compassion is truly about.
I think compassion is being affected by the suffering of others and moving on their behalf, because we recognize the unity of our us-ness, our all-ness.
There’s a wonderful practice I learned years ago called commonalities. I don’t know its origins, and I’ve seen it used in many different circumstances. For instance I know one person who uses it every time they need to have a difficult conversation or speak with someone they expect to have a challenge with. The idea is to focus on recognizing the commonalities you have with another, rather than looking at differences. While there are many ways to do this, I once saw it outlined with these questions and I’ve used it ever since:
- Just as I am, this person is seeking happiness in their life.
- Just as I am, this person is trying to avoid suffering in their life.
- Just as I am, this person is seeking to fill their needs.
- Just as I have, this person has known sadness, loneliness, and despair.
- Just as I am, this person is learning about life.
This is the very beginning of a loving-kindness practice, invoking goodwill towards all beings. The Dalai Lama has said that “The true expression of non-violence is compassion.” And I think that’s a brilliant point.
I’ve shared this link a number of times but it’s worthy of multiple shares, so here it is again. A clip from Jennifer Berezan‘s album In These Arms – A Song for All Beings.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on compassion – please share.
Compassion is that which makes the heart of the good move at the pain of others. It crushes and destroys the pain of others; thus, it is called compassion. It is called compassion because it shelters and embraces the distressed. —The Buddha
Beautiful Evalina – thanks for sharing that.
You’re welcome 🙂
I so struggle with this daily! I work in a very toxic, dysfunctional, angry environment. All day i am teaching very angry kids that seem to care less about getting an education. The staff and administration is so dysfunctional and many despise the teaching staff. I fake it to make it through my day. It helps me to get through my day and my kids hear something positive at least once from an adult. It helps but leaves me exhausted at the end of each day. I have written down the lines you outlined and will post them in my classroom where I can see them daily.
I’m sorry to hear your work environment is such a challenge and leaves you exhausted rather than nourished. That’s really hard! But kudos to you for being a point of positivity for the kids in your class. Teachers can be so influential and in the most unexpected ways, and so you have my great gratitude and appreciation.
Hope you find what’s most nurturing to you!
I’ve practiced a variant of commonalities over the years, finding where my life overlaps another’s, where the feeling in me reflects a feeling within the other, or becoming aware that I have the same potential for action within me, no matter how much I judge that action. Compassion sometimes confuses me. It literally means “to suffer with,” but for those of us who tend toward permeable boundaries, that can be too great a burden. It’s something I have open for inquiry in my own life, too. Thanks for bringing it up here and sharing your perspective, because I value the perspective of my wise friends.
That’s a beautiful practice Harmony and I can see how helpful it would prove.
I struggle with the definition of compassion as “suffering with” as well. I recently read someone’s take that suggestion although the etymology isn’t correct, perhaps we ought to see the compass in compassion – and use that as a heading towards a place of betterness for all. Isn’t that a wonderful definition?
Compassion as navigation! Let’s hope we steer our own ships first. 😉