The dodge of compassion.~ Jayson Gaddis

Via Recovering Yogi
on Aug 20, 2011
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This piece appeared on Recovering Yogi, one of our fave sites.



 By Jayson Gaddis

In nearly every spiritual community I’ve been a part of, nearly every self-help book I’ve read has a teaching on the merits of compassion. While this is great, to my Western, modern, spiritual ego, compassion-talk simply becomes a way for me to avoid my suffering.

Tibetan Master Trungpa Rinpoche called this Idiot Compassion.

I belonged to a Buddhist community for years and knew quite well the core teachings on compassion, specifically compassion toward oneself. I loved this, in theory. It made sense to me. I worked hard to love myself on the cushion. I still exert great effort to “accept what is” and it’s an ongoing daily practice.

But somewhere my Western spiritual ego got a little cocky and started to just act nice, act conscious, or act “spiritual.” It’s not the teachings; it’s what I did (and still do) with them.

It slowly can become an act. The act started to feel like a whole lot of spiritual fluff. My nose to the air, a semi-pasted on smile, I’m doing tonglen for the world, baby! I’m way more spiritual than you are, like way more! Hey, I don’t get angry. I just breathe in anger and send out love, brah. I’m just accepting of all that is. Your traumatic brain injury is perfect, bro! And so on. (Read Spiritual Bypassing by R. Masters for more goodies on this).


My wife nearly punched me many times for being Captain Spiritual.

Get real Jayson! Compassion ain’t that easy. If it were, the entire world would look different.

Feel my pain or “what is so” first. Thennnnnnnnnnnn I get to genuine compassion.

For example, if you take advantage of me in some way, then to accept you because I read that’s what I should do is to avoid my initial, genuine reaction — which is likely some kind of fight, flight, or freeze reaction.

If I move on to forgiveness too soon, it is unlikely to stick, because I have bypassed a very valid part of my experience.

So, let’s say I do a workshop and the leader tells me that the only way to move on from my issues with my mom is to thank her and forgive her for all her mistakes and for the life she gave me. If I just adhere to that advice, I bypass the gunk in the space. I gloss over the years of hurt and anguish that are likely still living in my body. (This actually happened at a men’s workshop I went to.)

Sure, at some point forgiveness might be a great step, but not before I feel and deal with the clogged up reservoir of shit that is “mom-related material” keeping me from the intimacy I claim I want. Which is precisely why we need to relate to what is living inside us first.

People often avoid good psychotherapy because they don’t like feeling discomfort.

It’s fucking hard to feel our pain, yes. It’s work, yes.

But it all depends on what you want. If you want deep love and connection with others, and you’ve had a harsh upbringing, then you gotta roll up your sleeves and rewire your nervous system. Period. Acting nice on top of that volcano is a recipe for you leaking out your stuff sideways, specifically in your closest relationships.

Bottom line? True compassion can be fucking hard. Can you really have deep, genuine compassion for rapists, pedophiles, and murderers? Seriously.

I am not that big yet. I need to first feel the rage and violence living inside of me. Then, maybe, maybe, I can open my heart and see the human in there behind the monster.

As Trungpa Rinpoche reminds us:

“Love or compassion is the open path, is associated with ‘what is.’ In order to develop love—universal love, cosmic love, whatever you would like to call it—one must accept the whole situation of life as it is, both the light and the dark, the good and the bad.”

Perhaps compassion is a destination, but we are not going to get there unless each step taken helps us see where we are unable or unwilling to practice it.


About Jayson Gaddis

Jayson Gaddis, MA, LPC, CGT, former overly serious buddhist meditator, is now a relationship psychotherapist devoted to helping people awaken through relationship and intimacy. He’s working to embody a new paradigm of connection, deep relationship, and family. He’s also a blogger, and a part-time stay-at-home Dad getting schooled by his two kids. More here .



About Recovering Yogi

Far from the land of meaningless manifestation, vacuous positivity, and boring yoga speak lives Recovering Yogi, the voice of the pop spirituality counterculture and an irreverent forum where yogis, ex-yogis, never-yogis, writers, and readers converge to burst the bubble of sanctimonious rhetoric. We are critical thinkers and people who just love to laugh. Visit us on our web site for some straight talk, join the discussion on Facebook or Twitter, or buy a t-shirt and support our mission.


18 Responses to “The dodge of compassion.~ Jayson Gaddis”

  1. Ramesh says:

    Great article with an insightful message I very much agree with. Idiot compassion is indeed idiotic and contrary to both western and yogic psychology. We will continue to act out our subconscious stuff until that karmic baggage is recycled, composted–until those karmic seeds are burnt in the fire of transformation. Yoga and meditation is on the one hand introducing new, positive habits into our life, but until those new habits and outlooks become an integral part of our whole being, including our unconscious being, the jerk in us will rear its ugly head, will be just under the surface. So let's wipe off that smirk of idiot compassion and go deeper–embracing/facing that inborn idiot in us all!

  2. Tom Pedersen says:

    From my perspective, the path requires a thorough self housecleaning of our own deeds, realms of chaos and confusions. It's CONFRONTING who and what one actually is, what one has been and all the "bad" parts containing loss, pain and degradation along with what we've done to others. The justifications, decisions, suppressions, horrific actions must all be confronted, duplicated and understood, bringing about the wisdom locked inside. It is only from there, can Love come out from under these clouds, flourish, shine, exist.

  3. Tom Pedersen says:

    The work of confronting and undoing, permeating and vanquishing to nothing is for only the few who instinctively know that this "path" will only be for the few. The easy path "around" this work will be for the masses and for them "love is everywhere" except where it really needs to be.

  4. Tom Pedersen says:

    Thanks "Recovering Yogi, Jayson Gaddis". I see "recovering" as a good thing, just like "never not broken", is a blessing and a truly FUCKING curse! But an invitation to wisdom on the other side 🙂

  5. vanessafiola says:

    Jayson, as always, your insight is refreshing. Love this!

  6. jaysongaddis says:

    Nice Ramesh. And, labeling our ego "jerk" might not be that helpful to most of us. 🙂

  7. jaysongaddis says:

    The key for me Tom is congruency. Does a person match up their words/ behaviors/body language?

  8. jaysongaddis says:

    yes, let us not bypass.

  9. jaysongaddis says:

    you are welcome.

  10. jaysongaddis says:

    Sure thing. That book is great btw. Thanks for keeping it honest with yourself!

  11. Caroline says:

    Couldn't agree more! True compassion is hard. Somehow the protestant work ethic crept into spirituality (showing off by being "good" in order to prove to others that god loves you more and you have exclusive access to heaven). It seems that, switching religions/faith/direction doesn't undo all the western cultural conditioning! It just adds another elephant onto the crap heap. To the happy diggers! 🙂

  12. jaysongaddis says:

    Brilliantly said Caroline. so true. I notice how subtle the "being good" thing has been in me. 'acting conscious' etc. thanks for your two cents!

  13. Ramesh says:

    I would disagree. Labels will do no good, of course. But accepting the jerk or whatever name you might choose for the dysfunctional side of ourselves is the gift of western psychology… and yogis should embrace that gift.

  14. Tom Pedersen says:

    Congruency, yes, it shows, cannot be hidden. I however see Arrogance as the "great pretender", the building without a foundation, standing strong and appearing as congruent, when in fact is a house of cards. Arrogance is man's best tool for deception. We need to recognize the difference, perhaps needing a real statistic to view.

    You're a breath of fresh life!

  15. […] I had a practice steeped and infused in this tradition of compassion and kindness, I was an angry activist; a very angry activist with a very specific […]

  16. Sara says:

    "But it all depends on what you want. If you want deep love and connection with others, and you’ve had a harsh upbringing, then you gotta roll up your sleeves and rewire your nervous system.Period."

    I love this. Thank you so much for sharing this piece 🙂