April 29, 2014

The Power of Mindful Compassion. ~ Michelle Brunetti


And in the naked light I saw

Ten thousand people, maybe more

People talking without speaking

People hearing without listening

~ Paul Simon, The Sound of Silence

I often hear people talk about how powerless they feel about the negative global events around the world.

They feel limited in their ability to help make an impact in the problem, so they don’t do anything at all and look the other way in futility.

Perhaps we realistically cannot do anything on a grand scale to end poverty, violence and suffering in the world, but what we can do is spend a few minutes a day mindfully sending compassion and love to our fellow human beings who are facing those challenges.

We pay a lot of lip service to the idea of compassion and kindness, but the truth is do we really practice it in our lives?

We go to watch a lecture with His Holiness the Dalai Lama and feel very inspired and empowered by his model to living a compassionate life, yet on the way home in our car we start screaming at someone who cuts us off.

I don’t think it’s realistic to expect perfection, as we are all human and have to contend with the primal part of ourselves. That being said, like anything else in life that matters, we have to work at compassion. We have to discipline ourselves to expand our concern beyond the borders of our own lives and circle of friends and family.

We hear the words of great leaders who teach compassion like the Dalai Lama, Mandela and Gandhi—yet are we really listening?

Granted, most of us can’t give up our responsibilities and hop on a plane to some remote village in Africa to volunteer our services to those in need (although we all should).

But there is one thing we can do to contribute to our fellow human beings who are suffering, and that is to practice daily Mindful Compassion.

Our thoughts are made up of pure energy and have the ability to impact others if we place our intention on that desire.

I spend a few minutes a day focusing my thoughts on those individuals across the world who are suffering some type of injustice or persecution.

To many, it may not seem like I am doing anything tangible to help these people; I have come to understand that mindfully sending love and compassion is a powerful practice which shifts universal energy. It also connects me to love in a powerful way which carries over into my day-to-day life and infuses it with more kindness and tolerance.

The key to practicing Mindful Compassion is understanding the difference between empathy, sympathy and apathy.

Empathy is understanding what others are feeling because you yourself have experienced it and can put your feet in their shoes. Sympathy is the act of acknowledging another person’s emotional hardships and providing comfort and assurance.

To fully practice Mindful Compassion, we have to move beyond sympathy and experience true empathy for those who are suffering.  Many of you are probably thinking, how is that even possible?

Well it just is—with a little work.

Of course, realistically we have probably not experienced being forced to pick up a rifle and unwillingly kill our mother or brother or know what it is to helplessly watch our family starve to death but at some level we can and mustfind a way to identify with those who and feel genuine compassion for their sufferings

There are all kinds of suffering in the world, genocide, starvation and poverty are just one kind of suffering. To stick our heads in the sand and rationalize our lack of concern for our fellow men and women creates another kind of suffering which is apathy.

The truth is we don’t care about someone half way around the world because they don’t affect us in our day-to-day lives.

We hide behind sympathy because it acts as a buffer to its counterpart apathy and makes us look and feel like we are not entirely heartless.

We “feel bad” for the Sudanese woman who stands helplessly by as her 10-year-old-son is taken away by rebels to fight for a cause he doesn’t even  understand and as her 12-year-old daughter unwillingly becomes a 50-year-old rebel officer’s “wife.”

But we are too busy in our lives to make a difference so we just momentarily “feel bad” for these strangers a million miles away and get on with the business of living.

Although I am not the most religious person in the world, what I can glean from the teachings of Jesus Christ is that it doesn’t matter if you believe he was the son of God or just a man—he genuinely cared about his fellow man and woman. He wanted man to live to love and not just love to live.

If we want to be more than just apathetic creatures moving blindly through our lives, then we need to learn to practice Mindful Compassion.

Rather than just spending 10 seconds reaching into our pockets to give money to a faceless cause and feed our apathy-why not spend 10 minutes a day consciously sending heartfelt compassion to those fellow human beings who are suffering somewhere in the world and feed your soul.

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Apprentice Editor: Sue Adair/Editor: Rachel Nussbaum

Photo Credit: Shady El-Taweel/Pixoto

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Michelle Brunetti