I’m sitting on my living room couch, thinking of how to write this article I have in my mind and decide to try and practice what I intend to write about.
There is a lot of suffering in the world, from the grand-scale-obvious of war, to the basic suffering that we all suffer like sickness, old age, depression, and fear. Then there is the more subtle sufferings like; even when we are happy, the thought of just knowing that the happiness we are feeling will end.
These are the reasons we need to consider bringing compassion into our lives. You might say, “I don’t feel very compassionate. I don’t have it in me.” But compassion is actually at the very core of who we are.
According to Buddhist spiritual teacher, Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo, in her book entitled, The Spiritual Path, “A life that is born of compassion—that arises from the breath of compassion—the wind of compassion—is born of the profound essence, knowing itself to be inseparable from the profound essence. The key is to understand yourself as that compassion, your whole life as compassionate movement.”
Compassion is actually our natural state of being but we separate ourselves from that in every moment as we try to define ourselves, and our egos.
The idea of individuality is a very strong one in Western Culture. “Be all you can be,” and “Take care of number one,” are phrases that are ingrained in our society. There is nothing wrong with being successful in the world and taking care of ourselves, in fact it is commendable, but not at the expense of others.
If we are hurting or neglecting others in striving for personal success, we are in the same moment hurting ourselves, because at the very foundation of who we are, we are not separate from one another. Scientists have known for a very long time that this is true and can prove it at a microscopic level.
So, if we really want to help ourselves, we need to help others as well. One way to help others and bring compassion into our lives that I particularly like, is actually quite simple, yet profound.
It is a method done while breathing, in which you use your breath to benefit beings (something we do unconsciously all day and night while we are alive!) With every breath taken in, we can think of taking into ourselves all the suffering and causes of suffering of the world, taking it all the way into that calm center place where there is no distinction between self and other and in that place the suffering is transformed to happiness and bliss.
As we breathe out, think of all this happiness going out to all beings. Our neurotic minds might think, “I don’t want to experience the suffering of the world.” But, of course, that is not going to happen, so let’s not let that stop us.
What will happen is that, as we develop this intention to end the suffering of others, we will change. We will become a kinder more loving and sensitive person. We will begin to take the focus of our lives off of ourselves and become a gift to the world.
On this topic, in the book, The Experience of Insight, by Joseph Goldstein, he explains, “The development of loving-kindness is a concentration technique, making the mind one-pointed in the feeling of love. It works on the conceptual level, with the concept of “being.” It is a highly skillful use of the concept and it creates a space in which mindfulness works with much greater clarity. It is using concentration to develop a lightness of mind in order to penetrate to get deeper levels of understanding.”
“When the practice of this kind of sending and receiving is accomplished, it becomes effortless and natural and one develops an approach to actual reality through the technique, a kind of feeling of becoming one with the present moment,” according to Chogyam Trungpa in his book, “Meditation in Action.”
So, while we are busy living our lives and trying to be happy in the face of great suffering in the world we live in, rather than simply trying to think positive or develop our social portfolio, consider bringing compassion into our lives as a living presence. I promise we won’t be disappointed!
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Apprentice Editor: Brenna Fischer/ Editor: Renée Picard
Photo: Courtesy of Author