When talking with a friend recently the discussion turned to compassion, her gaze drew down and her feet shifted bashfully. After a moment of silence she admitted that she had little to know idea what the full meaning of this abstract concept is, and without even knowing she did not believe that it could offer any relevance to her practical life. Yet the truth is that for many of us who may be contending with the myriad of issues pertaining to basic cognizant living we could reap exquisite benefit from exercising compassion. While it may be initially trying to redirect thinking and acting towards this more illuminated stance especially when the nifty old synaptic wiring recalls pain, trauma, anguish or even simply waking up 20 minutes too late for your morning cup of coffee. Still however, when we share compassionate responses with the world we are not only benefiting others, we too are exhilarated by the positivity which we is then set coursing through our inner sanctum. Why bother interrupting a cycle of careless or hostile mode of being with something a bit more Buddha like? We are all ultimately weighted with the handsome burden of free choice pertaining our reaction to self and others. If you sometimes wonder why you notice a bewildering pattern of melancholia or inner-conflict then perhaps you may benefit from a mild dose of compassion.
The Merriam Webster definition of compassion is a deep awareness of the suffering of another along with the wish to relieve it. Unwittingly many of us may practice compassion already, when you notice the homeless person huddled beneath blankets along your stroll to your office, or the friend who can barely help himself but to become completely obnoxious when he drinks, the colleague who is unrepentantly ten minutes late for each and every meeting. You may notice yourself resisting the urge to be irritated by these and many others along the path of life. Maybe by leaving a pair of hand warmers for the homeless person and having a talk with both your colleague and friend about what may be going on for each of them respectively. Having compassion for those we interact with does not mean that we don’t notice or even that we don’t become irritated with the mystifying ways of others but it does require that we respond in a way that is a reflection of our most wise and caring truth and that our response is rooted in an attempt to relieve the others suffering.
I make no remark that consistently compassionate thought, speech, and action is simple, nor do I state that it is an entirely natural collusion with our at times wicked or selfish human mannerisms. I do however promise you that by living with greater compassion we become the ebullient bringers of joy, and the gregarious gesticulators of grace, the sort of buddaesque persons enthralled under our very own Bodhi trees in a whirlwind of calm clarity. I would like to encourage the reader to take the practice of compassion even one step beyond reaching outwards with this conundrum of kindness. Empathy fueled action towards others is a wonderful way to begin but just as importantly, extend greater compassion towards yourself! According to Buddhist wisdom “Our sorrows and wounds heal only when we touch them with compassion.” If you turn your attention towards your own inner world, in what ways are you your own harshest critic? Which feelings do you carry followed by that additional burden of shame? How do you unflinchingly hammer yourself upon the proverbial cross? Perhaps with just a touch of compassion for yourself you can finally lay those old wounds to rest. Keep in mind that once we become aware of our patterns of thought and deed we are afforded the opportunity to respond to life in a variety of manners and it is my insistent offering that a compassionate response to you and the many nameless and faceless others of the world will unveil a much more lovingly lived life! How may your hour, your day, your week be different if you were practicing compassion?
In health and wellness,
Stephanie McCracken MSPC
Offering Psychotherapy and Marriage Counseling
Reviving Minds Therapy
1010 Western Avenue Pittsburgh Pa 15233