I love this simple picture of Max and Quinn. He is holding her hand to both guide her and protect her from running into the street. It was a reminder for compassionate acts of kindness and consideration that we can offer ourselves and each other.
As we continue on the journey of the essence of different tokens and magic to bring along in a journey, how could I forget one of the most important ones?!
Compassion. By definition compassion is ‘sympathy and concern for the sufferings or misfortunes of others'(Oxford). It’s also defined as ‘sympathetic consciousness of others distress together with a desire to alleviate it'(Miriam Webster).
After visiting action last week, I was in a real need for both emotional, as well as physical, space to soften. I was thinking of synonyms to softening, relaxing, slowing down, practicing some self-care, things of that nature. It took a little bit of thought, but then I realized that this is all compassion. Offering myself compassion.
But then a week passed. I wrote this blog, and had it as a saved draft in my emails. A lot transpired in this past week. George Floyd’s case continued on as the officer, Derek Chauvin used the 5th amendment, and chose not to speak at his own trial for the death of George Floyd. Duante Wright was shot by police, leaving his young son fatherless, and a mother and entire community grieving in Minnesota; the same city George Floyd was killed. And, 2nd Lieutenant Caron Nazario was peppered sprayed in his car, wearing his uniform, being asked to both keep his arms out of the car and to get out of the car at the same time. All I can do right now is grieve with them. Hold their grief in my heart with compassion, because God knows I want to alleviate their pain, bring their boys/sons/dads/uncles/husbands/partners back to life, but I can’t. When I listened to Duante Wrights aunt speak, I balled. When will this stop? The racism, the hate, the brutality? I don’t know when, but I pray it DOES. And, I will continue with my compassion, as much as action to ending suffering for my Black, Indigenous, Asian, Pacific Islander, Trans, Gay, Brown, People of Color, and more. EVERY PERSON DESERVES TO FEEL AND KNOW THEIR WORTH, and to experience a life that is free and loving.
Jack Kornfield in his book “The Wise Heart: a guide to the universal teachings of Buddhist psychology,” writes that compassion is our deepest nature. It arises from our interconnection with all things. Immediately I think to my two-year-old, And how she can so innately notice if I’m sad, if I’m frustrated, or if I’m happy. When she sees I’m sad, I see her body get still and her eyes continue to observe me. Sometimes she even comes over to me and just hugs me. Sometimes I have changed my appeared emotion so she doesn’t take on my pain. The scientific proof of our compassion came in the way of discovering our mirror neurons. In the 1980s the scientist by the name of Giacomo Rizzolatti, and his colleagues, had discovered some brain cells that were later called mirror neurons. They found that ‘we could actually feel the emotions, movements, and intentions of others’. Researchers talk about this natural empathy as part of our social brain that connects us intimately in every encounter we have with anyone.
In my classes during this week of intention around compassion, I invited people to practice specifically self-compassion. Jack Kornfield writes, “compassion for our own fear and shame opens us to others,” and that “compassion is only a few breaths away”.
I invite you to take a deep breath, deer reader. Take a moment to reflect on all you’ve done today, done in the past week, lived through in the past year, lived through in the course of your entire life up to this moment. You’re doing great things. You’re doing great things just by being a compassionate human being. You’re doing great things because you’re here. Your body is doing amazing things right now inside of you, your heart’s beating and your lungs are pumping. You’re doing big things! Offer compassion to yourself, offer compassion to your body, offer compassion to whatever emotion arises, offer compassion to whatever thought arises. Now notice, what has changed through offering yourself compassion?
“The courageous heart is the one that is unafraid to open to the world. With compassion we come to trust our capacity to open to life without armoring. As the poet Rilke reminds us, “ultimately it is On our vulnerability that we depend.””-Jack Kornfield. I feel here that vulnerability comes as way of openness, willingness, and availability. When we can be compassionate to what is real and true within our hearts and within our self, then the armor falls. Just like when we are true and real in compassionate ways with others, the armor and the guardedness falls away. We open to each other, when we open to our self.
“Living with compassion does not mean we have to give away all our possessions, take in every homeless person we meet, and fix every difficulty in our extended family and community. Compassion is not codependence. It does not mean we lose our self respect or sacrifice ourselves blindly for others. In the West we are confused about this point. We mistakenly fear that if we become too compassionate we will be overwhelmed by the suffering of others. But this happens only when our compassion is one-sided. In Buddhist psychology compassion is a circle that encompasses all beings, including ourselves. Compassion blossoms only when we remember ourselves and others, when the two sides are in harmony.
Compassion is not foolish. It doesn’t just go along with what others want So they don’t feel bad. There is a yes in compassion, and there is also a no, said with the same courage apart. No to abuse, no to racism, no to violence, both personal and worldwide. The no is said not out of hate but out of an unwavering care. Buddhists call this the fierce sword of compassion. It is the powerful no of leaving a destructive family, the agonizing know of allowing an addict to experience the consequences of his actions.
Wherever it is practice, compassion brings us back to life.”-Jack Kornfield, ‘The Wise Heart’.
“With compassion one becomes courageous. Compassion brings triumph when attacked; It brings security when maintained.”-Tao Te Ching. I personally have been really focusing on the last piece of Lao Tzu’s quote here from his wisdom, the Tao Te Ching. All of last year, nothing felt secure nor maintained. Rather, everything felt uncertain, scary, and at best, just trying to get by day-by-day. The idea of stability, maintaining life, or maintaining a vacuumed floor or washed hair, seemed exhausting and not so possible. But, when I practice compassion towards myself in the moments when I feel underwater, then I DO feel secure within the knowing of my heart, that everything will be ok; everything IS ok. And, not only do I feel secure, I can choose to maintain the security thru maintaining the compassion.
“Work with compassion intuitively. At times it may feel difficult, as though you might be overwhelmed by the pain. Remember, you’re not trying to fix the pain of the world, only hold it with a compassionate heart.”-Jack Kornfield, ‘The Wise Heart’
I invite you to sit with the Karuna mudra. Karuna is the Sanskrit term for compassion. Cup your hands like the letter ‘C’, ‘c’ for compassion maybe?! wink wink. Then. place your left fingertips at the base of the right fingers, at the top of the palm. Now, rotate your hands so that the right palm is facing out, left palm facing in. Right palm out is compassion for others, left palm facing in is compassion for yourself.
If you like, use the mantra, “Om Mani Padme Hum”. The Dalai Lama’s meaning for this mantra is so beautiful; the be on a path of intention and method to be compassionate with wisdom. Yes! Read it HERE.
om = om
mani = jewel
padme = lots
hum = indivisible
May we all continually offer compassion for ourselves, and compassion for one another.