Sometimes it’s hard to wake up and face the world each morning. Especially these days. We brace ourselves for the news that we may hear of what has happened in the world in the last 12 hours. What conflict has escalated in our country? Or in the world? Was there another school shooting? Are we on the brink of nuclear war?
And that may be before our morning coffee.
Then there are our own personal pangs of suffering. That physical pain that is acting up in the body. Our loved one that is suffering with a difficult situation in her family. A dear friend who is ill.
There is so much pain and suffering in the world. And given our technological advances in these recent years, we have access to hearing about the pain and suffering of so many in the world – every minute of the day, if we so choose.
How do we move forward on any given day amidst this suffering? And still maintain our own center, strength, and radiance?
Our strength finds its way through compassion. Compassion can become our healing salve for ourselves and others. Compassion as a response to ourselves and to the world can help to open hearts, make loving connections, and heal.
This is where the Dalai Lama’s words start to make sense to us. “If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion.”
But what is compassion exactly? And how is it different than sympathy or pity or empathy? And how does it help us and the world to deal with the suffering we meet every day?
Compassion is becoming aware that someone is suffering and then desiring to relieve that person’s suffering through taking action.
Compassion is a natural feeling that arises when we see the suffering of another and that is the springboard for us to take action to alleviate the suffering. We may witness what seems to be obvious pain – either physical or an emotional upset. Or the pain may be more hidden within.
Almost every person in the world suffers from pain in some way. They desire to find peace and happiness in their lives and struggle to do so. Thus, there is suffering.
Holding compassion for another person, you can create a safe and sacred space for this person as they experience the pain they’re feeling. You’re there for them as a support and loving presence. You help when needed.
You allow the person to experience the difficult time, learning and growing from it. As challenging times often bring this. You don’t judge or feel pity toward the person, nor see them as victims. You are fully present with love and care for the person moving through a difficult time.
Bringing compassion to ourselves in times of difficulty is also a gift. This arises as we become aware of our own suffering within our body, emotions, and thoughts. We desire to be relieved of this pain and then take steps to alleviate the suffering.
It may seem like it’d be easier to practice compassion for ourselves, but this is typically not so. It often is more difficult. It’s not usually something we have been taught or practice on a regular basis. And yet, self-compassion can heal your body and mind, opening your heart to others.
We can remember the ancient Tibetan Buddhist blessing to support us in self- compassion:
May I be filled with loving kindness.
May I be healthy.
May I be peaceful and at ease.
May I be happy.
And we can also use it to practice compassion for others:
May you be filled with loving kindness.
May you be healthy.
May you be peaceful and at ease.
May you be happy.
Practicing compassion for ourselves and others makes us happier and healthier. It brings us a sense of inner peace. It strengthens our relationships and communities. It promotes peace in the world.
And today it can give us a guide for getting out of bed each morning and facing the world without despair and fear. But with strengthen, hope, and renewed energy for making a positive difference in the world.
The basic work of God is compassion and we, who are all original blessings and sons and daughters of the Divine, are called to compassion.
We acknowledge our shared interdependence; we rejoice at one another’s joys and grieve at one another’s sorrows and labor to heal the causes of those sorrows.
The 10th principle of Creation Spirituality
Want to strengthen your practice of compassion? Click here to find out about my class in February.
I was born in London, England, educated in Switzerland, and am fluent in English, German, Spanish, and French. I hold a Doctorate in Ministry Degree and Masters Degrees in Counseling Psychology and Education. Also, I am an accomplished artist and educator. I use all of this and much more when helping others heal their souls.