“Love and compassion are necessities, not luxuries. Without them, humanity cannot survive.” – Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama
Compassion is an essential part of life.
It’s innate in us; but, we can be conditioned against it. We have been conditioned against it.
How do we know what compassion really is?
The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines it as sympathetic consciousness of others’ distress together with a desire to alleviate it.
Compassion allows us to deeply relate to each other.
Opening our hearts to empathy with love can be a difficult, even painful experience. The numbness of apathy seems better than aching at the pains of others, doesn’t it?
I assure you it is not. Compassion can be wonderful for purely selfish reasons. It enriches your experience of life; and, feeling compelled to help others, to relate to others, can help you feel better.
“If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion.” – Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama
An excellent talk on compassion is given on the TED blog by Joan Halifax and I highly recommend it.
How do we go about cultivating compassion?
Try meditating on, or visualizing, your family.
See them. Hear them.
No matter how you might feel about them, do you love them?
Visualize something terrible, tragic happening to one of them.
How do you feel?
Get inside their pain. Can you feel it? Imagine that pain as vividly as you can.
Don’t you want to help them somehow?
Imagine it happened to you. Imagine they want to help you. Feel it.
Practice this regularly.
When this is easy, move on to good friends.
Then more remote friends, acquaintances, strangers…
Notice how much richer your life becomes; how much deeper your feelings go; how much more peaceful, patient and understanding you grow.