Compassion: When Love Meets Suffering

“Practice love (rather than attachment), compassion (rather than pity), joy (rather than jealousy), and equanimity (rather than indifference).” 

Jack Kornfield

Click here to listen

Compassion is the strong wish of the heart to alleviate all suffering. It’s opening our hearts to the suffering that is there with a feeling of connectedness to those suffering, a quivering of the heart in the face of suffering.

Frank Ostaseski of the San Francisco Zen Hospice says there are two kinds of compassion. Universal compassion, which embraces all of us whether we know it or not, and everyday compassion, where we do stuff like feed people, stand up for injustice, etc. With everyday compassion you get exhausted so it has to be sourced from universal compassion. If not, we run out of juice. Lucky for us, universal compassion is always in us.

Thich Nhat Hanh, whom I will refer to as Thay says, “We have the seeds of compassion in us. There are times we are capable of understanding and capable of being compassionate. The energy of understanding and compassion can be generated from within us. That is the energy of the Buddha inside. The Buddha is always there within you, and you can touch the Buddha at any time you like.” Whether you call it Buddha, Jesus, loving awareness or something else, that inner goodness is always available for us to touch into to re-energize our everyday compassion. We may need to look deep inside under all the armor we have built up over the years to protect ourselves from suffering. Developing self-compassion allows us to remove that armor so we can touch our inner goodness.

Universal compassion is just a big idea, we give it expression through everyday compassion. It needs our arms and legs. Everyday compassion is a tapestry woven of many threads: generosity, virtue, renunciation, wisdom, energy, patience, truthfulness, determination, loving-kindness, and equanimity. When we embody all of these in our lives, we develop the kind of compassion that has the power to heal suffering.

Compassion requires both openness, the willingness to let things in, and equanimity, not drowning in the difficulties or being overcome by the sorrow. Literally, compassion means “to suffer with,” which implies taking on the suffering of others. This would add suffering to the world. Clearly, that is not what the Buddha or Jesus had in mind. Taking on the suffering of others is a near enemy of compassion, I call it sympathetic suffering. A near enemy means it looks like compassion, but is truly not compassion.

Another near enemy of compassion is pity, we feel upset and angry on their behalf. Pema Chödrön, says: “Compassion is not a relationship between the healer and the wounded. It’s a relationship between equals. Only when we know our own darkness well can we be present with the darkness of others. Compassion becomes real when we recognize our shared humanity.”   If we think we are taking care of them, that is pity.  If we can see ourselves in their shoes and want to help, that’s compassion.

In addition to weaving our tapestry, there are two steps to cultivate compassion, a willingness to turn toward suffering, and responding with care.

Let’s take a moment to reflect on what you do in the face of suffering. Take a few moments to look inside for the answers to these questions.

What do you do in the face of suffering?

Do you withdraw?

Do you numb out?

Do you feel uneasy?

Do you take on the suffering?

Do you go into problem solving mode?

Or do you let it be?

In building compassion, you need to start where you are.  So, don’t judge yourself.  Just accept that this is your starting point in building your compassion muscle.

True compassion is not forged at a distance from pain but in its fires. Often, we really work hard to not turn towards suffering. Ignoring suffering can be a form of aversion. I often shield myself from the suffering seen on TV. I rationalized is as not taking in toxic TV programs. But, in reality, I also shield myself from documentaries or news that contains violence, not just toxic TV programs. Upon reflection I have realized that the shielding was based an aversion to suffering. So, I am giving myself small doses so I can build up my compassion muscle.

When you are building your compassion muscle, small doses are important. When you are touched too much, breath it out. Remember the larger space that holds it all. The sky has room for all the weather systems. The ocean has room for all the waves. The larger space, that ultimate compassion, could be Buddha, Jesus, loving awareness or your inner goodness. If you stay in the small self, you will be squashed.

My typical response to suffering has been to turn away. Whenever I feel that I cannot fix it, I go into freeze mode, and don’t do anything. Christina Feldman said that we may make heroic efforts in our lives to shield ourselves from the anguish that can surround us and live within us, but in truth a life of avoidance and defense is one of anxiety and painful separation. Thich Nhat Hanh (Thay) says, “With compassion, you can relate to other people. Without compassion, you are cut off.”  Mmm, wonder why I sometimes feel cut off.

At my last Mindfulness Meditation Teacher Training , we worked with grief and loss. The exercise was to move from one person to another and share a small change in your life, most of which were a grief. With each person we took the time to listen, and to imagine what they were feeling. We did not even have to be right. By simply saying, I imagine you are feeling ___, we helped them to go inside and examine their feelings. That helped me to learn that we do not always have a solution for suffering. I am learning that you don’t have to say anything. You don’t have to do anything. You just have to be there. That can be profoundly comforting. I am working on just being there for my mom. Her dementia has progressed to the stage where she is now on Hospice. I can’t fix her, I often can’t communicate with her, but I can hold her hand or cuddle up to her.

In a dharma talk, Janice Sheppard said, “Learning to not push or fix or change suffering is hard. But that’s what compassion asks of us, at least initially. When we first encounter suffering, we may respond instead with an agitation, based on aversion or fear, that makes us want to do something to make it go away. Do something, either by fussing or fixing, or by turning away. But compassion does not do that. Compassion is calm, it’s kind, it’s willing, it’s unafraid.” ​I still have a lot of aversion towards my mom’s illness. But I am practicing being calm, kind and willing to be there. I am nowhere near unafraid, but I am allowing the fear to just be there.

Cultivating the willingness to see and listen deeply to suffering is the first step on the journey of compassion. We may have to dive deeply within ourselves to nurture the courage, balance, patience, and wisdom that enable us to care. Finding a firm foundation for ourselves means we able to be here for others. Therefore, self-compassion comes first.

For the last couple of months, I have been practicing self-compassion. This practice is providing me with the strength and courage to stay connected and to listen deeply. In the times of darkest distress, what is most deeply needed is simply listening, holding space, withholding judgment, emotionally connecting, and communicating that incredibly healing message of “You’re not alone.” I believe this practice is enabling me to be more present for my mom. I hope she feels me communicating my love and the message that she is not alone.

According to Kristin Neff, there are three requirements for self-compassion: mindfulness, loving kindness and common humanity.

Mindfulness has to come 1st, if you are not aware of suffering, compassion can’t arise. We must recognize the pain, but not get lost in the story of suffering. Mindfulness allows us to recover from our overreactions more quickly. With mindfulness, we are not so carried away by our personal drama that we can’t clearly see what is occurring in the present moment. It helps us to be with the suffering without adding fuel to the fire of suffering.

Instead of seeing ourselves and others as a problem to be fixed, kindness allows us to see valuable human beings who are worthy of care. We respond with a sense of care, kindness and friendliness that we would provide a good friend. When faced with human imperfection, we can either respond with kindness and care, or with judgment and criticism. An important question to ask is, what qualities of heart and mind do we want to encourage in ourselves? In Tattoo on the Heart, Gregory Boyle said, “Here is what we seek: a compassion that can stand in awe at what the poor have to carry rather than stand in judgment at how they carry it.”

Compassion involves recognizing our shared human condition, flawed and fragile as it is. Rather than judging those who make mistakes, compassion considers what it must feel like to be the person making the mistake. Even if that person is our self. Life is imperfect, us too! Our failings are not there by choice. We are part of the intricate web of causes and conditions. A deep understanding of interbeing allows us to realize we’re doing the best we can, given the hand life has dealt us. Thay says, “In order to be compassionate, you have to understand why the other person has done that to you and your people. You have to see that they are victims of their own confusion, their own worldview, their own grieving, their own discrimination, their own lack of understanding and compassion.”

We have explored, a willingness to turn toward suffering. Now let’s look at responding with care. Thay says you may need only fifteen minutes of breathing deeply and looking deeply to recognize that the other person is a victim of their suffering. That person needs your help, not your punishment. Suddenly the nectar of compassion is born, your heart is blessed with that nectar, and you don’t suffer anymore. Instead, you want to do something, to say something. If you’re not capable of using loving speech, you can write letter. You can say something kind to help that person. But you can’t help another until you’ve been able to help yourself. Peace and compassion always begin with yourself.

Responding with care can range from saying a prayer, sending loving kindness, doing a small act, or making a major sacrifice. When compassion arises within you, act on it, no matter how small the act. With those acts, may compassion ripple out from us to those nearest us and from there out to the world.

 

1 thoughts on “Compassion: When Love Meets Suffering”

  1. Pingback: viagra canada
  2. Pingback: slot machine games
  3. Pingback: casino slots
  4. Pingback: casino real money
  5. Pingback: sildenafil online
  6. Pingback: viagra cost
  7. Pingback: canadian viagra
  8. Pingback: cialis dosage
  9. Pingback: best ed pills
  10. Pingback: brand viagra
  11. Pingback: tadalafil tablets
  12. Pingback: when to buy viagra
  13. Pingback: viagra pill
  14. Woah! I’m really enjoying the template/theme of this blog. It’s simple, yet effective. A lot of times it’s very hard to get that “perfect balance” between user friendliness and visual appeal. I must say you have done a very good job with this. Additionally, the blog loads extremely fast for me on Firefox. Superb Blog!

  15. Woah! I’m really enjoying the template/theme of this website. It’s simple, yet effective. A lot of times it’s hard to get that “perfect balance” between user friendliness and visual appeal. I must say you’ve done a superb job with this. Also, the blog loads very quick for me on Opera. Superb Blog!

  16. Pingback: generics pharmacy
  17. Pingback: slots online
  18. In January pattern year, small hogn03 fell ill. It’s okay, decent a mild online pharmacy viagra, which passed in five days. But the temperature in the twinkling of an eye returned by the end of the month: the thermometer showed 36. The boy was urgently hospitalized with fever and convulsions. A few hours later, three-year-old Yegor stopped breathing – he fell into a coma. With the better of a ventilator and a tracheostomy, the doctors resumed the work of the lungs, but oxygen starvation struck the brain. The kid has out of the window everything that he managed to learn in three years. The diagnosis is posthypoxic encyphalopathy.

  19. Pingback: casino gambling
  20. Someone necessarily lend a hand to make severely posts I might state. That is the first time I frequented your website page and up to now? I surprised with the analysis you made to create this particular post extraordinary. Magnificent task!

  21. Pingback: buy viagra bristol
  22. I drop a comment each time I appreciate a post on a site or I have something to valuable to contribute to the conversation. It’s a result of the sincerness displayed in the article I looked at. And on this post CF Colors v 2.1, Post Formats Admin UI v1.3.1, and Social v2.10 : alexking.org. I was moved enough to leave a comment 🙂 I do have 2 questions for you if it’s okay. Could it be just me or does it give the impression like some of the comments appear as if they are written by brain dead folks? 😛 And, if you are posting at additional social sites, I’d like to keep up with you. Could you make a list all of your communal sites like your Facebook page, twitter feed, or linkedin profile?

  23. Our doctor scheme that Dad was perhaps to control superiors than Mom in this situation. Stricter, more persistent, bequeath not regret then again when you demand to perform inconsolable viagra pills. Well, I wanted to around my helpmate a break.
    I dog-tired a itty-bitty in excess of a month in the exhaustive care entity and two and a half months in the bone marrow move unit. There I became a giver instead of my son. I’m glad I was adept to help him. I was the only man in both departments, but my parents were already there. That is, a man in the repulse with a sprog is no longer a rarity.

  24. Pingback: buy viagra cyprus
  25. Pingback: cheap Viagra 25 mg
  26. Woah! I’m really enjoying the template/theme of this blog. It’s simple, yet effective. A lot of times it’s hard to get that “perfect balance” between user friendliness and appearance. I must say you’ve done a very good job with this. Additionally, the blog loads super quick for me on Firefox. Superb Blog!

  27. Pingback: generic viagra
  28. Pingback: Viagra 120 mg nz
  29. Pingback: cialis coupons
  30. I write a leave a response when I appreciate a article on a website or I have something to add to the discussion. It’s triggered by the sincerness displayed in the article I read. And after this post CF Colors v 2.1, Post Formats Admin UI v1.3.1, and Social v2.10 : alexking.org. I was excited enough to post a thought 🙂 I do have 2 questions for you if you do not mind. Is it only me or does it look like like a few of these comments come across as if they are coming from brain dead visitors? 😛 And, if you are writing at additional sites, I would like to keep up with anything new you have to post. Would you make a list the complete urls of your communal pages like your Facebook page, twitter feed, or linkedin profile?

  31. Pingback: Viagra 50 mg cheap
  32. Pingback: Cialis 80mg nz
  33. We are currently on maintenance chemotherapy at on, but every Thursday we communicate with to the department for tests and testing. A couple of days ago they took a sternal puncture. We were in the ward on some duration, as we were diagnosed with Lyme murrain – we were attractive intravenous viagra online and we are tranquil taking them.

  34. Pingback: cheap Cialis 80mg
  35. Pingback: RxTrustPharm
  36. Pingback: Cialis 40 mg nz
  37. We personally met with the neurosurgeon of the Center. Rudnev, who underwent an internship at http://www.levitrawave.com vardenafil levitra on a ventriculoscope and has since dreamed of such an apparatus. Using it, you can not solely expropriate children with IVH – you can management of meningitis, encephalitis, ventriculitis, conduct a brain biopsy, and all this with minimal surgical intervention: a small gash of 3 cm. United of the clinics of the verge on abroad conducts 33 types of operations using a ventriculoscopy.

  38. Pingback: viagra cheap
  39. It’s appropriate time to make a few plans for the long run and it is time to be happy. I have read this put up and if I may I desire to suggest you few interesting things or suggestions. Perhaps you could write next articles regarding this article. I wish to learn even more issues approximately it!

  40. Pingback: sildenafil
  41. It is perfect time to make some plans for the future and it is time to be happy. I’ve read this post and if I could I want to suggest you some interesting things or suggestions. Perhaps you could write next articles referring to this article. I wish to read more things about it!

  42. Pingback: arava 20mg otc
  43. Pingback: cialistodo.com
  44. Pingback: tamoxifen 20mg nz
  45. Pingback: cialis dapoxetine
  46. Pingback: baclofen 10 mg otc
  47. Pingback: viagra 100mg
  48. Pingback: cialis uk
  49. price of cialis vs viagra
    viagra commercial woman blue dress
    natural viagra foods india

  50. generic name for viagra 100mg reviews
    generic viagra uk next day delivery
    para comprar viagra precisa de receita mГ©dica

  51. is there a generic pill for viagra
    Г© necessГЎrio receita para comprar viagra
    viagra side effects leg cramps

  52. Pingback: rxtrustpharm.com
  53. Pingback: casodex 50mg usa
  54. precisa de receita para comprar viagra nos estados unidos
    levitra vs viagra ingredients
    viagra for women pink pill

  55. viagra generico in farmacia italiana
    viagra naturale extra plus
    viagra samples coupon from pfizer 2015

  56. Pingback: catapres purchase
  57. viagra means compare generic viagra websites
    viagra without doctor prescription buy cialis online https://edzxc.com/ revatio vs viagra sildenafil cost walmart
    where can you buy viagra over the counter in australia does viagra increase size

  58. Pingback: ceclor generic
  59. viagra what does it do craigslist viagra
    canadian viagra without a doctor prescription buy viagra online canada pharmacy https://aviib.com/ sildenafil side effects cheap viagra online canada pharmacy
    how much does medicaid cover for viagra

  60. viagra samples coupon from pfizer
    viagra effects on the heart
    generic viagra cost now available in canada

  61. viagra generic costco
    new viagra commercial brunette actress
    viagra dose levels available

  62. Pingback: play casino
  63. Pingback: casino real money
  64. Pingback: best casino online
  65. best time to take viagra before sex
    viagra cialis levitra online uk
    fake female viagra commercial

  66. Pingback: slots real money
  67. viagra tv ad models
    generic viagra 100mg sildenafil citrate
    viagra dosage vs cialis dosage

  68. Pingback: rx trust pharm
  69. Pingback: best online casino
  70. viagra cialis levitra online canada
    viagra feminino preço portugal
    preço do viagra 50mg generico

  71. viagra side effects skin rash
    cialis dosage recommendations vs viagra
    viagra without a doctor prescription safe rx

  72. what is generic viagra called in mexican
    generic viagra super active reviews
    natural viagra foods list

  73. other names for generic viagra
    female viagra stock price
    side effects of viagra for men

  74. Pingback: rbc car insurance
  75. viagra without a doctor prescription by phone number
    walmart generic viagra 100mg online indiana
    female viagra name