It’s always interesting to read an article that I had written in a different space and time. And then to see where the same topic and intention holds true and where it feels different today.
Continuing in this month of exploring love, we arrive at compassion.
It’s important to start back at week one, in finding the home of love, our own heart (link is below). And reconnecting with the center of all things, the heart, our relationship with our own heart becomes necessary to better understand, embody, and live in ways of the heart. The ways of the heart being varied and diverse and beautiful such as devotion, compassion, forgiveness, empathy, understanding, and connection.
All of it is always relational.
This time around as I approach the topic of compassion, a new experience in life happened:
My son has learned how to tie shoes and he has the need to always have a double knot. He has learned that with a pair of his sneakers he can sometimes leave the double knot in place and simply slip his shoes off. He also has discovered that when he leaves the knot in place it means he’s got to figure out how to put his shoes back on!
Sometimes he’s successful as struggling with the shoe to get it back on without having to untie it. And other times I watch him get very frustrated with the knot. He’s frustrated because he has not yet learned how to untie the double knot.
I tell him that it does not help to get frustrated with the knot or with himself. That it’s going to be better if he takes a deep breath and approaches it calmly. But I feel for him because I know what struggle and frustration can feel like for me! Sometimes I just want somebody else to take over and complete the tasks so that I can rest and relax.
But on this given day, as he was struggling, I was very grounded, already breathing deeply, and we were not in a rush to get out the door. Instead of taking over and untying the not for him, I heard myself say these words:
“You need to slow down and go right into the center of the knot. Start to loosen the lace string by string until it starts to come undone. Then you can more easily untie the knot, and then you just retie it after you put it on your foot.”
I knew I was onto something when I said those first few words. I could feel it in my body. I almost teared up.
“You need to slow down and go right into the center of the knot.”
This is compassion. To slow down and to offer your attention (devotion) to whomever or whatever is needing support and offer it without judgment. Whether it’s your own heart, or the person addicted to substances, the person that’s wronged you, a family member, a friend, or a complete stranger. Even our dear planet Earth deserves compassion!
Compassion by definition is ‘sympathy and concern for the sufferings or misfortunes of others’ (Oxford. In the classical teachings of the Buddhist tradition compassion is defined as “the heart that trembles in the face of suffering. … Compassion is the acknowledgment that not all pain can be ‘fixed’ or ‘solved’ but all suffering is made more approachable in a landscape of compassion”. -Stanford
The last time I wrote a blog about compassion I also resourced Jack Kornfield’s book entitled “The Wise Heart; a guide to the universal teachings of Buddhist psychology”. And I am resourcing his book again but in a different area from his book.
In it, he shares about the four radiant abodes. The four radiant abodes are loving kindness, compassion, joy, and equanimity or peace.
“These abodes are treasured because of the natural human happiness they express. They are immediate and simple, the universal description of an open heart. …
Love is our true nature, but as we have seen, it is covered over by a protective layer of fear. We have learned how Buddhist practices unearth the gold beneath the clay and return us to our natural goodness. Even though this love is innate, the Buddhist path also uses systematic trainings to cultivate this love. They strengthen our capacity for love, compassion, joy, and peace. The practices that develop these qualities combine repeated thoughts, visualization, and feelings. These trainings have been employed by millions of practitioners to transform their own hearts.
When the radiant abodes are developed, they’re complimentary qualities help to balance one another. This balance is considered essential in Buddhist psychology. Because love, compassion, and joy can lead to excessive attachment, their warmth needs to be balanced with equanimity. Because equanimity can lead to excessive detachment, it’s coolness needs to be balanced with love, compassion, and joy. Established together, these radiant qualities express optimal mental harmony.
The natural flow of these awakened qualities comes from inner peace. When consciousness is peaceful and open, we rest in equanimity. As our peaceful heart meets other beings, it fills with love. When this love meets pain, it transforms itself naturally into compassion. And when this same open-hearted love meets happiness, it becomes joy. In this way the radiant abodes spontaneously reflect and connect the whole of the world.”
He states that the 26th principle of Buddhist psychology is “A peaceful heart gives birth to love. When love meets suffering it turns to compassion. When love meets happiness, it turns to joy.”
So as I watched Max take a deep breath and slowly return back to the knot, I could feel an energetic shift. This shift is a shift back towards love.
Perhaps you’ve experienced a shift in your energy or someone else’s energy when compassion is offered?
Though Max was not completely successful on his own to completely untie the knot, we both experienced much more joy and ease as he so gently and sweetly asked for help. And together we untied the knot! It loosened the strings of my heart at that moment! And I nearly cried again!
A place that needs this compassion most is also within One’s own heart.
I don’t know if Max knew he was offering himself compassion, but the embodied shift that allowed him to approach the frustration and upset energy was the act of self love and self support. We don’t need to ‘fix’ or ‘solve’ all of our own traumas and pain points in our heart in one fell swoop. We can use a sacred pause, rejuvenate our wells of love and patience, and then go back and approach the pain when we are grounded and ready.
We can go into the “knot” and loosen one part of it, release, breathe, and then go back again. We just touch the hurt for a moment, approaching it from a place of love and compassion. Then, gradually over time, we loosen. Our heart opens. And we can live in more peace, equanimity and joy. The love arises, as this beautiful quote from Lin Jensen so perfectly describes:
“To be truly and wholly present even for the briefest moment is to be vulnerable, for we have arrived at the point where the obstacle that fear constructs between ourselves and others dissolves. It is here that the heart is drawn out of hiding and the inherent sympathetic response called compassion arises.” -Lin Jensen, ‘An ear to the ground’
I once wrote a one line poem:
Our heart is a tangled web of strings meant to be plucked
I feel this is still true in life today.
It is heartfelt connections that are so deeply needed in our world today. It’s this type of slowing down and breathing with each other and meeting each other on a heart level to say ‘I got you, let’s do this together, and I love you’. These connections are so needed for our humanity to move forward with grace and love so that our global community can transform in the magical and beautiful ways that I know we can.
I invite you into this compassion meditation as you hold the compassion mudra, Karuna mudra.
Watch me perform it and write about how to do it HERE.
Repeat these words and vibrations
“May you be held in compassion.
May your pain and sorrow be eased.
May you be at peace.”
Breathe and Believe.