My thanks to Albert the Urban Monk,Wade of The Middle Way, and Kenton of Zen-Inspired Self Development for initiating this group writing project on the topic of compassion.Â Albert, thank you for the invitation!Â And my additional thanks to Alex of the Next 45 Years for tagging me for this project.
What is compassion?
Letâ€™s say you twist your right ankle, and it hurts.Â You might elevate your foot, put some ice on your ankle, perhaps wrap a bandage around it.Â You might even take your ankle to the emergency room for an x-ray.Â You do this because it is your ankle.Â It is only one part of you that is physical matter, but it is still you.
You do not feel sorry for your ankle.Â There is no pity, no need to rescue the ankle that is less fortunate than the other.Â You treat your ankle kindly, but not because you are trying to be kind.Â There simply is a part of you that needs your care and attention, because it is in pain.Â Certainly, you are not taking care of your ankle out of a sense of charity.Â You know that your ankle has complete capacity to heal itself, given a little time and care.Â There is even an amount of selfishness involved.Â After all, without a healthy ankle, you are less able to go about your business.
True compassion begins when we see others and ourselves as limbs of the same spiritual organism.Â There is no separation of â€œusâ€ and â€œthem.â€Â We are individual branches of the same tree, and if one limb is hurt, the whole organism is also hurt.Â Compassion forces us to act not because we wish to be kind or show charity.Â Compassion moves us into action because the pain of another hurts us, also.Â We are One.Â Through compassion, we cannot help but take care of another as we would take care of ourselves.
Compassion may manifest itself as giving assistance, but not necessarily so.Â Sometimes compassion means allowing others the dignity of their experience, as we ourselves would want to be allowed to learn our lessons in our own time, in our own way.Â We look at another human being and recognize: â€œThis is also me.Â How would I treat myself in this situation?â€Â Compassion can mean allowing someone to make a mistake without coming to their rescue.Â Compassion can mean holding the perspective that another is able to rise above their current circumstances out of their own strength and resourcefulness.
Compassion must not be confused with empathy.Â When we hurt our right ankle, we do not ask our left ankle to feel the same pain.Â Taking part in anotherâ€™s pain does not alleviate their suffering, but only increases the amount of suffering in the world.Â Compassion is not about feeling for one another.Â It is about acting towards another as we would act towards ourselves.
Of course, the reverse is also true.Â Some of us are far kinder, more respectful, accepting and loving towards others than we are to ourselves.Â And then the question becomes â€œIf I were my neighbor, how would I treat myself?Â Do I deserve less than my spouse, my child, my friend?â€
Through compassion, the walls of separation between us evaporate.Â Through compassion, we are all equal aspects of the whole, each contributing to the overall state of well-being, or lack thereof.Â And there is one other aspect of compassion that is often overlooked.Â Compassion moves us into action to alleviate anotherâ€™s suffering because the suffering is our own.Â But compassion also allows us to celebrate anotherâ€™s joy and success as our own.Â It allows us to witness anotherâ€™s healing, and know ourselves as healed.Â Compassion allows us to benefit from anotherâ€™s spiritual growth and learning.Â Compassion eliminates all need for competition and jealousy.Â Compassion allows us to celebrate the Divine Spirit within all of humanity.
Blessings to all, and a Happy New Year!