Increase Your Compassion Even More

Have compassion for people even when they don’t deserve it. In fact, have compassion for people ESPECIALLY when they don’t deserve it because that’s when they need your compassion the most.”
unknown

I remember watching a special olympics many years ago when a child with disabilities was falling behind the others. All the others stopped, turned around, and joined the one lagging behind so that they all crossed the finish line together.

I remember how moving it was to see these children treat each other with such compassion and care.

Another story comes to mind between a father and his son. The son, wanting the father's attention, was tugging on his arm. The father, firmly and lovingly, put his arm around his son and pulled him onto his lap while continuing the conversation in which he was engaged. Then, with love and tenderness, he told his son that he would have to wait a few minutes and then he would give him his full attention. The son sat on his father's knee patiently. Then, when the father completed the conversation with the other adult, he turned to his son and said, “Okay, my son. Now what can I do for you?”

To me, it is sad that I have many more memories of parents speaking harshly to their children, admonishing them without any compassion. Forgetting that the child does not understand all the things the adult has going on in their lives. Forgetting that the young child doesn't understand a few minutes or in a half hour. Forgetting that the young child wants and needs real connection.

Many years ago in a workshop, the facilitator asked us to stand facing someone and each say to the other, “I see you. You're just like me.” Similar to the practice from last week, imagining that we are just like the other person with the same hopes and fears, saying these two short sentences reminds us of our connection. And from the connection comes compassion.

Another version of this comes from a common saying, “There, but for the grace of God, go I.” We'll use this idea as the focus of the practice for this week.

Directions:

  1. When you are walking on the street, sitting in your office, on public transportation, or driving in your car, begin the practice of noticing people who are irritating to you or in your way. Then, say something like, “There, but for the grace of God, go I.” Or, if you prefer, “I could be that person too. What would my life be like then?”
  2. As you say something like that to yourself, notice what happens in your body. What sensations do you notice? What images do you see in your mind's eye? What stories do you begin to tell about the others and about yourself?
  3. Notice all that you experience and either write it down briefly or file it away in your memory.
  4. Do this a few times a day and see if it begins to affect your reactions/responses to people.
  5. Also, when someone whom you love or work with is having a big reaction to something, begin to employ the same practice as above. Even though you may not react or respond the way this other person does, find out what happens when you get very present with that person, and very present with yourself, staying in connection with him/her and staying connected to the we of humanity that binds us together.
  6. I recommend that you jot down some notes and date them. That way, you can see how much your feelings of compassion increase over time, without effort on your part to push yourself to be compassionate.

No one has ever become poor by giving.”
Anne Frank

As always, write privately or post a comment on the blog as you experiment with this practice.

Sign up for PeRLs of Wisdom

Our newsletter, PeRLs of Wisdom, will be emailed to you with resources related to the monthly topic such as additional activities, practices, discussions, quotes, and announcements of upcoming programs. You can unsubscribe from PeRLs of Wisdom at any time.