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Meditations on compassion

KeromeKerome Lovingness is the wayThe Continent Veteran

It seems to me right to write something on compassion, as a companion piece to what I was writing on love. Compassion for me is altogether harder to quantify. Some of you may know that I suffered some health problems ten years ago, and have spent time slowly recovering from that. After a stressful period I suffered a breakdown. I was what you call a “voice hearer”, someone who suffers for a certain period from hearing voices but has few other symptoms. The medication prescribed by the medical profession honestly has been more difficult to recover from, than the voice hearing episode itself. For completeness I will say there have been a few other symptoms along the way, some suffering.

In any case, the voice hearing led me onto becoming an expert-by-experience. It involves a training in which you tell your story to a group, with the idea of helping others with your experience. It was one of the purest experiences of compassion I have known. Later on I joined a project for helping others deal with difficult experiences, and spent several years there working with clients. These were people suffering from loneliness, a man who hadn’t been out of his house for 20 years who I started meeting for coffee at a local centre, and a man suffering from bipolar.

Compassion I think comes from acting out of the heart, if I think back to those training sessions there was a tremendous honesty towards yourself and others, an openness, a tackling of difficult emotional subjects which I think is central to the expert-by-experience role. Looking back on the years I did this work it has enriching.

BunksShoshin1JeffreyTozan

Comments

  • KeromeKerome Lovingness is the way The Continent Veteran

    Buddhism too has softened my heart. I recall hearing a story of a monk, 70 years old, who said, it took me fifty years, but when I was young, I was like a tiger, and now I am a pussycat. I am like that monk, I was a mixture of fear hiding behind competence and occasional gung-ho behaviour. It has been ten years of quiet and relative isolation since then, recovery and studying Buddhism.

    I recall studying with Jampel, the Gelugpa Tibetan monk who gave the course I did at the modest temple near where I lived, he really focussed on clarity and understanding, not so much the memorising of the lists. It’s funny, how learning things like the names of troublesome mind states can soften your attitude towards people. You get to see and recognise them in yourself, and you also gain compassion for them in others.

    Altogether, it is a training in human nature. Listening to Thich Nhat Hanh talk on YouTube taught me acceptance, peace and looking deeply. But practicing is something different, in contact with other people you put into practice the things you learn.

    BunksDavid
  • BunksBunks Australia Veteran
    edited June 1

    Nice topic @Kerome .

    Compassion should start with the self. The ability to accept ourselves (warts and all) where we are here and now. It's difficult to accept others if we can't accept ourselves.

    I mentioned in another thread a Metta meditation I recently discovered that I practice each and every morning. It really uplifts the mind.

    Has been very helpful in recent times with the uncertainty and suffering that has sprung up in my region from lockdown and the threat of Covid.

    May all be well.

    lobster
  • KeromeKerome Lovingness is the way The Continent Veteran
    edited June 3

    No discussion of compassion is complete without talking a little about idiot compassion and the right way to go about actually helping people. It’s possible to say “you are my brother” without letting the other person walk all over you. It’s possible to be generous with your time and with your heart without losing your financial stability. Sometimes it is necessary to be strong with another person, to prevent their bad habits from hijacking your good impulses.

    My experience is that compassion starts with listening to the other’s story, to find out what is the source of their pain, and where they truly need our help. You first walk a mile in another’s shoes, before you are ready to have a heart-to-heart conversation. Then if necessary you show them a way out of their troubles, but they have to walk that way in the end. You can help them be strong, but you cannot walk for them.

    Compassion is about being open to another’s difficulties, having a clear view of them and the depth of your own understanding, and guiding the other as best you can onto a better path. Often that is about what is a healthy approach to living, how to cope with desire and addiction, becoming aware of a purposeful life, coping with your own emotions.

    So for me, compassion is both being a good friend and ready to lend a hand, and also being a more serious giver of care and guidance. The one is on the surface and the other is in the depths, and they complement each other. Being generous has its place, but it should be done with care so that it has the desired effect.

    lobster
  • KeromeKerome Lovingness is the way The Continent Veteran

    The other aspect of compassion I wanted to discuss today was softness. We can all be beaten raw by life’s circumstances until our anger responds, but the trick to living a deep and fulfilling life is to stay soft. Softness is like a summer rain shower, cleansing and fresh and restorative to our deeper nature, and carrying it will allow us to deploy our deeper strengths.

    Softness is a part of wu-wei-wu, the way of the world where water splashes on rocks but also slowly wears away stone. Softness goes hand in hand with kindness, yet if you accept it it can function as a sustaining influence.

  • federicafederica Seeker of the clear blue sky... Its better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak out and remove all doubt Moderator

    It’s possible to say “you are my brother” without letting the other person walk all over you. It’s possible to be generous with your time and with your heart without losing your financial stability. Sometimes it is necessary to be strong with another person, to prevent their bad habits from hijacking your good impulses.

    I was recently sent this, which seems to fit:

    KeromeコチシカShoshin1lobster
  • KeromeKerome Lovingness is the way The Continent Veteran

    I once saw a documentary about Buddhist spiritual ministers at a prison, and it really spoke to me. A lot of the guys in the Buddhist circle there had genuinely converted, and had been deepened by an insight into the difficulties of hard lives. It seems to me that those are the places where the rubber meets the road, where compassion and insight can make a difference.

    Compassion can be shown in many ways; by listening, by sharing wisdom, by making tea, by helping out around the house, being generous with time and attention. It has to know it’s bounds, in order not to be taken advantage of, but where there is an opening for the healing rains of compassion to do their job, we shouldn’t neglect to bring it out.

    A lot of it is about connecting, about togetherness, about sharing. Compassion manifests when we show others our difficulties, we walk in another’s shoes and we understand their unhappiness. But the thing about a lot of helpers is they eventually get worn down, and then they need to take a break and turn to renewing energies such as laughter and creativity. It is important not to overload your compassion, take holidays, spend time on family.

    lobsterコチシカ
  • KeromeKerome Lovingness is the way The Continent Veteran

    HHDL on compassion:

    “Before we can generate compassion and love, it is important to have a clear understanding of what we understand compassion and love to be. In simple terms, compassion and love can be defined as positive thoughts and feelings that give rise to such essential things in life as hope, courage, determination, and inner strength. In the Buddhist tradition, compassion and love are seen as two aspects of the same thing: Compassion is the wish for another being to be free from suffering; love is wanting them to have happiness.”

  • @federica said:

    It’s possible to say “you are my brother” without letting the other person walk all over you. It’s possible to be generous with your time and with your heart without losing your financial stability. Sometimes it is necessary to be strong with another person, to prevent their bad habits from hijacking your good impulses.

    I was recently sent this, which seems to fit:

    Thank you for clarifying this so well. And Kerome for bringing it up -meaning, the difference between compassion and idiot compassion, i.e. being walked all over-. In a way there's a few people I wish them good, but the draining is just too much for me.

    Time to bring the scissors... or perhaps a claw!

  • KeromeKerome Lovingness is the way The Continent Veteran

    It’s not just about the difference between idiot compassion and real compassion though. Lots of people equate compassion with generosity, and although they are related they are different subjects. It’s just a sign of our recent money-obsessed world that we think being compassionate towards someone means giving them money.

  • lobsterlobster Veteran

    Time to bring the scissors... or perhaps a claw!

    Tee hee!
    If we have a tendency/impediment we are not acting independent from then it is not wrathful/skilful.

    However when we call on this quality in a skilful manner it can cut through to the heart of the matter.

    In a similar way being compassionate/kind to destructive individuals can be detrimental to their behaviour (enabling/reinforcing).
    https://www.wildmind.org/blogs/on-practice/idiot-compassion

  • KeromeKerome Lovingness is the way The Continent Veteran
    edited June 11

    People I really admire are the Zen Peacemakers, they do such good work. Here in the Netherlands they give out blankets to the homeless, they do initiatives such as bearing witness at the open-air concentration camp museum. They really do show compassion and not the type you can walk all over. These are real things, things you can point to.

    Sometimes bearing witness to difficult things is all you can do. The concentration camp museums are a good case in point. When you suffer a lot personally you can go wild and start making very poor life choices, so it is good to go slow, get used to a range of feelings and develop your wellsprings of compassion alongside your suffering.

    Compassion and suffering go hand in hand. When you’ve seen difficult times, you are more likely to sympathise with others, and so there is a kind of fellowship among those who have suffered.

    Wellness is what you want to reach for yourself and others, it is the point at which you and others can leave the tricks of desire behind, you no longer have to play the games of existence, and I think that is a good way of describing compassion, wanting that for yourself and others.

    lobsterJeffrey
  • KeromeKerome Lovingness is the way The Continent Veteran
    edited June 12

    When I moved from Zandvoort due to housing pressure, we decided to go live near my uncle, the one who is dying from cancer. Since my mother, my stepfather and me bought a house together, they also came, and with the three of us we have become a regular support for my uncle and his wife. Us visiting them, they visiting us, sometimes their kids, my cousins, come along.

    It has been emotional at times, and a real learning environment for compassion. We come to spend time together, share memories and celebrate his life. And drink coffee of course.

  • TozanTozan Turkey Explorer

    I remember a Tibetan monk's statement:

    "If you have a little bit compassion in your heart then you are already a boddhisattva."

    Kerome
  • lobsterlobster Veteran

    Dear friends of the Bodhisattva Hearted,

    As we know, compassion is focussed well wishing. As a wer lobster, with only a tiny heart, I can not waste universal love and friendliness on every deserving wastrel. Including me.

    Therefore my compassion is primarily for:

    • Myself. Useless as I might be, I have to be around this idiot cructacean.
    • Unavoidable contacts. I can at least be kind, courteous and friendly … or try.
    • People doing their best. If that is you, do better!

    Too harsh? Ah well, still training … <3

    Kerome
  • KeromeKerome Lovingness is the way The Continent Veteran

    @lobster said:

    • People doing their best. If that is you, do better!

    That is an interesting aspect to compassion. If people are lying under a bridge trying to sleep, does that mean they haven’t done their best? Do they then not deserve compassion because they haven’t managed to keep themselves standing upright in our western society?

    A lot of folks who end up living on the streets have some form of mental health problems, and they sometimes make irrational decisions. Does that mean they should have access to some form of protected housing, where they can have a place to stay which they cannot lose so easily?

  • federicafederica Seeker of the clear blue sky... Its better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak out and remove all doubt Moderator

    These people need the help, to help themselves.
    We have a situation in our town where there are homeless people who actually don't want help, charity or assistance. They don't want a place to sleep, they don't want to rely on a shelter of be given accommodation.
    They want to be permitted to live their lives exactly as they choose. Which, given that sometimes the way they lead their lives is considered at best, antisocial, and at worst, completely inappropriate, is not always a possible thing to engineer. So those Associations that can, and do provide help, step in and forcefully oblige these homeless individuals to comply with what society deems appropriate and acceptable. And that doesn't always sit well, or is thanked.
    So, what kind of compassion is that?

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