Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Awakening compassion

It is human nature, I think, to tend toward self-absorption; to think more about our own wants and needs than those of others; to consider an outcome more desirable if it benefits us.  Having children can expand that circle of desire outward, but however often we are told to love our neighbor as ourselves, for many of us compassion does not necessarily come naturally. 

For me the most effective teacher in this area has been the Buddhist practice of Tonglen, which works something like this:  whenever I am struggling with something, I sit and breathe in the tension of all the other people in the world who are struggling with something similar.  Yes, that can be difficult and scary, and initially it seems to make things worse, to take that world of pain into my heart.

But then, as I'm holding them there, I look within and find the parts of me that can still find joy, or gratitude, or peace, and I breathe what joy and peace I can find outward, sharing it into the lives of all those who struggle with me.  This practice helps on several levels: it puts my problems in perspective, keeps me mindful of the struggle of others, helps me tap into my own forgotten reserves, and gives me a sense that I am giving back.

And so today I invite you to breathe with me: breathe in your fears and challenges, and add to that consideration for all who struggle with similar issues. Hold that breath, just for an instant, and find the joy that's always bubbling somewhere deep within.  And then breathe out that joy, sharing it with the world. And feel your heart opening -- just a little.  It's all good.

1 comment:

Jane said...

Dianne, I really connected with your post today, thank you. And what a beautiful descriptive image - old pealing building, old red jacketed man sitting on doorstep, tissue in hand looking out and beyond - wonderful.