Compassion

Giving thriving

 

 

The Healing Principle, the universal pressure to flourish

Love is truth.  

The raw material of compassion is The Healing Principle.  As “nature’s universal pressure to flourish”, it is within all of us all the time.  To a religious person, this means that God loves you just by virtue of being alive.  If you have spent your whole life being persecuted and everyone telling you you’re bad, the most likely explanation is that the problem is with them and not you, since only cruel bullies treat people like that.  Be realistic in analysing your own actions and the responsibility you have for them.  Likewise, apply the same analysis to others.  

So compassion is a fundamental part of the living nature of every being.  Think what would happen if your body did not try to heal after an injury or illness you would shrivel up and die.  

To access the Healing Principle there needs to be the right conditions in place and then it has to be nurtured with compassionate actions, intentions and character.  Think of the way you nurture a flower in your garden: good soil, sunshine, rain, tender loving care.  

It sometimes means resorting to medical science or clinical psychology if necessary to make yourself better.  By definition, any compassionate action will help.  

 

 

Compassion and truth

Truth is love.  

Compassion and reality are inextricably linked in many ways.  We need to be kind to ourselves in order to cope with reality.  Seeing the reality of a situation allows us to change or improve it.  It takes compassion on our part not to censor or distort our perception of reality – to allow things to be what they are.  

 

 

Self-compassion

Be kind to yourself.  As an adult, the primary duty of care towards yourself falls on you.  It’s hard to deliver to other people what you haven’t experienced yourself.  Be kind to others.  

 

 

Four Sublime Qualities of Metta (compassion)

Buddhism distinguishes between four essential aspects of compassion:  

Loving Kindness

Compassion towards yourself.  

Compassion

Compassion towards others.  

Sympathetic joy

Pleasure at other people’s success.  

Equanimity

Spiritual bliss – inner peace, clarity and balance in any situation.  

 

 

Compassion training:  

The Buddha’s Compassion Meditation

If you are an angry and resentful type of person who always feels aggressive, or even if you’re not, this simple Buddhist meditation has been found to be very effective at changing the habitual character to a much more peaceful and happy one.  

It takes around 10 minutes and should be recited slowly to yourself once a day while sitting in a calm state.  You are required to try and be sincere, and to experience how it feels, during the time you are in the meditation.  The idea is that gradually, your brain changes and is trained to be more peaceful and compassionate.  

The meditation of Loving Kindness is practiced first to oneself, then extending friendly feelings to near and dear ones, then to those whom you do not like, then to neutral or indifferent people, and finally to “all beings throughout the universe without exception, near and far, known and unknown, liked and disliked”.  

As a beginner, you can remember these three lines:

1.  May I be well.

2.  May I be happy.

3.  May I be peaceful.    

Then you extend it to your group, loved ones, people who you don’t like, neutral people and all beings, progressively, perhaps on different days.  When you are familiar with this, extend it into the following nine lines:  

1.  May I be well.  

2.  May I be happy.  

3.  May I be peaceful.

4.  May I be free from anger.

5.  May I be free from hatred.  

6.  May I be free from envy.  

7.  May I be free from Suffering.  

8.  May I maintain my well-being.  

9.  May I attain spiritual bliss.  

Once you are comfortable with these, it would be good to add these four lines also in the middle.  This will develop into thirteen lines.  The following is an appropriate order that you can practice:  

1.  May I be well.  

2.  May I be happy.  

3.  May I be peaceful.

4.  May no harm come to me.  

5.  May no dangers come my way.  

6.  May no illness affect me.  

7.  May no fears affect me.  

8.  May I be free from anger.  

9.  May I be free from hatred.  

10.  May I be free from envy.  

11.  May I be free from Suffering.  

12.  May I maintain my well-being.  

13.  May I attain spiritual bliss.  

 

Gratitude remembrance or prayer

When you have done the compassion meditation, the Buddhist way is to place the hands palms together as if in prayer, next to the heart, and briefly remember all the things you have to be grateful for: for example, the people who have helped you.  At the end, repeat slowly three times:  sadhu, sadhu, sadhu.  This is to “share your blessings with the universe”.  Sadhu is a Pali word which means “good, excellent or auspicious”.  

Experience in studying empathy and compassion has shown that if we feel our own needs are being met, we will be more compassionate towards others.  

 

 

Compassion and the three mindful monks

When the Buddha was training the first monks in his new religion, there were three monks who completed the five years required to learn practice and meditation, so they were granted permission to go away and set up as a group on their own.  They went to live together in the forest to practice their mindfulness meditation.  After a little while, however, they began to feel unhappy.  As time went on, they grew suspicious of and isolated from each other.  They felt that the forest became an unfriendly place.  They began to get physically ill.  So, because of their faith in the practice, instead of giving up they got together to decide what to do.  They decided to go back to the Buddha for advice.  He told them they should include the Compassion Meditation (above) in their daily practice.  As soon as they started to do this, they all became well and happy and the forest was friendly again.  

Awareness and reality and relaxing the ego can be a tough business, so we need compassion to help us through it.  

 

 

Practising compassion is good for you

 

 

There is a beauty in the forest

When the trees are green and fair,

There is beauty in the meadow

When wild flowers scent the air.

There is beauty in the sunlight

And the soft blue beams above.

Oh, the world is full of beauty

When the heart is full of love.

Anonymous

 

 

one reason you should care ... is that you’ll live longer and be happier.  

Maia Szalavitz and Bruce D Perry MD, PhD – “Born for Love”

 

 

In order to train social emotions like compassion, recent psychological research has increasingly made use of meditation-related techniques that foster feelings of benevolence and kindness.  The most widely used technique is called ‘loving kindness training’.  This form of mental practice is carried out in silence and relies on the cultivation of friendliness towards a series of imagined persons.  One would usually start the practice by visualizing a person one feels very close to and then gradually extend the feeling of kindness towards others, including strangers and, at a later stage, also people one has difficulties with.  Ultimately, this practice aims at cultivating feelings of benevolence towards all human beings.  

Using this kind of training, researchers around Barbara Fredrickson have shown that several weeks of regular compassion training can have a beneficial impact on self-reported feelings of positive affect, personal resources, and well-being during everyday life.  Interestingly, the beneficial effects of compassion training are not limited to the person who is training, but can also benefit others.  More recent research in our lab has shown that participants who undergo loving kindness and compassion training increased their helping rates towards strangers in a computer game when compared to an active memory control group.  Interestingly, the amount of time participants practiced compassion predicted how much a certain type of helping behavior increased, namely pure altruistic helping as opposed to reciprocity-based helping.  This indicates that compassion training especially increases prosocial motivation rather than just norm-adherence.  

... compassion training not only promotes prosocial behavior, but also augments positive affect and resilience, which in turn fosters better coping with stressful situations.  

Tania Singer and Olga M Klimecki – “Empathy and Compassion”, Current Biology, Volume 24, Issue 18, 22 September 2014

 

 

Hate is a negative emotion, and negative emotions make you feel bad

This is why bullies will often set out to produce feelings of hate or anger:  they know it hurts you to feel these things and to feel bothered and obsessed by them.  

Hate and anger are negative feelings, and they make the person who feels them feel negative.  If you want to feel happy, cultivate compassionate positive feelings.  

 

I want him to find out ... what hate means when you can't let go.  

[film] La Sfida: The Kidnapping (1998)