Updated: May 1, 2022
"True compassion does not come from wanting to help out those less fortunate than ourselves,
but from realizing our kinship with all beings."
~ Pema Chodron
Compassion is the basis for healthy relationships and a healthy society. As we tend to our own inner well-being and heal what needs to be healed, compassion for others naturally arises. We may have insights into our own minds, our own suffering or struggles, and recognize that others share these same challenges. We can even appreciate our difficulties, knowing that they help us better understand what others may be going through. With this awareness, we can take our struggles less personally, and use what we learn in our own process to help others on the path. Sometimes we can get so caught up in our little separate lives, that our narrow personal experience can feel all-consuming. At these times, our minds and hearts become constricted, and we forget our connection with others. Focusing on uplifting someone else can help both of us, expanding our perspective beyond ourselves, and opening our hearts and minds. Extending our hands and hearts out to others, we too are blessed, as the channel is blessed by what flows through it. There are a few cautions. First, like anything, even our loving care of others can be used as a form of avoiding facing our own stuff or taking responsibility for our own needs. No one but us can determine our underlying motivation for acting, but it is useful to look deeply for that answer. Second, many of us have been conditioned to tend to the needs of others to the exclusion of our own, and feel guilty making our own needs a priority; this is a win/lose scenario, and the imbalance won't ultimately serve anyone. To truly serve others in our actions, we must honor ourselves as well. If we overextend ourselves in our efforts to help another, we will end up resentful or angry, and that will damage the relationship rather than strengthen it. Lastly, it's important that our helpful efforts not prevent others from doing things they need to do for their own growth; when we do, we take away an opportunity for them to be empowered, and instead create codependency. Jesus taught to "love others AS yourself." Notice that he didn't say "love others INSTEAD of yourself"- this would be win/lose mentality, separation consciousness rather than unity, which cannot bring lasting peace to anyone. He was pointing to the interconnectedness of us all, living from a place of compassion, an attitude of win/win, the joy we feel when others have good fortune, and ultimately the recognition that on the deepest level "self" and "other" are one. May we recognize our shared humanity, and live with compassion for ourselves and others.
Self Care Suggestion: When you find yourself stressed, constricted, or caught up in your own story, think of others. Extend the wish that you, and they, enjoy peace of mind, serenity, ease. Take time to notice others around you, and extend a silent wish for their happiness. Feel the expansion of your heart as you do so, and recognize that when we bless another we too are blessed.