I received a lovely gift from a spiritual companion a few weeks ago. I was struck by her thoughtfulness in offering me something so special. She knows my heart is rooted in the promotion of compassion, and especially the practice of self-compassion.
It's a Tibetan wall hanging featuring a powerful quote by His Holiness the Dalai Lama, which reads:
Usually, our concept of compassion or love refers
to the feeling of closeness we have with our friends and loved ones.
Sometimes compassion also carries a sense of pity. This is wrong.
Any love or compassion which entails looking down on the other
is not genuine, compassion.
Genuine compassion must be based on respect for the other,
and on the realization that others have the right to be happy
and overcome suffering, just as much as you.
On this basis, since you can see that others are suffering,
you can develop a sense of concern for them.
~H.H. The XIVth Dalai Lama
What strikes you when you read these lines? Is there something new or different for you about this understanding of compassion?
I was struck by this line: "Sometimes compassion also carries a sense of pity. This is wrong." As I read it, I felt a little stab in my heart and heard a soft voice whisper, 'Pay attention.' What I realize is that it is easy to confuse pity with compassion and sometimes I have.
What this line offers me today is a new touchpoint of practice, an attunement, to be more vigilant about my own response to people. If there is pity involved, I am not in compassion because I have separated myself out from someone, doing what Jon Kabat-Zinn calls, "otherizing." We do this often, don't we?
I invite you to spend some time today with this beautiful reminder from His Holiness about what it really means to be understanding of and empathetic toward others. And, of course, we must figure ourselves into the equation, for self-compassion is most certainly the bridge toward embracing others with tenderness and mercy. We begin where we are, extending the loving-kindness we need toward ourselves, because everyone suffers—even us. We are all on the path of healing and awakening to our true nature ...
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Janice Lynne Lundy, DMin
is an educator, interspiritual director/guide and retreat leader who has been pointing people back toward the Sacred for more than twenty years. She is the author of several spiritual growth books, including Your Truest Self, My Deepest Me and Portable Peace., and is the co-founder and director of the Spiritual Guidance Training Institute.