May you be filled with lovingkindness
May you be peaceful and at ease
May you know the beauty of your own true nature
May you be happy
May you be healed
– Buddhist Blessing
My word of the year is compassion. The practice of it is a struggle. How do you integrate compassion in your daily life? How do you stop making assumptions and judgments? In the recent weeks, I analyzed my reaction to a particular situation. There is a woman at my daughter’s school that I encounter most days, but she never smiles and makes no efforts to say hello. Even when I wave my hand or give her a smile, there is very little response. I automatically assumed that she didn’t like me or that she was __________ (you fill in the blank), but in reality I don’t know what she is facing.
The tendency is to make another person’s behavior about some deficiency in us. I stopped for a minute after making my judgment and thought, maybe she is struggling with her something. Maybe her mom is sick. Maybe she is sick. Maybe she just got laid off from work. Maybe she is suffering from depression. I really don’t know what she is facing. But I needed to stop and think for just a single minute about her, instead of myself. I believe that in order to practice compassion you have to treat each negative encounter by attempting to embrace the other person’s internal conflict, their internal something.
In recent weeks, my heart has reached the conclusion that all of us are carrying something. Intellectually, my mind probably knew this, but lately I’ve let it sink into the recesses of my heart. We are all embracing a struggle. We may keep it to ourselves, but just because we aren’t confessing, doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. It’s one of the biggest cliches: To live means to struggle. But we are sometimes solely focused on our own struggles. And I am not certain if we can pave the way for compassion by solely thinking about our internal churnings.
Ultimately, we are all trying to heal. And instead of bowing to the easiest assumption, I am trying to practice compassion by filling myself with the words of lovingkindness. I know I will fail at this over and over, but at the very minimum compassion becomes not something that I not only value, but practice.
We really can’t know what’s in another’s mind – unless they tell us. Even then, their experience may be so dramatically different from ours that we can never really understand. I think that imagining there may be issues you’re unaware of is a good strategy.
Sometimes giving someone the benefit of the doubt – and compassion – is the best way.
This week, I’ve seen so much good in people, Rudri. Seeing how Kelly’s sister is doing (Ashley). The extraordinary giving – of two families, legal aid, hospital staff and physicians, countless others in their community – it’s reassuring on some level that feels very very important. And reminds me there is still good in the world – and that compassion that you speak of.
I find compassion something that to me comes as easy as breathing . You are right you never know what someone is struggling with. I find out that we all carry burdens big or small and we all have different ways to deal with those burdens.
I do the same thing. It’s easy to place the blame on ourselves rather than look beyond the unsmiling face to the real reason. I can be just as paranoid when others do not acknowledge me. The first thing I say is, “What did I do? Does she not like me?”
You’re right everyone is struggling with something and we may never know what it is. The best thing to do is not to take it personally and show compassion. Great post, Rudri.
I find myself wondering about fear and pain in others, increasingly sensing that people who feel safe (even if sad) are generally kind. More than the infinite mysteries to be contemplated in the hearts of others, I wonder if we’re all not somehow arriving toward a bigger realization that our truer Self is to be found in the group, the biosphere, perhaps the cosmos. If there is any truth in this, then we are always meeting ourselves in every other, and the practice of compassion, understanding and loving kindness might be how we awaken together to our higher consciousness of love. In that spirit, Namaste 🙂
I am trying to do this as well. It’s not always easy, but you are so right. You never know what someone is going through.
I love this post! Such an important message…the funny thing is that a girlfriend and I were having this exact same conversation about a year ago. Like you, there is this one mother at our school who seems to refuse to smile or offer any kind of warm hello. Both my friend and I had reached the point where we thought, “What is wrong with me? Why don’t you like me?” It was my friend’s husband who reminded us that maybe it is not even about us at all – maybe she is going through something that prevents her from reaching out or engaging with others.
I’d like to think we are not self-absorbed but in the end, we are, aren’t we? I keep thinking of myself as a compassionate person because I’m “nice.” But really, it is about being able to think of others on a more genuine level, and sacrificing your knee jerk reactions to do so.