Compassion is a living, breathing, profoundly complex human interaction. It represents a heart-, mind-, soul-connection with someone who suffers.
Neither sympathy nor empathy is compassion. Expressions of sympathy enable dependency and weakness. “You poor thing” does nothing to lift another out of their direness; rather it increases the dark experience.
Empathy, while a component of compassion, is only a part. In and of itself, empathy is simply having our own feelings about another’s story when we hear it, and feeling our own emotions about their pain. We think we identify with their pain, but we don’t. We identify with our own. The component that empathy brings to compassion is feeling.
Neuroscientists found a small region in the brain, the subgenual anterior cingulate cortex, that lights up when people feel empathy. If this area of the brain did not develop properly, the person lacks the capacity for empathy. The good news is that the brain can be “rewired” because of its plastic nature, and empathy can be learned. Meditation serves beneficially toward this end.
There seem to be five vital ingredients in practicing compassion: individual identity, honesty, acceptance, empathy and willingness.
Individual identity: Our personal identity must be retained, in order to effectively engage with another. Otherwise, we may feel absorbed and lost in the pain of another. Without a personal self, the experience of any other cannot truly occur.
Honesty: In metaphysics, “It all begins within,” is integral. Since everything in the human experience begins within, self-honesty is vital. Without self-honesty, recognition of the connection between that-which-begins-within and its manifestation in the world of effects cannot occur. Self-honesty can be humbling; however, it is the key to self-realization.
Acceptance: Self-acceptance is key. Without it, real acceptance of another is impossible. Without acceptance of self and another as is, critical judgment and rejection wait to pounce.
Empathy: Empathy provides the framework in which life experiences can be shared, and self-honesty and self-acceptance operate as its heart. They pump the living blood of empathy into compassion.
Willingness: Compassion requires the willingness to “stay” with whatever arises for another, no matter how long it takes. This is potentially the hardest part about compassion; it hurts to be with another person’s hurt, and yet it remains critical for compassion to be shared.
It’s impossible to go through life without feeling hurt or hurting others. It’s part of living. Liberating ourselves from subsequent anger, resentment or guilt, having compassion for ourselves or another, begins the real healing.
What if you imagine the “offender” as a little kid, who acted out of hurt or fear, doing the best they could to defend or protect themselves. Little kids don’t understand deeply about life, and can react strongly. When we remember this, ripping the head off of that innocent little kid with the big, puppy-dog eyes becomes less appealing. To paraphrase author Jennifer Sincero, “Find compassion for [that] sweet little, sippy-cup [kid] and let it all go.” This also applies to finding compassion for ourselves.
It may be easier to feel compassion for a friend or loved-one, but what about our “enemies”? THEY are the ones who give us the greatest opportunity to develop this soul-growing spiritual practice.
Compassion is not a spectator sport. One must engage and participate. Compassion motivates behaviors that are beyond one’s self, and it heals both the one offering it, and the one who receives it.
The reality of compassion is that it can be challenging, uncomfortable and soul-wrenching work. The practice, however, brings an experience of Divinity Itself. This is the beauty and the healing gift of compassion.
I would like to remind you to consider joining me and Rev. Catherine Dollahite at our next Living My Life Purpose Intensive from April 24th – 28th, 2017, at the beautiful Alton Collins Retreat Center in Eagle Creek, Oregon. Please see the attached flyer for more details and the Class Covenant for the Promise, Purpose, Vision and Intentions of the Intensive.
Living My Life Purpose is an extraordinary course developed by Reverends Lloyd Strom and Marcia Sutton. The invitation for each participant as the Intensive unfolds, is to deepen their faith in the power of Love through their personal relationship with God. The materials are designed to expand one’s knowledge of Principle, to practically apply Truth, and to explore one’s calling by creating a personal Sacred Covenant. The Living My Life Purpose Intensive condenses this powerful 8-week course into 5 spectacular days. There is an opportunity for a profound experience of the “Consciousness of Christ,” which Dr. Ernest Homes writes is “The Truth of ourselves.”
Please click on the two links below to find out more!
Please click on the two links below to find out more!
When I first arrived in America, I was not familiar with the concept of volunteering, or sacred service, because this concept is not known in Germany! There are all sorts of social services and churches that receive 8% of the Income Tax and can hire individuals for the work that needs to be done.
During my last 3 decades in this country, I have come to understand that volunteerism is a necessity for our various systems to function. This holds
especially true for a spiritual center like New Vision Center. There are countless jobs that are being done by devoted individuals. Everything from answering the phones at the office, decorating for Easter, working with the kids on Sunday mornings, to cooking breakfast for the band, welcoming new individuals to the community or calling on congregants who need a little extra assistance due to illness. We have a Leadership Council that devotes many hours to the stewardship of our organization; the marketing team looks at ways to let the greater Phoenix area know we are here; and our Practitioners dedicate countless hours to prayer for individual congregants as well as the entire Center. The other day we were trying to add up all the service hours that our Service Ministries give to sacred service – I am still working on the math to figure that out! 😉
With Rev. Penny’s arrival, a shift to focus on Service vs. Volunteering was implemented almost immediately. The vision is that we don’t want something from our congregants, rather that we want something for them. We shifted from signing up volunteers for various tasks to creating a Service Ministry structure with clearly identified teams, with individual missions and Team Leaders as well as job designs. When we serve, we know where we belong and we start seeing service as a way of living. The evolution from having to fix something (we see it as broken) or wanting to help (we see it as weak) to wanting to share our skills, our gifts, our joy through service (we see it as whole).
My experience has been that the more I serve, the more energy I have and the easier I attract folks who want to create together with me a fabulous experience here at NVC. The latest example is our New Friends of NVC Luncheon! The Welcome Team stepped up and created the space for people who are new to come and connect and share food together in an informal atmosphere. There was lots of laughter as we got to know each other a little better.
What gift is in your heart that you would like to share? Contact me, Karin – I look forward to hearing from you!
If you would like to experience the benefit of service and for more information, please visit our website www. NewVisionaz.org and Click the SERVE button.