“If we make our goal to live a life of compassion and unconditional love, then the world will indeed become a garden where all kinds of flowers can bloom and grow.”
Written across the top of my grade 7 classroom were the words “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” This Golden Rule is the essence of Compassion, the attitude of seeing others through the eyes of compassion, enabling us to be truly present for what is going on for them, without judgement, and to think, say and do no harm to them – either consciously or unconsciously.
‘The principle of compassion lies at the heart of all religious, ethical and spiritual traditions, calling us always to treat ALL others as we wish to be treated ourselves’ from The Charter for Compassion. Instigated by Karen Armstrong (12 Steps to a Compassionate Life) this Charter for Compassion was crafted by a group of leading inspirational thinkers from three Abrahamic traditions of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, and is based on a fundamental principle of universal justice and respect. It encourages us to extend compassion towards ourselves, and to others, and to learn, reflect and act according to the way of compassion.
“Love and Compassion are necessities, not luxuries. Without them humanity cannot survive.” Dalai Lama
Reflecting on this 5th of the 52 WORDS we are exploring together this year has challenged me this week. I have become aware of how much internal work remains to be done!! ARGH!! I have reflected on how, when I am being unkind, or critical towards myself, there can be a tendency to blame the others around me for the choices I have made, and that I need to forgive myself for those choices (see week 4/52) and begin again with an attitude of compassion, an open heart towards myself, in order to relieve the internal suffering that is going on, (commonly called ‘beating myself up’) and consequent collateral damage, or external suffering. In other words, we can project onto others that which we haven’t addressed within ourselves.
Perhaps another level of understanding around the Golden Rule applies here – Don’t treat yourself the way you wouldn’t want others to treat you! For me: Lighten Up!
Confucius put it this way – Do not do to others what you would not like yourself!
Thich Nhat Hanh (No Mud, No Lotus) a Zen Buddhism Teacher states “Understanding our own hurt allows us to see and understand the suffering of others. Looking without judgement, we can understand, and compassion is born.” He recommends ‘metta meditation’ a practice of cultivating understanding, love and compassion by looking deeply, first for ourselves, and then for others. (Metta means loving kindness in Pali.)
A simple, yet profound statement made by a friend of mine last weekend sums up the ‘verb’ of Compassion beautifully “First Do No Harm”. She applies this principle to daily life as her mantra – it applies everywhere – and I have come to believe – even to self!
Compassion is a DOING WORD, and it could become overwhelming for us as we open our eyes and awaken our hearts further in compassion. (Perhaps this overwhelm has us keeping our eyes and hearts closed as it’s too painful to see it all?!) We are surrounded by people and places who are in need. Inherent in compassion is ACTION. What can I think, say, or do differently today towards myself or others, which is Living Compassion?
‘Born of our deep interdependence, compassion is essential to human relationships, and to a fulfilled humanity.’ From The Charter of Compassion
I set my intention each day, to act with compassion, towards myself and others, and I invite you to join with me, and moment by moment, action by action, we can make a difference.
Just as the parable of the starfish goes:
One day an old man was walking along a beach that was littered with thousands of starfish that had been washed ashore by the high tide. As he walked, he came upon a young boy who was eagerly throwing the starfish back into the ocean, one by one.
Puzzled, the man looked at the boy and asked what he was doing. Without looking up from his task, the boy simply replied, “I’m saving these starfish, Sir”. The old man chuckled aloud, “Son, there are thousands of starfish and only one of you. What difference can you make?”
The boy picked up a starfish, gently tossed it into the water and turning to the man, said, “I made a difference to that one!”
Compassionately yours, Gab
12 Steps to a Compassionate Life: Karen Armstrong
The Compassion Book: Pema Chodron
No Mud, No Lotus: Thich Nhat Hanh
As a part of my own spiritual and personal practice, I chose 52 words to reflect on over the course of a year.