A human being is a part of the whole called by us universe, a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feeling as something separated from the rest, a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty. ~ Albert Einstein
Compassion is not something to hoard or dole out in measured teaspoons; it is a quality to spread liberally on everything. Like most qualities we are wanting to deepen in our lives, compassion needs to be nourished.
Imagine you have a beautiful plant you want to flourish. Would you feed it tar or salt water? Not if you want it to thrive. You would bring what feeds it most: rainwater, good compost, and sunshine.
Compassion is a form of sunshine, warming the cold parts of us and feeding our souls. We know the quality of compassion when we receive it, but don’t always know how to cultivate compassion.
One way is to step back and look at the bigger picture. All of us are interconnected, and we are each carrying burdens from the past and experiences that cause us to armor and defend. Judgment perpetuates old patterns of thoughts and behaviors. Compassion opens a new door and invites us to look from a larger context, dissolving stuck energy and shifting from mind to heart. Compassion is not about thinking at something, but about being with everything.
Here are three places to practice bringing in the soothing balm of compassion:
When you make a mistake
Imagine your best friend and your dog and your spiritual teacher and the Dalai Lama are standing next to you. Can you bring your mercy and forgiveness to yourself, using this council of compassion to remind you that mistakes are just mistakes. Take a deep breath and focus on taking your next action from your heart.
When you feel despair
Bring compassion to the places where you feel defeated, beaten down, and confused. Despair comes when we see no hope. But compassion for ourselves and others brings in spaciousness to see new possibilities. Have compassion for our fears and struggle and watch your wisdom come back online.
When you are confused
Confusion clouds our thinking and drains our energy. Have mercy for yourself by slowing down and giving yourself the space to get grounded. Don’t try and push through your confusion. Dissipate it by stepping back, reminding yourself of what your intent is and what you want, and then engaging again from curiosity. Let compassion guide you to lovingly pierce through the fog to the crystal clear knowing that lies within.
Where else can you administer the medicine of compassion in your life?