(This is a continuing blog series from my attendance at the Boundless Compassion Retreat and Facilitator Training in late June 2018. Some of the contents are adapted from Boundless Compassion – Creating a Way of Life by Joyce Rupp, 2018, with permission from Joyce Rupp, author).
There are four seeds of compassion:
Our minds lure us into putting people in boxes with a label. We then place judgments on the people in those boxes, e.g., don’t like, repugnant, scary, or like, wholesome, friendly. We quickly develop biases, mostly negative ones. We soon become beholden to those biases and forget about the individuals in those boxes. We do not know their life stories, the hurts they experienced, nor their motivations for living. We judge people and may decide they are not worthy of compassion. Our harsh judgment keeps love at a distance and blocks compassionate thinking.
Reflection: “Call to mind someone you’ve negatively judged, or someone you wish to change to meet your standards. Look through that person’s eyes and ask yourself where this person might be hurting.”
How can a person can be warmhearted in one instance and hard-hearted the next? For example, have you experienced driving to an event with excited anticipation and another driver veers into your lane and barely misses you? Anger rushes from your amygdala in your brain (section of the brain that is responsible for the response and memory of emotions especially fear). Angry thoughts or cuss words exit your mouth about the driver. This vengeful energy stays with you and disrupts the event you attend. It steals your excitement and will probably negatively affect others. The compassionate action is to be aware of how negative impulses, words and gestures are harmful to others and ourselves.
Reflection: “When did the instinctual part of your brain take over and lead you to respond with some form of violence (with thoughts, words, silence, or actions)?”
Forgiveness is NOT forgetting, excusing, accepting, denying, or numbing yourself to pain. As Jack Kornfield says, “Forgiveness is simply an act of the heart, a movement to let go of the pain, the resentment, the outrage that you have carried as a burden for so long.” Listen to Jack Kornfield’s “12 Principles of Forgiveness.”
Reflection: “What do you believe about forgiveness? What would you say to someone who asks you what is needed in order to forgive?”
Awareness of what impedes our compassionate presence is being mindful. Paul Gilbert says, “Compassion helps us reorganize our minds by generating particular motives and feelings, while mindfulness helps us step back and disengage from emotional thinking loops that suck us in, hereby providing the stability and perspective which is the basis for insight.” Listen to Paul Gilbert on “How Mindfulness Fosters Compassion.”
Reflection: “What usually keeps you from being mindful? How is your practice becoming more attentive?”
Sr. Joyce Rupp says, “We plant the seeds of compassion by being aware of our thoughts and feelings, and by the deliberate intention to think and respond in a kindhearted manner. We can teach our minds to activate compassion, so that we do not react on impulse, or go about our lives unconsciously, missing opportunities to alleviate suffering – and create more suffering.”
My next blog will address self-compassion. Thank you.