Saturday, April 10, 2010

Compassion through it's hard!

Therefore, do not judge people:
Do not make assumptions about others.
A person is destroyed
By judging others

adapted from the  Anguttura Nikaya

So in the not too distant past someone really hurt me. Deeply. One of those wind gets knocked out of you hurts. I quickly went through the stages of dealing with that kind of hurt....sadness, denial, depression, blah blah blah. Very quickly I came to the space that I have always felt the most comfortable in..."THE PLACE OF COMPASSION". Good place to be, right? I can be in that space- talk in a very magninomous way about everything- I have it all figured out. I feel so good about how BIG I am being about everything. Strong, brave, COMPASSIONATE, Shannon.

So there I am, talking about how I feel about this person who hurt me so deeply to a friend, when she says"Wow Shan, you are so COMPASSIONATE".  Hearing those words from someone else mouth instead of having them rattle around in my brain made something in me click...."but I don't feel compassionate right now. I just feel shitty."  Hmmmm- wait- isn't compassion er about ending suffering?  Hmmmm- isn't the only way to end that suffering is to realize that you yourself are suffering? Hmmmm- so up to this minute I was FINE (or so I was obviously trying to tell myself) so I hadn't been able to even identify with that suffering. Heeeyyyy wait a minute- now that I really think about it, my COMPASSION feels a whole lot like JUDGEMENT!  I feel a lot better about things when I can hold onto my hurt and pile it up, standing on top of it after I have wrapped it in the pretty trappings of compassion. So EASY to look DOWN on the person who hurt me by feeling sorry for them. "Sigh, it's just so sad how lost they are."
So I ahem, guess I haven't been feeling compassionate....I have instead been attached to the hurt. Holding onto it for dear life. It just feels so much safer in that space.

So what is true compassion? True compassion is wanting others to be free from suffering. So compassion is the definition of the highest scope of motivation. It is said that to generate genuine compassion, one needs to realise that oneself is suffering, that an end to suffering is possible, and that other beings similarly want to be free from suffering.
 To  make this whole compassion business even more challenging- I am going to throw in a quote by his holiness the Dalai Llama "Compassion without attachment is possible. Therefore, we need to clarify the distinctions between compassion and attachment. True compassion is not just an emotional response but a firm commitment founded on reason. Because of this firm foundation, a truly compassionate attitude toward others does not change even if they behave negatively. Genuine compassion is based not on our own projections and expectations, but rather on the needs of the other: irrespective of whether another person is a close friend or an enemy, as long as that person wishes for peace and happiness and wishes to overcome suffering, then on that basis we develop genuine concern for their problem. This is genuine compassion."
Oy! This is getting harder and harder! Ah, but I know the loophole you are looking for in this one..."Ha! I have no idea if this person really wishes for peace and happiness and wishes to overcome can I develop a genuine concern for them?" Sorry, that argument doesn't work. Truly, is there anyone on this earth who does not want to be happy? Want to be loved?  Nope, didn't think so.

  So I realized with stunning clarity, that what I had been labeling as compassion, was really attachment and judgement in fancy wrapping.  I realized I had to LET GO of that emotional response and understand that this person wants the same thing that I want in life-  they are hurt, they are doing the best they can, they don't want to hurt anyone else, they are doing what they think is right- SO THEY CAN BE HAPPY...i know that THAT IS ME. I am not living their reality, but I understand their truths.....THAT IS ME.

I would love to say that when I realized these things, the hurt went away and I became this great enlightened being who upon seeing this person will give them an honest hug and only wish them joy and happiness. But it didn't, am I'm not. I am however, more aware and on the road to compassion. It is a great a challenging journey. But i know I will get there. Someday.


  1. Great post Shannon.

    The compassion thing bites me in the butt all the time. I think it's a road with no end. But that's ok.