Compassion

Nov 30, 2022 | Virtues of the Heart

There are many faces of compassion.

When I witness someone or a group of people who are suffering, I can feel compassion and empathy. This is natural for most of us because we care about others going through persecution, injustice, violence, or any form of extreme suffering.

It is easy to feel helpless in the plight of others, particularly those in faraway parts of the world. This can also be true even for those who live next door, who suffer in silence.

What is the answer to “What can I do?”

I am only one person with limited means and trying to deal with my own daily challenges.

The heart virtues are not about fixing symptoms that show up in a million ways within the human family, animals, nature, or the planet. The heart virtues are used to bring to light the truth that we are all connected. This realization causes a shift in consciousness. The virtues are expressions of love in action, and in this, they are powerful change agents.

There are endless objects of need to which we can direct our compassion. I find that the practice of being compassionate in the moment is the most meaningful place to start. Some of our mundane situations may seem insignificant compared to the world’s problems, but it is the point of power in the present moment. The present moment is where your purpose lies, always. How we show up for these small moments defines how we choose to live on the larger landscape of life.

“How you do anything is how you do everything.”

– Author unknown

Life (or the universe) always presents us with opportunities to expand our perception of what is possible, picture a larger vision, and see ourselves more clearly. Most of the time, this can be small, seemingly inconsequential moments in our life situations. These small moments can be powerful catalysts for profound change, not to mention opportunities to be part of the solution to contribute to the world in a positive way.

Here’s an example:

My wife and I were standing in line at a grocery store and just ahead of us was a woman arguing with the cashier over the price of something. The cashier repeated that the price was correct in her system, but the woman did not want to accept that and continued arguing. The woman’s voice started getting louder and more disrespectful toward the cashier, not to mention her lack of regard for the line of shoppers waiting behind her.

I could see the discomfort and stress building in the cashier’s face and manner, but she maintained her cool the best she could. Eventually, the manager showed up and resolved the issue by assuring the customer that the price was correct in the register. This went on for what seemed longer than it actually did, but it was long enough for me to recognize that this was a moment where I could practice the virtues. This was my reality, so how was I going to spend this present moment of my life? I had a choice, and I wanted to embrace it fully.

I took a long, deep breath and let it out slowly. 

I noticed my own agitation rising, my heart beating faster, and judgments forming at what I thought was a selfish and disrespectful scene unfolding in front of me. With my next in breath, I imagined compassion flowing into my heart, and on the out breath, I sent the compassion to the cashier.

I let my mind be still and released judgment. 

I inhaled understanding into my heart. I did not understand why someone needed to be so disrespectful to another person. What was it about this woman that she needed to lash out and cause such a scene? I did not know, but I imagined that she had her own difficulties, and her reaction was to blame others for her suffering.

I have been guilty of this myself; I think we all have. I also sent blessings and compassion to her and wished that she would find her way.

As we moved our food onto the checkout conveyor belt, my heart was filled with compassion for the cashier. I could see she was flustered, upset, and self-conscious, but as I caught her eye, I said “hello” with a friendly, cheerful smile. I imagined my heart connected to hers in a compassionate embrace. Her demeanor almost immediately changed as she smiled and engaged in friendly talk with my wife and me.

I did not feel the need to change her or fix the situation; I simply wanted to remind her that she was not alone or powerless and was connected to all of our hearts. Once she feels this, she can reconnect to her own heart and know that she is also the source of love.

As we left, she smiled with a sense of relief, said “thank you,” and cheerfully wished us a nice day. A dramatic change occurred in a few minutes as the expression of compassion was introduced into the situation. There was no judgment, blaming, right or wrong, just the reconnection to the heart and love expressed; in this case, it was compassion.

We all have the power to introduce this frequency into any situation or person, including (especially) ourselves. The right time and the right action will present themselves in our daily lives. They will always come in the present moment.

The answer to “What can I do?” will always be my choice, to give love or withhold love to what is in front of me, now.

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