Compassion
Be Kind. Always.
August 2016 Graduate Meeting

Videos for this meeting:
A Kindness Revolution - TEDx talk by Jamie Derrick [14 min]
Where Does Compassion Really Come From? - Sharon Salzberg animation [3 min]
Stuck in Traffic - "Street Lovingkindness #1" with Sharon Salzberg [2 min]

In A Kindness Revolution, mindfulness teacher Jamie Derrick talks about a personal guideline which has been central to her life for the past five years: "Be Kind. Always." This is not a "wimpy-walk-on-me" kindness but a strong, "say-what-needs-to-be-said" kindness. Being kind does not necessarily mean backing down or away when a hard truth needs to be told or when we need to protect ourselves. Kindness is possible in any circumstance, when intelligence and wisdom are applied.

In Sharon Salzberg’s videos, Where Does Compassion Come From? and Stuck in Traffic, she reminds us that the people around us want the same things that we want (e.g., happiness, love, ease, health) and she opens the possibility of seeing our shared humanity in the most common of places.


     Imagine walking along a sidewalk with your arms full of groceries, and someone roughly bumps into you so that you fall and your groceries are strewn over the ground. As you rise up from the puddle of broken eggs and tomato juice, you are ready to shout out, "You idiot! What's wrong with you? Are you blind?" But just before you can catch your breath to speak, you see that the person who bumped you is actually blind. He, too, is sprawled in the spilled groceries, and your anger vanishes in an instant, to be replaced by sympathetic concern: "Are you hurt? Can I help you up?"
     Our situation is like that. When we clearly realize that the source of disharmony and misery in the world is ignorance, we can open the door of wisdom and compassion. Then we are in a position to heal ourselves and others.
           - from Tibetan Buddhism from the Ground Up by B. Alan Wallace

     An elderly monk found his way to Dharamsala in India after twenty years of imprisonment. Meeting with the Dalai Lama, he told his story, recounting the years of torture, brutality, and isolation. Then the Dalai Lama asked the monk, "Was there any time you felt that your life was truly in danger?" The old monk answered, "The only times I felt deeply endangered were the moments I felt in danger of losing my compassion for my jailers." This is a story of a profound commitment to compassion, a story of faith and forbearance that bears witness to a human being's dedication to keeping his heart and dignity intact in the face of the greatest adversity. The stooped, wrinkled old monk was a simple man without credentials, education, or sophistication. He was also a man with a remarkable heart, who had chosen to forsake the pathways of bitterness and rage, knowing that in following those ways he risked losing what was most precious to him - the home he had made in compassion.
           - from Compassion: Listening to the Cries of the World by Christina Feldman

    When people start to meditate or to work with any kind of spiritual discipline, they often think that somehow they're going to improve, which is a sort of subtle aggression against who they really are. It's a bit like saying,

          "If I jog, I'll be a much better person."
          "If I could only get a nicer house, I'd be a better person."
          "If I could meditate and calm down, I'd be a better person."


    Or the scenario may be that they find fault with others; they might say,

          "If it weren't for my husband, I'd have a perfect marriage."
          "If it weren't for the fact that my boss and I can't get on, my job would be just great."
          And "If it weren't for my mind, my meditation would be excellent."


    But loving-kindness – maitri - toward ourselves doesn't mean getting rid of anything. Maitri means that we can still be crazy after all these years. We can still be angry after all these years. We can still be timid or jealous or full of feelings of unworthiness. The point is not to try to change ourselves. Meditation practice isn't about trying to throw ourselves away and become something better. It's about befriending who we are already. The ground of practice is you or me or whoever we are right now, just as we are. That's the ground, that's what we study, that's what we come to know with tremendous curiosity and interest...
     The point is that our true nature is not some ideal that we have to live up to. It's who we are right now, and that's what we can make friends with and celebrate.
          - from The Wisdom of No Escape: and the Path of Loving-Kindness by Pema Chodron

Closing Thoughts

     The late rabbi Albert Friedlander once impressed upon me the importance of the biblical commandment "love your neighbor as yourself". I had always concentrated on the first part of that injunction, but Albert taught me that if you cannot love yourself, you cannot love other people either.
           - from Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life, by Karen Armstrong

Love After Love
by Derek Walcott

The time will come
when, with elation
you will greet yourself arriving
at your own door, in your own mirror
and each will smile at the other's welcome,

and say, sit here. Eat.
You will love again the stranger who was your self.
Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart
to itself, to the stranger who has loved you

all your life, whom you ignored
for another, who knows you by heart.
Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,

the photographs, the desperate notes,
peel your own image from the mirror.
Sit. Feast on your life.

My religion is very simple.
My religion is kindness.
     - Dalai Lama


Compassion is not a relationship between the healer and the wounded.
It's a relationship between equals.

Only when we know our own darkness well can we be present with the darkness of others.

Compassion becomes real when we recognize our shared humanity.
     - Pema Chodron


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 feelings 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.

Nobody is able to achieve this completely, but the striving for such achievement is in itself a part of the liberation and a foundation for inner security.
     - Albert Einstein


There is no spiritual practice more profound than being kind to one’s family, neighbors, the cashier at the grocery store, an unexpected visitor, the person who does the laundry or picks up the garbage, or any other of the ‘invisible’ people whose paths we cross in the course of a normal day. Certainly there are spiritual mysteries to explore, and states of ecstasy or enlightenment beyond description. But as we mature, it becomes clear that those special experiences are meaningful only when they arise from and return to a life of ordinary kindness.
     - Bo Lozoff
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My religion is very simple.
My religion is kindness.
     - Dalai Lama


Compassion is not a relationship between the healer and the wounded.
It's a relationship between equals.

Only when we know our own darkness well can we be present with the darkness of others.

Compassion becomes real when we recognize our shared humanity.
     - Pema Chodron


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 feelings 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.

Nobody is able to achieve this completely, but the striving for such achievement is in itself a part of the liberation and a foundation for inner security.
     - Albert Einstein


There is no spiritual practice more profound than being kind to one’s family, neighbors, the cashier at the grocery store, an unexpected visitor, the person who does the laundry or picks up the garbage, or any other of the ‘invisible’ people whose paths we cross in the course of a normal day. Certainly there are spiritual mysteries to explore, and states of ecstasy or enlightenment beyond description. But as we mature, it becomes clear that those special experiences are meaningful only when they arise from and return to a life of ordinary kindness.
     - Bo Lozoff
more    
quotes