In July 2019, mindfulness teacher Frank Ostaseski suffered a serious stroke that affected his brain’s capacity. In the ensuing two months he had four more strokes, and as many aspects of daily life became more difficult, Ostaseski found strength and refuge in love, compassion, and curiosity. “As we shift from a goal of recovery to one of discovery, our wisdom tells us we’ll need love and compassion for the journey,” he writes. Here, Ostaseski offers two short contemplations that call on both.
An Evening Contemplation: Compassion for Suffering
At night when I’m scared or I’m confused, or worried that I won’t recover, I lie in bed and I think about all of the people who might be alone, frightened, or suffering. And this evokes in me a certain kind of compassion, a deep wish to relieve their suffering. I’m not very good at self-compassion. I’ve never been good at it. But when I invoke my compassion for others it spills over to me because I can’t have it for others and not include myself.
When I invoke my compassion for others it spills over to me because I can’t have it for others and not include myself.
People often say you have to be compassionate toward yourself before you can be compassionate to others. I don’t agree. When I awaken my compassion for others, it has to include me. Even if I wanted to hold myself out on the margins, I can’t because it doesn’t fly. So that’s my practice in the evening. I go to bed, I lie there, and I try to evoke compassion for those people who are suffering. It’s not wishy washy. It’s genuine. I can feel it because I feel my own suffering. I haven’t yet felt my own compassion, but I feel my own suffering.
A Morning Contemplation: Serving With Love
In the morning when I wake, I lie in bed—before I meditate—and I again try to think of people in the world, and I ask myself: “Love, what would you have me do today?” It’s a motivation for my day and it’s a way of orienting myself toward serving in the world, but also serving in the world with kindness and clear intention. And it comes back to love becoming my support for the day. It’s not just, “Oh, I’m a really good guy and I’m thinking about everybody else.” When I evoke that love, it infuses me with a certain kind of support.
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