We’re continuing to explore what compassion looks like in our hearts and in our world.
We know our mind takes the shape of whatever it comes to rest upon, so we’re trying to incline it toward wholesome qualities, boundless qualities. We’re not trying to manufacture anything, but trusting that what we need is already present.
In this practice we’re trying to touch in with pain, but it’s the beautiful kind of pain—when we allow others to matter. Being in touch in this way can really move us into action, too. So whether we’re watching the news, or we get an emergency call from a family member, our hearts go out to those people who are in similarly difficult situations. It’s then that we realize we’re all connected and that in some sense we do belong to the world.
So our work here is to acknowledge what’s hard and then be with that. We’re allowing that to touch us, to move us. Then we allow the alchemy of presence to do the rest. Each one of us will have our own expression of compassion. What we want to explore is, what is our heart’s relationship to pain?
Keep an eye out, because this is where we get to see the straight-up resilience of the heart. We get to see how something so tender can be so strong. And for those of us who’ve spent years on the run from our own experience, this can be incredibly liberating. What we’re talking about here is living a full-contact life, which is a beautiful expression of freedom.
This is from poet Robert Anton Wilson: “You’re precisely as big as what you love and precisely as small as what you allow to annoy you.”
So this practice is big heart work. And maybe, too, it’s the difference between kind awareness and kind-of awareness. We do this inner work so our whole life can become an expression of this undefended heart. Ultimately, compassion is a verb.
This is a quote from Howard Zinn: “To be hopeful in bad times is not just foolishly romantic. It’s based on the fact that human history is a history not only of cruelty but also of compassion, sacrifice, courage, kindness. What we choose to emphasize in this complex history will determine our lives. If we only see the worst, it destroys our capacity to do something. If we remember those times and places—and there’s so many—where people have behaved magnificently, this gives us the energy to act, and at least the possibility of sending this spinning top of a world in a different direction. And if we do act, in however small a way, we don’t have to wait for some grand utopian future. The future is an infinite succession of presence. And to live now as we think human beings should live in defiance of all that is bad around us, is itself a marvellous victory.”
Exploring Our Resilient Hearts
Watch the Video:
Listen to the Audio:
Radiating Compassion and Resilience
Follow the Practice:
1. Turn your attention inward. Maybe you share my feelings of being inspired by those words of Zinn’s. Let go of your demands on this moment and wrap yourself up with warmth and affection. Allow the breath to be natural and easy. See if the breath can flow right through the heart as we hold ourselves like we would hold anyone we love.
2. Bring your awareness to the sensations around the heart. Let’s allow our circle to expand, to include everyone. All the children of the world, just like you, they have their own struggles and pain. Let’s offer them the same phrases, the same care: I care about your difficulties. May you be held in compassion. May your heart be at peace.
3. Connect with the felt sense of compassion, tenderness. Imagine all the children, in playgrounds and hospitals, in neighborhoods: I care about your difficulties. May you be held in compassion. May your hearts be at peace.
4. Let’s allow our hearts to hold the grownup kids as well: from the nurses to the longshoremen, everyone in traffic right now, and including the difficult people in countless situations. They too have their own struggles and pain. We’ve all had our turns being difficult people. It’s because we weren’t able to hold our own pain. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, another great poet, writes, “If we could read the secret history of our enemies we should find in every life sorrow and suffering enough to disarm all hostility.” Offer these people the phrases we’ve been using: I care about your difficulties. May you be held in compassion. May your heart be at peace.
5. Now let’s radiate boundless compassion to all beings in all directions without exception—animals, the fish. Hold the whole world in your lap. All beings deserve your compassion. The suffering of the world is vast. And so is the heart that can hold it. I care about your suffering. I care about your difficulties. May you all be held in compassion. May we all be held in compassion. May our hearts be at peace.
Coming home to this moment, how does the heart feel? How does it feel when we’re not picking and choosing, just radiating compassion? Allow whatever’s happening in the heart to be there. May we continue to plant the seeds of compassion and kindness.
Please go out into the world and be of service in whatever way makes sense for you. And who knows? Maybe we’ll see each other.