Monday, September 14, 2009
Reflections on Compassion
1. Compassion is defined as a state of being aware of the distress or suffering of others together with a desire to alleviate it.
2. Compassion and empathy are foundational for natural ethics and positive social relationships.
3. Cultivating compassion is the single most effective way to make oneself psychologically healthy, happy and joyful.
4. As each of us strives to cultivate compassion we should be wary of confusing genuine compassion with nice behavior motivated by the wish to be liked. Many of us have unconsciously taken on certain interpersonal roles in order to evoke positive responses from others.
5. Another common obstacle to compassion is not taking care of ourselves. We cannot give others what we don’t have ourselves. We must approach the task of inner development in a practical way by assessing how much we can give to others without feeling stressed out, overwhelmed or depleted.
6. Boundaries play an interesting and sometimes complicated role in developing compassion. We need to become skillful at knowing when to apply boundaries and when to relax or release them.
7. Setting healthy boundaries involves saying no when not refusing likely would lead us to feel stressed out, hurt, resentful or angry. Healthy boundaries work against the negative patterns of compulsively pleasing or rescuing others, and involves protecting and taking care of ourselves. Each of us has to judge our own capacities and set our boundaries accordingly.
8. We must have compassion for ourselves before we can have genuine compassion for others. To develop meaningful compassion for ourselves , we have to be willing and able to stay deeply present to our own suffering and its causes.
9. The main cause of human suffering is what the Buddhists call “attachment”, desiring things to be a certain way instead of the way they are, an inability to let go, relax and be with things as they are. With attachment the underlying energy is one of grasping at things or persons outside yourself to bring you happiness. With compassion the main energy is an allowing of the way things are in spite of the suffering involved and a warm affectionate wish for well-being.