“How would your life be different if…You stopped making negative judgmental assumptions about people you encounter? Let today be the day…You look for the good in everyone you meet and respect their journey.” – Steve Maraboli –
There are a few different variations of the meaning of compassion and they all basically mean the same thing, but let’s look at the definition described in merriam-webster.com:
“sympathetic consciousness of others’ distress together with a desire to alleviate it”
Some definitions actually include the word pity and though this word may be appropriate in the explanation of compassion, it tends to be more indicative of belittling the other person. ‘Sympathetic consciousness’ leans more towards being aware of a person’s legitimate need for compassion during their time of distress. This could refer to a homeless person on the street or a wealthy business owner in the city. We have all been at a point in our lives where a little compassion from another could have been all we needed to get past the most difficult times in our situation. From small children to entire countries, we have been conditioned to believe ‘guilty until proven innocent’. Wars and rumors of wars are in the news almost daily. Politicians pointing fingers at each other, the left against the right, and concentrated focus on bringing attention to everyone’s faults, seem to be the norm for society today.
“Society is comprised of false identities and labels that serve the primary purpose of satisfying someone else”
Everyone is expected to fall into a social clan that stands for or against someone or something in order to make a statement intended to prove something right or wrong. If anyone chooses not to be a part of a clan or group, they become an outcast and sometimes a literal target for social crucifixion. Many people who express genuine compassion for others fall in this category and are the true ‘unsung heroes’, who do not expect or receive valid recognition for what they do to help others. There are many fantastic groups and individuals that genuinely offer assistance to some of the most distressed people in the world today. True compassion begins within each person from a completely selfless approach.
Feeling sorry for someone and having pity on them clearly has a place with its own rewards. However, true compassion comes from a slightly different perspective as the definition above expressed; ‘sympathetic consciousness’. Consciousness is a state of being aware of one’s surroundings, and in that awareness, we connect ourselves to the experiences and people around us. In this connection relating to being compassionate, we may begin to place ourselves in the other person’s situation feeling some of the pain and distress as they are experiencing it. In this instance, we feel sympathy, not pitty and we genuinely desire to alleviate or minimize this painful experience they may be going through.
“If your compassion does not include yourself, it is incomplete” -Buddha-
With the practice of mindfulness, we gain an inner awareness that will most commonly include the awareness of our weakest areas as well as faults we may have. It is also common that we recognize the faults and weaknesses in others that are most prevailing in ourselves. From a Universal perspective, we are all part of and connected to everything and every other person. Could it be that our ultimate healing actually involves the healing of someone else at the same time? No connection or meeting is by accident and all experiences have a divine purpose.
“We should never avoid the opportunity to be compassionate for another as this may be our only avenue for personal healing”
Society has conditioned most of us to first judge a person’s actions without even attempting to understand why that person reacted in that way and therefore judging someone else becomes a selfish reaction on our own part. Judgment is when someone or something does not fit into a predetermined or expected idea of the way we think they should be. This attitude begins from the earliest of age as we have expectations of the way our children should be and act. We must first approach every situation with an attempt to understand without judgment. Be aware that judgment has a unique way of allowing us to look into a mirror.
“By judging and complaining, we choose to be the victim and are blinded to understanding and compassion”
By now, you should be able to understand the connection between compassion and mindfulness. Our ultimate purpose for practicing mindfulness is to gain inner awareness of ‘self’. So many of us are like an onion possessing many layers surrounding the core of our true being. These layers are the results of life and conditioning from the experiences we have had since we were born, masking and hiding who we really are. These layers begin to shed and be peeled away as we focus inward through mindfulness and meditation practice. The first and most important step in the process of all healing is awareness and each following step becomes easier to take. Remember, healing is already within each of us and only requires the awareness of its existence.