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Posts Tagged ‘Norman Fisher’

Showing Compassion

Monday, July 22nd, 2013

The Pali word for lovingkindness, metta, means unconditional friendliness, warmth, love or care, and the Pali word for compassion, karuna, means to “feel with,” to bear suffering with an active sympathy. In his wisdom the Buddha realized that by purposefully awakening lovingkindness and compassion, we invite the alienated hurts and fears into consciousness, and free ourselves into a wholeness of being.
Tara Brach, True Refuge: Finding Peace and Freedom in Your Own Awakened Heart

My books all have the same theme lately —compassion. The word “compassion” seems to be in neon lights. First I read a quote by Pema Chödrön, “Just as nurturing our ability to love is a way of awakening bodhichitta, so also is nurturing our ability to feel compassion. Compassion, however, is more emotionally challenging than loving-kindness because it involves the willingness to feel pain. It definitely requires the training of a warrior.”

Then I came across the book, Training in Compassion: Zen Teachings on the Practice of Lojong, by Norman Fisher. There were many sections on empathy and compassion.
Fisher writes, “Remember that compassion literally means to feel passion with. Passion means pain. Compassion is the willingness to feel pain with another, to feel another’s pain as one’s own.” He goes on to write, “And it turns out that it’s impossible to take in the pain of another unless we are able to take in our own pain.”

This gave me the clarity I have been seeking after taking some time off to heal and rest. I noticed how difficult it was for people to show compassion. They wanted to reach out and be kind, but somehow the offerings were more about advice-giving, cheerful words, or awkward silence. I realized that what I really wanted was for people to listen, to feel, and to acknowledge.

By sitting in the pain, we allow it to rise up, be acknowledged, and then bless it. Having a witness – a friend – to do that with makes it all the more holy. Looking at our own pain gives us the ability to sit with others in theirs.

What are your experiences or thoughts on compassion?

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