Learn how to make life a warmer place for all, with Dr David Hamilton
Compassion is that space within us that recognises someone’s suffering and feels moved to help. There are times when compassion is easy when someone is clearly in some kind of pain. It feels natural. But then there are other times when it’s much more difficult, especially when someone’s behaviour is hurtful.
Shine with rays of compassion
Once, as we sat in a plane about to take off on a very wet and cloudy day, my partner, Elizabeth, remarked that we would “soon rise above the clouds and reach a place where the sun always shines”. It was such a powerful metaphor for life. When someone shows us an angry or aggressive side, it is often masking pain inside, like a cloud masking the sun. Our job isn’t to react to the anger, but to see through it, to that space inside them where the sun always shines.
Compassion invites us to see through the clouds of people’s behaviour and see the best in them, even as their clouds obscure their inner sunshine. It’s our job to bring the sunshine out, and it begins with compassion.
Blow away the clouds
One of the pleasant side effects of compassion is that it replaces any stress or negative emotions in us that a person’s words or actions may have provoked. Reacting to someone’s negative words or behaviour knocks us off balance and out of alignment with our natural state.
Compassion brings us home. In a sense, your own inner light burns off your own clouds just as it burns its way through those of another person. We can use compassion as a guide in life to help us back to our true state of being. We all have an inner compassion compass that can guide us. Sometimes we just need to practise using it.
Now try something new
Use your compassion compass
1 Write down the name(s) of any person (or people) whom you feel you have an issue with or feel some negative emotion towards.
2 Is holding that feeling doing you any good? If not, why not? Write this down.
3 How would it help you if you were to let go of these negative feelings?
4 Think of a time when your words or behaviour have been less than admirable. What was going on in your life at that time? Did it influence your behaviour? If so, in which way?
5 Is it possible that the person (or people) whose behaviour you are rejecting could have some problems in their life, either now or from the past, that’s affecting their behaviour? If so, how?
6 Now sit in a quiet space, and think of the person (or if it’s more than one, do this for each person in turn), and mentally say, “May you be happy. May you be well. May you be safe. And may you be free of your suffering.” Repeat this mantra for five minutes while you think of the person. If you are doing it for more than one person, then do five minutes for each person in turn.