Compassion for others

Dr Rick Hanson


 NOTE: This transcript may have been automatically generated using software and, as such, may not be completely accurate.

Now let’s explore bringing compassion into your home, your work, and your community. And feel free to adapt my suggestions to what is relevant in your life. So, getting a sense of just warm heartedness, simple, basic, caring, perhaps bringing to mind someone that is easy for you to care about, to like, to appreciate, perhaps love. It could help to get a sense of breathing in the area of your heart as you rest in a sense of caring for one or more beings. And you can even put a hand on your heart if you like to strengthen this experience.

So bring to mind someone in your home or someone you’re close to. and friends and family. And you can do this with more than one person. For simplicity, I’ll focus on just one person here. So be aware of this person. And it could be someone that you don’t always agree with or there might be some issues with. And yet still, you can focus on some in which they’re dealing with tough things. They’re stressed, they’re worried, maybe they’re in pain. Whatever it is, in a word, you can be aware of their suffering. And as you are aware of their suffering and having empathy for it, can you find compassion for it as well? A warm-hearted concern, a wish that things could be better for them, perhaps with a movement to help if you can. Can you rest in compassion for this person? Perhaps strengthening the experience with soft thoughts like, “May you not suffer,” with something specific, such as, may your pain ease. May you be at peace with this loss. May you find a way for your job to not be so aggravating. May this chemotherapy go well, or whatever is relevant for you.

You might experience your compassion as flowing outward from you in waves or ripples. You’re holding this person in awareness, you’re holding them in your heart, and you’re simply radiating good wishes, warm-hearted support. You might notice that compassion is separate from approval or agreement. We can have compassion for people who are suffering,  while at the same time disagreeing with them or wanting to create boundaries between us and them. Still, still we can respect the fact of their suffering and wish them well about it. You can do this. We all can. What’s it like to feel compassionate toward this person who is close to you? Okay. Now, someone at work. And you can define work very broadly, if you like, I like to include making a home, raising a family, a second person, who is suffering. You may not be as close to them as in the first practice we did a moment ago, being aware though of things that are hard for them, and finding genuine compassion for them. Here too, if you like, you can use soft thoughts such as may you not suffer, or things that are more specific. Keep staying with the compassion.

You may find that alongside genuine compassion can be a kind of acceptance, peacefulness, maybe with regret about certain conditions that won’t change, can’t change. Alongside compassion can be a real recognition of injustice, loss, state of the world. while the compassion itself is real and matters. What’s it like to have compassion for someone you work with, broadly defined? And then last, how about imagining or recalling Someone in your neighborhood. You might imagine a passing stranger on a street. Someone you’re not at all particularly close to. Perhaps someone way down the hall at work, or a neighbor you nod to as you pass in the morning. And see if you can find compassion for them. You might have an intuition of some suffering they’re dealing with, some hard things, or you might simply have a knowing that they, like all of us, are exposed to stress and loss, conflict, illness, aging, and death, all of us. In our common humanity, we all must face these things and often suffer as a result. Can you find compassion for someone that you do not know well? not know well. You can even imagine as you move through your day that you will encounter many, many people. And you can imagine actually taking a moment, part of a breath, to locate some good wishes for them and recognition of some of the difficulties they face. Imagine yourself doing this as you walk down a street, move through a shop or a mall, driving traffic even. What would it be like for you to radiate, to express a little bit as if it’s kind of a field extending outward from you of compassion and good wishes for the many people you’ll encounter each day that you do not know well. What would this be like?

And as we finish up here, for some breaths, you can get a sense of compassion. You can get a sense of being compassionate. And you can get a sense of feeling what it would be like, what it is like perhaps, to be compassionate for people in your home, people in your work, and people in your community. Knowing what it’s like to be a compassionate person. Extending compassion routinely in all directions.

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