May 27, 2013
Yesterday I wrote about how the Buddha, when he was in agony after having been injured, kept the suffering of self-doubt at bay by lying down “with sympathy for all beings.”
The word for sympathy here is “anukampā,” which literally means “to tremble with” or “to vibrate with.” Taking the meaning of “to vibrate with” we could even understand anukampā as being “resonating” with others, or having empathy for them.
Anukampā is closely related to karunā, or compassion, although karunā is from a root meaning “to act,” and so it’s a more active and dynamic term, while anukampā is more receptive. When we have anukampā we’re receptive to the feelings of …
May 26, 2013
I’ve often written about how experiencing compassion for ourselves can naturally spill over to experiencing compassion for other people. When someone says something that you find hurtful, that hurt is a form of suffering. Often what we do is try to become angry, ultimately in an effort to rid of the “cause” of the suffering (the other person) and thus remove the hurt. This is a kind of double aversion, because not only are we experiencing aversion to the person whose words gave rise to the feeling of hurt, but we’re turning away from the hurt itself.
A compassionate approach to dealing with hurt, on the other hand, is to …
May 25, 2013
We can see beings with the eyes of compassion, or with the eyes of utility. We almost literally live in different worlds depending on which eyes we use to see with.
When we see with the eyes of utility we gauge beings by their usefulness to us.
If the checkout clerk performs smoothly we’ll remain neutral, maybe even friendly, but if he or she has trouble looking up the code for an item, or — heaven forbid — has to call in a supervisor for help, we’ll quickly become irritable. This person has become an obstacle to the smooth functioning of our life.
When the child is slow getting ready for …
May 24, 2013
One afternoon, a tired-looking dog wandered into my yard and followed me through the door into the house. He went down the hall, lay down on the couch and slept there for an hour.
Since my dogs didn’t seem to mind his presence, and he seemed like a good dog, I was okay with him being there, so I let him nap. An hour later he went to the door motioned for me to let him out and off he went.
The next day, much to my surprise, he was back. He resumed his position on the couch and slept for another hour.
This continued …
May 24, 2013
I’d like to suggest a simple practice for you.
For the next hour or so, let the first thought you have when seeing someone or meeting them face-to-face be: “This person suffers just as I suffer. This person, just like me, doesn’t want to suffer.”
“Seeing someone” can include seeing their photograph or seeing them on TV, as well as seeing them in person, or seeing them passing by.
You can try this for a longer period, of course, but I thought it would be good to try it for a very short spell initially, so that you don’t feel you’re taking on a task that’s too big.
I’d advise …
May 23, 2013
It’s very easy for us to assume that the one who feels compassion is in some way superior to the one he or she feels compassion for. This is partly rooted, I presume, in the assumption that it’s weak to suffer, but that assumption in turn grows from our biological conditioning. We’re social animals, and one of the things a social animal has as part of its genetic makeup is a propensity to establish where it stands in a social hierarchy.
In Buddhist terms this is “seeking status,” which is one pair of the eight lokadhammas, which could be translated as “ways of the world,” although it’s often poetically …
Wildmind Meditation News
May 22, 2013
Until now, little was scientifically known about the human potential to cultivate compassion — the emotional state of caring for people who are suffering in a way that motivates altruistic behavior.
A new study by researchers at the Center for Investigating Healthy Minds at the Waisman Center of the University of Wisconsin-Madison shows that adults can be trained to be more compassionate. The report, published Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science, investigates whether training adults in compassion can result in greater altruistic behavior and related changes in neural systems underlying compassion.
“Our fundamental question was, ‘Can compassion be trained and learned in adults? Can we become more caring if we practice that mindset?’” says Helen Weng, lead author …
May 22, 2013
Compassion is becoming a “hot topic” in scientific research, and the good news is that compassion has been shown to be innate, and that it makes us happier, more popular, and healthier.
1. Compassion is wired into us
Researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology observed two-year-olds’ reactions to seeing an adult who needed help because he or she had dropped an object and had trouble picking it up. The children’s pupil size increased — a sign of heightened concern — when they saw the adult in distress. Their concern decreased if they were allowed to help (and 10 out of 12 children chose to do so) or if …
May 21, 2013
People often think of compassion as being a sombre, even depressing experience, but that doesn’t have to be the case. In fact when our compassion is sorrowful, this is just a sign that we have attachments to work through. (Which is fine, by the way. This is work we all have to do.) We might be attached to the idea that suffering shouldn’t exist, or that it’s “unfair” for it to affect someone we know, or that it shouldn’t reserve its attentions for those we deem to be bad, sparing the good, or that we shouldn’t feel discomfort. But those kinds of thoughts fly in the face of reality, …
May 20, 2013
For most of the 25 days in which we focused on Metta Bhavana, I felt like I was swimming in joy. About two thirds or three quarters of my meditations were positively blissful, and in my daily life I felt cocooned by lovingkindness, as if I was inside a bubble of joy that stress was unable to penetrate.
Then, on day 26, I switched to the karuna bhavana (developing compassion) and that all ground to a halt. I didn’t find the practice actually depressing, but it did feel sober. There was a feeling of having a weight in the heart.
But after just over a week of karuna bhavana I …