Compassion and Living a Passionate Life:
An Essential Element of Passion is COMpassion
Last week, on a trip to New York, I ended up with an invite to lunch with the Sisters of Charity of New York. They had recently posted a statement on social media about their stance regarding refugees/asylum-seekers at the southern border of the United States, We Pray for Justice and Compassion at Our Border. After seeing this, I invited them to be guests on my radio show to discuss the important issue of compassion at the border and the larger critical issue of compassion, in general. This very passionate group of nuns, who are living a life of vitality and purpose, asked me to lunch to discuss it. (Their interview will air live on January 6, 2019 on Dr. Mara Karpel & Your Golden Years and will be available on podcast any time afterward.)
In our discussion, I told them that what has been most painful for me, lately, is a phenomenon that I have become increasingly aware of. That is, more and more people whom I have thought to be compassionate people because they have shown compassion for me as their friend, as well as compassion for their own families, friends, and for many in their own network, have been, of late, demonstrating a closing of their hearts to those outside of their own “tribe,” to those who might look different, or come from different life circumstances. Sadly, when we turn away from those who need our compassion the most, there is increased despair, not only in those people for whom we have turned our backs, but also within ourselves.
Compassion is difficult. It’s painful. In fact, the Latin meaning of the word compassion is “co-suffering.” We might suffer along with those we have compassion for. However, picking and choosing whom to feel compassion for while closing our hearts to the rest, actually robs us of our full human experience of depth and passion. On a more global level, lack of compassion leads to a very hard and punishing community, rather than one filled with the kindness and peace that we say that we want in our world. So, it’s worth the effort, and even the pain, that it takes to expand and deepen our compassion for those outside of our family and our network — our tribe.
I invite you to try these tips for overcoming the challenge of deepening and expanding your compassion:
- Start with self-care. If we don’t take care of ourselves, then it’s difficult for us to have sustainable compassion for others. We’re more likely to simply burn out and develop compassion fatigue. Self-care involves having compassion, forgiveness, and love for our self. Check out my blogs, Tips for Caregivers — Near & Far: Practice Self-Compassion and 9 Ways to Be Good to Yourself — Starting Today, for some self-care suggestions.
- Practice gratitude. When we have gratitude for what we have, it’s much easier to be generous with our compassion for others. For ideas about how to do this, take a look at Having an Attitude of Gratitude: What are You Thankful For?
- Practice random acts of kindness. The emotional benefits of kindness and generosity are so powerful that the very act of doing this will bring about more loving kindness within! Read further about it here: The Benefits of Kindness and Generosity: Creating More Meaning in Your Life Through Giving Without Expectation.
- Practice the “Loving Kindness Meditation” (otherwise known as, “Metta Meditation”). This is a practice from the Buddhist tradition that helps to increase a feeling of compassion and love within. It involves wishing happiness and then praying for the well-being of, first, yourself, then a good friend, then someone whom you don’t know well, then for a person whom you have difficulty with, and then all humans on earth. One example of a guided Metta Meditation is by psychologist and meditation teacher, Tara Brach and you can check it out HERE.
- Volunteer to help those who come from different backgrounds and life circumstances from you. Getting to know people who are different than us on a deep personal level humanizes the “other” to us and makes it easier to open our hearts to them.
Psychologist, Jack Kornfield writes in his book, The Wise Heart, “thick layers of ignorance and trauma can obscure our compassion.” On a personal level, Kornfield attributes ignorance to “envy, anxiety, addiction, and aggression” and warns us “when we take this blindness to be the end of the story, we limit the possibility of human development.” In other words, we can’t truly live out our Passion without having sincere COMpassion. The wonderful news is that, as Kornfield points out, “compassion is our nature” and that “we can touch into this compassion whenever our mind is quiet, whenever we allow the heart to open.” Therefore, connecting to our innate compassion is as simple as making time each day to quiet the mind and just breathe.
Check out Dr. Mara’s internationally best-selling book, The Passionate Life: Creating Vitality & Joy at Any Age!
Living the Passionate Life- Online Course will be launching in February 2019!