We promised in our May e-letter that we would talk about additional ways we are fielding the current crisis, beyond using the EEM techniques we had been sharing. Our focus for this e-letter is on the power of both individual and collective compassion. In fact, the pandemic can be seen as a prompt from nature to bring about a more compassionate world.
In almost every major religious and spiritual tradition, compassion is held as being among the greatest of virtues. Entering a state of compassion not only motivates you to go out of your way to help with the physical and emotional suffering of another, it opens you energetically to the larger story in which we are all a part.
It trains your nervous system to be available for connection rather than to retreat into isolation. The evolution of highly developed forms of compassion is considered by social scientists to be the pivotal human trait that has allowed us to create great civilizations. A lot to think about there.
For me, Donna, I seem wired for compassion. It makes me relentless in my healing work, turning over every stone to find a way to reduce my client’s illness and pain.
Compassion is the most complex of feelings. It forces my attention to go to the suffering of another, and I feel that suffering kinesthetically. My heart becomes heavy and literally hurts. My eyes want to cry. The other’s predicament becomes my predicament. “I feel your pain” goes from just an expression to becoming the reality of my body, mind, and spirit. Not a great advertisement for compassion so far, is it!
But something wonderful overshadows all of that. I connect with the person energetically. My boundaries open. I enter a love space. This connects me with all of humanity. My whole body and being is flooded with love.
The pandemic, at this time in history – with electronic media showing us every day more suffering than many people would previously see with their own eyes in a decade – truly can be a nudge from nature to do your part in bringing about a more compassionate world. It is a terrible but also unprecedented opportunity.
If we are to change the course in which we are headed as a species, the cooperation and connection that compassion promotes – at the personal and societal levels – is going to be an essential ingredient. Electronic media, with all the perils and abuses we are witnessing, is also the mechanism that can facilitate such widespread rapid change.
We are of course all overwhelmed as our screens parade in front of us those whose lives have been cut short, those who are in unfathomable grief, those enduring a difficult death, those who don’t know how to feed their families or pay the rent, those who have lost businesses they spent a lifetime building, those crushed under oppression and inequality, and those who are risking and losing their lives as they serve all of us. Here is what you can do within the workshop of your own being to turn the media onslaught about the pandemic into a more compassionate you, a transformation that will radiate as you help create a more compassionate world.
A Meditation to Foster Compassion
Before you click away or change the channel on your TV or in your mind, attune yourself to the suffering of the individual being portrayed on your screen. With a deep in-breath, embrace it. Contain that person’s suffering within your being.
Meet the person with compassion. Let the person’s pain touch your heart. Feel your compassion filling your chest. Hold this state of compassion for several seconds.
When you release your breath, do it with the attitude of the Buddhist Loving-Kindness Prayer: “May all beings be free of suffering.” Breathe out with a sense that you are spreading a virus of relief, hope, and love into the atmosphere.
While it is but a drop in the ocean, there are nearly 8 billion of us. Give the ocean your best drop. Repeat for at least three full, compassionate breaths. Do this right now with a focus on George Floyd. Then do it once every day for someone you know of personally or encounter in the news.
The daily onslaught that makes us witness to suffering can serve as a prompt to cultivate our compassion. When your real-world actions grow out of compassion, they will be more attuned to what our species needs, and the experience of compassion within your own body and mind will keep you on course as the higher possibilities of your vagal nerve (the body’s social engagement system) are being exercised.
Two Caveats About the Meditation
- If you are someone who is highly sensitive, who tends to take on the pain of others and get caught there, this may not be the meditation for you. However, your dilemma also brings you an opportunity. As our friend, Judith Orloff, M.D., herself an empath as well as a noted psychiatrist, advises: “You can hold a supportive space for someone without absorbing their distress in your own body.” You can use the meditation to exercise this capacity. Particularly as you breathe out with “May all beings be free of suffering,” release any residue of suffering from your body with this right-minded intention.
- If you find yourself sliding from compassion into guilt, anger, or frustration – very natural and understandable detours – you are nonetheless missing the opportunity of the moment to touch into a higher state. Finding ways to create change in the world can come later. For this moment, it is inner work. And you can use your will to realign your energy. When you realize you are no longer feeling compassion, gently ease yourself back into it. Notice your breath. Soften your belly. Open your heart. That is David’s favorite mini-meditation, and it works. With three deep breaths: Notice breath. Soften belly. Open heart.
And we close with those words: Notice breath. Soften belly. Open heart.
With our love and blessings,
Donna and David