Compassion and Well-Being

Compassion and Well-Being March 9, 2022

Cultivating an attitude rooted in compassion helps our well-being in various ways. The world may try to tell you that compassion is not a strength, that if you have a lot of compassion you’re a “snowflake” or “bleeding heart” and I’m here to tell you the opposite. Compassion is a strength. Having an open heart is the way toward contentment in life.

Compassion helps us with self-acceptance because it gives us the opportunity to see through our self interest and to see ourselves and the world around us with more clarity. In his book ‘A Fearless Heart’ Thupten Jinpa, the former monk and PhD says, “Through compassion training we learn to acknowledge, nonjudgmentally, the whole package of our reality: our vulnerability and weaknesses as well as our strengths, good fortune, and bad fortune, and we forgive ourselves for our mistakes and failings.”

We don’t like to acknowledge our weaknesses and we often struggle to do so nonjudgmentally. But that’s where compassion can lead us. Not only does self-compassion lead to self-acceptance, but also compassion gives us the opportunity to put down our self-obsession for a little while. Our selfishness is a burden, although we don’t often think of it that way.

Compassion helps us have positive relationships with others. It builds social connectedness and helps foster warm and trusting relationships. Jinpa says, “Compassion training contributes to positive relations with others, as we become more aware of and appreciative of the important people in our life through consciously wishing them happiness and freedom from suffering and misfortune.”

This is why meditation practices like Metta and Tonglen can be really helpful. We do practices like these to train our hearts to be open and our minds to actually care about others. When I first started practicing Buddhism I thought these kinds of teachings were silly. I thought, ‘why do I care about having compassion? I don’t even like other people’ but I’m happy to tell you now that I was wrong. Compassion and connecting with others are the whole path. The whole point is connecting with other people.

Compassion helps us have some more control over ourselves. You see, when we are pulled around by our desires and self-obsession, we sometimes just do things. We can easily sleepwalk through life not making very many active and conscious decisions. That makes it really easy for people to sell us things and it makes it easy for us to make the wrong choices in life. Jinpa says, “Making compassion part of our conscious intention as well as our basic motivation system gives us an internal compass to rely on – principles to inform our attitudes and guide our thoughts, feelings, and behavior instead of being swayed by other people’s whims or societal norms.”

Training in compassion gives us the power to take back our lives and not be so pulled around by the poisons of greed, hatred, and delusion.

Compassion helps us find purpose in our lives. If we’re not so self-obsessed and we’re seeing things more clearly, then we can get a better idea of who we are and what we should be doing. Jinpa says, “As our practice deepens over time and our sense of connection with others along with it, we learn to take joy in bringing benefit to others. We see that our existence matters and this inspires us to do what we can to make our existence as meaningful as possible.”

Training in compassion brings us to the point where we realize the truth. Compassion isn’t just a skill we can cultivate. It’s a fundamental part of our nature as human beings. When we are aware of that and really understand it, that’s where we can find our purpose in life.



Upcoming Event:

3/13/22 10:30am @ Rime Buddhist Center on ZOOM

Talk: Compassion and Well Being

I’m giving this talk as part of the Rime Center Sunday Service. The Sunday service consists of various chants along with short periods of meditation, music consisting of singing mantras, a guided meditation, and concludes with a short Dharma talk. This is going to be streamed on the zoom platform. Sign up here to register and get the zoom link:

Rime Center Zoom

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