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. Our self obsession holds us back. And the connections we develop because of our compassion help us to be more in harmony with the world around and also happier.
In ‘Buddhism Without Beliefs’ Stephen Batchelor says, “While in the grip of self-centeredness, compassion remains restricted to those we feel to be on our side.”
That’s how we are most of the time, of course. It’s easy for us to have warm feelings for ourselves and often for those close to us too. The further people are removed from us, the harder it is for those feelings to manifest. But we can train in manifesting those feelings.
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.
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.
Batchelor goes on to say, “A compassionate heart still feels anger, greed, jealousy, and other such emotions. But it accepts them for what they are with equanimity, and cultivates the strength of mind to let them arise and pass without identifying with or acting upon them.”
That’s where we’re trying to head on this path.
Here is a guided Metta Meditation that I recorded:
Daniel Scharpenburg (Gegan Kelsang Dakpa) has had a committed meditation practice for 20 years. Daniel completed Meditation Instructor Training under Lama Chuck Stanford at the Rime Buddhist Center in 2011. Prior to this he was a Zen Monk in the Five Mountain Zen Order. Daniel volunteers at the Rime Buddhist Center as a Class Facilitator and Meditation Leader. He was given the title “Gegan” or teacher and he has taken Bodhisattva Vow