Those on a spiritual path often want to increase their compassion.
Some of my clients tell me they are concerned that they are not compassionate enough. They feel anxious and self critical about their inability to be compassionate. They try to develop compassion but it is a struggle.
This struggle may be due to a wrong conception of what compassion is.
There are at least three ways that compassion can be viewed.
1—Compassion is: “I feel her suffering.”
To feel someone’s suffering, you actively engage your own sensitivities, nervous system and emotions in mimicking the feelings of one who is suffering. This usually means that YOU will also suffer.
I wonder how one knows how another person really feels? Actually, I believe you project how you think you would feel if you were in their position. Or you project a feeling based on what they say, their story or how they look.
If you are feeling their suffering, you are diminishing your ability to help, as your energy is going into feeling the suffering. You are in the same boat they are in! So it is a struggle.
2—Compassion is: “I don’t really feel like helping that person, but I want to be compassionate, so I will do it anyway.”
When you are of two minds (I should—I don’t want to) then you have inner fighting. Your mind and emotions are fighting themselves, creating stress. This is the energy drain of resistance. It may prevent you from helping, or you will help with less energy and focus. You may criticize yourself for not being compassionate enough.
There is a third view of Compassion, from Yoga. The next blog will discuss the Yogic view of compassion.