5 Ideas About Compassion

5 Ideas About Compassion — The root of Compassion is ‘being present with.’ As we practice compassion, we drop judgement. We are left with a sense of self and a sense of another that is strong, rooted, and free from manipulation.

The Waterloo Update

Thanks for all the kind e‑mails. We’re glad to be home, too! Although Costa Rica beckons regularly. I guess we live both places, now.

5 ideas about compassion

Sometimes we think that to develop an open heart, to be truly loving and compassionate, means that we need to be passive, to allow others to abuse us, to smile and let anyone do what they want with us. Yet this is not what is meant by compassion. Quite the contrary. Compassion is not at all weak. It is the strength that arises out of seeing the true nature of suffering in the world. Compassion allows us to bear witness to that suffering, whether it is in ourselves or others, without fear; it allows us to name injustice without hesitation, and to act strongly, with all the skill at our disposal. To develop this mind state of compassion…is to learn to live, as the Buddha put it, with sympathy for all living beings, without exception.

Quoting the Dalai Lama

~ Sharon Salzberg, Lovingkindness: The Revolutionary Art of Happiness (Shambhala Classics).

Last week, I mentioned compassion, presence, and self-mastery as root behaviours for walking the Pathless Path. In the next couple of days, I worked with two people — one fresh from Phase 1 at The Haven, and the other someone who attended our Bodywork workshop last fall.

Both are caught in the same place — trying to force externals to “behave.”

belly work

Letting Go

One interesting thing. The woman just returned from the Left Coast showed Darbella and me bruises on her legs. She’d done Bodywork out there, focussed on her diaphragm — belly area — not on her legs. The bruising is similar to the bruising you get from cupping — toxins releasing.

I’ve written here about the diaphragm and the chakras — and how our “upward movement” into compassion requires moving through our ego driven need to be right, to be obeyed, or to be respected (whatever that means.)

In both cases, my friends described others not cooperating with them — making demands, being critical, whatever. In both cases, their full attention was turned on getting others to “understand” — shorthand for “behave.” Because of this, neither is doing what they say they want to do with their life.

It will come as no surprise that both are lost in their heads

Where else? Both have staged an entire Broadway Musical in there, complete with props, characters, and snappy dialogue. What has fallen by the wayside, in all of this “directing of the play,” is self-compassion. And by that I mean, groundedness, passion, and self-knowing (the first 3 chakras.)

I suggested a few things for them to try (chief of which is Bodywork coupled with judicious use of the word “no.”) Compassion, as we read in this week’s quote, is not rolling over, is not walking around “all spiritual.” It is having the courage to stay present with others, while continuing to walk.


Idea # 1 — compassion begins with the Self

Diaphragm and upper belly work is about compassion for self. In order to reach compassion, (the heart Chakra) we must first integrate and own the first three Chakras.

In practice, this means accepting ourselves as we are.

OK, I know. You want to talk about changing who you are (or, more honestly, changing the rest of the world.) This is plainly impossible. We are who and how we are, and ever will be. Most of our emotional reactions are hard-wired in. It’s why, if you have siblings, you have different reactions to the same story.

What we can do is understand that our hard-wiring, left unchecked, leads to catastrophe after catastrophe.

If all we do is complain about and judge our base-line self, all we have is misery, and nothing shifts. Compassion for self starts with,

This is how I am. I can’t change my genetics, my history, or my emotional set-point. What I can do is accept this as my personal “ground zero,” and, each time, make other choices.

Choice is always possible (Wong and McKeen)

Here’s the key. I know, for myself, that my reactive nature leads me to two things: 1) harsh judgement of myself and others, and 2) melancholy. Has, ever since I left home at 17.

What I also know is the “feel” of either. I know the ache in my belly, and the tightening of my neck. As I feel these things, I breathe and treat myself with compassion –

I am who I am, and this is my norm. Given that, here is what I choose.”

My “without the bruises” friend has tight shoulders, developed over the years by “carrying everyone, in an attempt to make them happy.” Our first Bodywork session, she really let the tightness go, and immediately shifted into really feeling her whole body.

This is how compassion works, at all levels. It is NOT passive acceptance, but is rather informed acknowledgment. By that, I mean that we land firmly in who we are and what is happening, accept that this is real, and then, with a clear head and open heart, act for the benefit of self and others.

eye of compassion

Eyes Wide Open

Idea # 2 — Learning to see with clear eyes.

When I move past “What’s in it for me?” or “Why don’t they understand (shorthand for do it my way),” I’m left with the stunning reality that what is in me, and what is in front of me, is just “there.” Most of us “Take the ‘A’ Train” right into our heads, and start judging, finger pointing, and sighing.

If you’ve ever gone to the zoo, you likely have seen monkeys playing with their shit. The roll it into balls, look at it, and if you get too close, they fling it at you.

This is what we do, in our heads, all the time. Play with our shit, and fling it at others.

Clear eyes simply see. Here is what is happening, and here is me, starting to react. And then, the big question. Will I choose to have a breath, and choose another way — will I respond rather than react?

If I choose a response, clear eyes let me “see” what to do next. And almost always, what we choose to do next is act in a way that is compassionate.

Idea # 3 — short of being confronted with physical violence, compassion must win out

It’s no coincidence that, when Buddhism came to China, Kung Fu was an almost immediate result. Great exercise, great was to burn of aggression, but also a great defensive tool — as monasteries were easy targets. Defenselessness is the make of wimps — it’s not spiritual, or holy — it’s passive ‑aggressive behaviour. So, with physical violence, feel free to let fly.

Otherwise, get over yourself. Aiming an emotion at another is always the opposite of compassion.

Getting defensive, getting angry, blaming, doing a “It’s for your own good” lecture, sobbing, melting down — all are games played by manipulators — each designed to get the other person to “behave.”

Compassion is “sitting with.”

What that looks like is dialogue. It’s acceptance that we do not see things the same (none of us do) and never will. It’s reaching the point where I choose to accept that “this is where you are.” And given that, here is my choice of response.

It’s finding an action that is in keeping with your principles, without expecting others to agree. It’s then implementing and living out of your principles, without apology. More on this one in 2 weeks.

Idea # 4 — Compassion builds as you build your foundation

Notice where your heart is. Yup. Right there in the centre of your chest. Heart energy runs from there, and can exit through the meridian exit point, located in the centre of your palms. When you wrap someone in your arms with compassion, they feel your energy radiating our of your hands (without knowing it) and that’s why heart-felt hugs “feel so good.”

You can’t exercise compassion with a shrivelled, tiny, contained, stunted, protected heart. No matter how hard you try.


Find your ground — black and white checks are optional

So, you find ground. Through Qi Gong, through Bodywork, and through owning who you are, and what you value.

Strengthened, you enter into, and fully embrace your passions — all of them — the sexual ones, the creative ones, the relational ones — and after embracing them, you let them flow by repeatedly enacting each and every one of them. Fully.

You direct your passion upward, and own all of it as you. It’s you, whether you acknowledge it or not, but blocking “knowing yourself” means a half-lived life. In that knowing, you see clearly how you block, stop, mess with yourself. And then, you chose, again and again, to act from compassion as opposed to repression.

From there, you step into your heart, and hold yourself and others in the embrace of compassion

Idea # 5 — compassion, enacted

Having a good thought is nice, I guess, but having a good action actually accomplishes something. And often, especially in the early going, compassion is expressed as “No.”


Watch what you play with

No to yourself, each time you come up with another reason to blame others or circumstances for you sitting there, playing with your shit.

No to others, who want you to behave, to not rock the boat, to do it their way.

It’s a simple no, not a no with explanations. You owe no one an explanation. Mostly, explanations come from defensiveness. Or, you’re looking for another to agree with your decision. “I’ve thought it through, evaluated my choices, and no, I won’t be doing that.” “Here is what I choose to do.” If pressed to “Explain yourself, young (wo)man!” (how old are you, again???) you simply repeat yourself.

And then, you act. You do what you say you’ll do, as perfectly and attachment — free as possible. And then you evaluate, and fine tune.

Next week, “presence.”

Make Contact!

So, how does this week’s article sit with you? What questions do you have? Leave a comment or question!

About the Author: Wayne C. Allen is the web\‘s Simple Zen Guy. Wayne was a Private Practice Counsellor in Ontario until June of 2013. Wayne is the author of five books, the latest being The. Best. Relationship. Ever. See: –The Phoenix Centre Press

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.