Compassion – Part 2 of Present Heart: The Universal Expressions of Love

Namaste and welcome.
So I would like to wish you a happy Valentine’s Day and begin with a… a brief quiz. First
one is: What do squirrels give each other on Valentine’s Day? Any guesses? Forget me
nuts. Okay, one more, only one more. What does an octopus sing to his beloved on Valentine’s
Day? I want to hold your hand, hand, hand, hand, hand, hand, hand, hand, hand… Okay,
I gave it a good shot, right? So appropriately we are in the midst of a
four-part series on awakening the present heart. And this is… the… the first one…
The first one that we did was on awakening loving-kindness which is the seeing the goodness
and responding to the goodness in life. The second is compassion which is what we will
be doing this class. And then we move on to joy and equanimity. And in the Buddhist tradition
these four are called the Brahma Viharas or the divine abodes because they really express
the capacity and potential of our awakening heart.
So as we think of compassion tonight I would
like to invite you to bring to mind someone you know – or if you don’t know anyone
someone you know of – who you really consider as authentically compassionate. And just take
a moment to sense that person and what are the qualities that come to mind? What is it
that… that you feel in them? What lets you know that quality of heart is there?
See if this description from Henri Nouwen resonates. He says, “When we honestly ask
ourselves which persons in our lives mean the most to us we often find that it is those
who, instead of giving advice, solutions or cures, have chosen rather to share our pain
and touch our wounds with a warm and tender hand. The friend who can be silent with us
in a moment of despair or confusion, who can stay with us in an hour of grief and bereavement,
who can tolerate not knowing, not curing, not healing, not fixing and face us with the
reality of our powerlessness is a friend who cares.”
So we begin to sense: So what does it really mean to be compassionate? And I would like
to name three qualities. And the first one is that compassion isn’t
something where you know, I can feel compassionate – and when I talk about compassion I am
not talking about the full bloom of it – where I can feel compassionate towards you but it
shuts down here. Compassion is an all-pervading wide open state of heart that is really inclusive.
And one of the examples that struck me on this was a story of a Sikh master who gives
his two main disciples each one of them a chicken and he says, “Go where no-one can
see and kill the chicken.” So the first one goes behind his hut, chops off the chicken’s
head. The second one is wandering around for hours and hours and he comes back and the
master says, “What? You didn’t kill the chicken?” And he said, “No. It is because
I can’t find a place to kill the chicken where no-one can see me. Everywhere I go the
chicken sees.” Right? So this is the heart that is so open and attuned that it senses
the sentience in all beings, it doesn’t exclude. And the truth is as we deepen our
attention to our own consciousness and vulnerability we are more and more alert to how all beings
are sentient, they hurt and they want to stay alive just like us. So that is one quality
which is this wisdom of interdependence, that we are all… that the whole world is part
of us and that our compassion is all-inclusive. The second quality is that then when we see
vulnerability or tenderness there is a natural arising in our heart of care. When we see
that others are hurting there is that responsiveness of care.
And the third is really that there is an impulse to help. It is not a removed kind of empathy
where I get it, I can feel that, but there is this… this urge to help.
In one story about Zen master Ryokan a thief visits his hut at the base of a mountain where
he lives and… and when he comes back… the thief finds that there is nothing to steal
and so Ryokan returns and catches him there. Here is what he says, “You have come a long
way to visit me,” he told the prowler, “and you should not return empty-handed. Please,
take my clothes as a gift.” The thief was bewildered. He took the clothes and slunk
away. Ryokan sat naked watching the moon. “Poor fellow,” he mused, “I wish I could
have given him this beautiful moon.” So you can feel a bit the freedom of a compassionate
heart. So like loving-kindness compassion often gets
blocked. And we are going to look at how so because I think deep down many of us judge
ourselves as not really a compassionate person. We might feel like, you know, we hear headlines
and there is a part of us that is appalled or horrified but our heart isn’t really
tenderized by it so we don’t really feel it deep down. So it helps to see kind of in
a… a bigger picture the kind of universal conditioning that we are subject to that has
been impacting humans for millions of years that might cause us to be less than fully
compassionate. So we don’t take it so personally. So a really brief run through evolutionary
history is just to say that for millions of years humans lived in small groups and the
way they survived was that other groups where considered “other” and “less than.”
And they actually had names for themselves that usually had something to do with “human,”
and their names were the others, other groups were epithets that really had to do with “less
than human.” And so it is really part of… of social cohesion and to feel that we are…
we are the ones and others are not and that allet… and if others are “unreal” and
“less than” then you can attack them and you can be against them. So while they had
the capacity for pro-social affiliative emotions like compassion, it was very, very restricted,
it was very immature form of compassion. And then we see that about seventy-thousand years
ago… so this is millions of years and then about seventy-thousand years ago there was
this cognitive revolution that happened where all our brains started spurting all these
different pathways and we began to communicate to each other and be able to collaborate in
ways that have now lead to our current capacity to really collaborate globally, you know,
on economics and on law and there is actually less violence now than there has… if you
look at the broad span over time. But to know that for thousand times as long as this last
recent period in history humans were living in small little bands and having others be
“bad.” So there wasn’t that inclusive heart. So we are catching up. So we have these
evolutionary pulls. We have all that old conditioning to make others “bad” and not… not be
attuned as the man was to that chicken, to the chicken, to the sentience, and then we
have this more recently evolved part of our brain that has the mirror-neurons and the
equipment to look at any being and sense that that… that which is looking back at us has
the same awareness, the same beingness, that you are part of my heart, how could I hurt
you? Those are the pulls we have got going. Our evolution is moving in the direction of
the empathy, the compassion, the care. In fact, one attachment scientist, Luis Cosolino
says that “it is not the survival of the fittest it is the survival of the nurtured.”
And you can kind of sense it in our individual lives that the more nurturing and the more
we know how to self-nurture actually the more integrated and mature we can become. So evolution
favors that direction. And yet, as we know, in a moment’s notice we can have that override
of our limbic system that has us become really into “othering” and not seeing who is
here. I always have been drawn to a story told by
Fran Peavey who is a social activist… describes being on the Stanford campus when they were
doing some sort of a experiment and the me… and there was all… this crowd of men or…
that was gathered around a male chimp. And the male chimp was running lose and there
was female chimp on a chain. And they were trying to get them to mate. And the male of
course didn’t need much acoura… encouragement, he was going at it, but this female on the
chain was whimpering and… and scared and so on and trying to avoid his advances. So
this… Fran Peavey describes this wave of… of caring that went through her. Then something
happened she would never forget. She said, “Suddenly the female chimp yanked her chain
out of the male’s grasp and to my amazement she walked through the crowd straight over
to me and took my hand. Then she led me across the circle to the only other two women in
the crowd and she joined hands with one of them. The three of us stood together in a
circle. I remember the feeling of that rough palm against mine. The little chimp had recognized
us and reached out across all the years of evolution to form her own women support group.”
It is the beginning of “me too.” But the question that I think is really interesting
is: What prevented the male onlookers to feel that compassion at that moment? I mean, here
is this female on a chain and upset. In those moments there was an override, a limbic override,
there was a forgetting that came from the less evolved part of the psyche because they
were seeking excitement, seeking engagement, it was a male bonding kind of thing, affiliation,
dominance and that masked the suffering in a fellow being, it reinforced the much older
conditioning of “us versus them.” Does that make sense? Just for those moments. It
is a trance. And it is a trance that happens to all of us when we are stressed. Every one
of us. So this isn’t about women being empathetic el… women… women tend to be because they
are more biological relational but this is not a male versus female. We all go into trance,
every one of us, when we are stressed and it closes off our hearts. This is the way
Einstein puts it, he said this… He says, “We have an optical delusion of separation”
when this happens. “This delusion is a kind of prison for us restricting us to our personal
desires into affection for a few persons nearest us. Our task must be to free ourselves from
this prison by widening our circles of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole
of nature in its beauty.” So this optical delusion of separation when we are being run
by our more primitive parts of our brain. So what I would like to do is look more closely
so we can in our lives catch on to “Oh, okay, this… this is trance! I am not…
I am not fully here!,” so we can wake up to it. And just see where… where we get
blocked. And we get blocked when we have unmet needs
and in some way they get tripped off. And the first major area we close down our compassion
is when we feel in some way endangered, right? There is so many ways that we can… if we
feel threatened we… we are going to in some way fail or our health is going down or we
lo… going to lose esteem or lose possessions or money or whatever as soon as that happens
that survival brain kicks in and we become less attuned.
Now the major… major one for most of us is when we are afraid of failure. And I think
that that a lot that there is a sense of how often are we anxiously preparing for something
so we don’t fail, how often we are trying to get to an appointment on time or trying
to make sure our children or partner is taken care of or whatever it is but there is that…
that stress and there is a deep fear there is not enough time. And I can say for myself
when I am feeling that – when I am feeling like I am trying to get to the next thing
and check things off the list – I am not in an open-hearted place. I hear news and
it is not like my heart becomes tender and resonant. Because when we are busy we tighten.
One of the best examples in research on this that I think about often was the Good Samaritan
Study that was done at Princeton. Many of… How many are familiar with that, can I see?
Some, yeah. So… I found it so fascinating. So the seminarians were given a practice sermon.
And half of them were given the story of the Good Samaritan and the other half were given
another random bible story. And they were supposed to go to another building to give
this sermon and be evaluated on it. But on the way to that other building there is a
person in a doorway who is moaning in distress. So the real question was: Would they stop?
And it was determined – and this is what they found out – how much time they thought
they had before they had to give their sermon determined whether or not they stopped to
help this person. And if they believed they would be late they didn’t stop to help even
if the sermon was about the Good Samaritan. Isn’t that amazing? That is how deep in
our r… the fear of failure closes down our heart, the fear of being late. So that is
one area is when we feel endangered in some way. Another area is when we are fixated on
seeking out satisfaction or pleasure. And there are times that we are… that are, you
know, the mammalian brain we are… we are like a squirrel going after acorns and we
just are view does not include others, doesn’t include anything else, we… we are not really
attuned. It is like moments when you are watching an engaging show and your child asks you for
something or you are aiming towards ending the evening with that rewarding ball of ice-cream
but then you get a distressed call from a friend. And it is like we are not as available
in some way. Or somebody has a request for charity or time when we really want to spend
money or time on ourselves. In this story one morning Sam wakes up with
a start and she is… Her partner asked, “What is the matter?” And she says, “Well, I
just had a dream that you gave me a pearl necklace for Valentine’s Day. What do you
think it means?” “You will know tonight,” Tony said. That evening Tony comes home with
a small package and gives it to her. Delighted Sam opens it only to find a book entitled
“The Meaning of Dreams.” That didn’t totally illustrate my point
but I couldn’t resist. So… So we have got the two… first two
areas we have named. We close down when we are endangered, we close down when we are
riveted on seeing gratification; and the third way that we close down is when we are going…
when we are trying to attach to another person. And that is when we have this agenda that
we are trying to get someone to like us, not to leave us, to think certain things about
us… Whenever we are with each other and there is some strong agenda of wanting something
from each other we actually aren’t present to tune into vulnerability and be tender.
The agenda gets in the way. It is like that story of the older woman in Miami sitting
on a park bench. A very disheveled man in tattered clothing sits down next to… next
to her. And she asks him, “Well, how are you doing?” And he goes, “Well, I am just
out of prison. Twenty-five years.” “Oh, what were you in for?” “Murdering my wife.”
And then she goes, “Oh, so you are single?” You know. You get the idea. Like our… our…
our attention gets narrowed when we are going for something, when we have an agenda. Again
not a perfect example but… So these are the areas that when we are fearful
of something, wanting something, trying to control relationships – and it happens a
lot of the time – we are actually not available. And then even when we do extend to others
it is not whole-hearted, it is self… you know, it… it is… it is maybe out of duty
or obligation or just to feel good about ourselves. So I am coming back to this is the reason
we hear stories in the news, we even see things more… more comes to us information-wise
than ever in history, and because of stress in these three areas our response is more
mental than it is visceral and heart. So accessing an authentic quality of compassion
is not easy. It requires a real presence. And… And unless we are mindful our stress-conditioning
continuously overrides the circuitry. I find it really interesting what the Dalai Lama
said about this. He said, “I don’t know why people like me so much. It must be because
I value Bodhicitta.” – Bodhicitta is the awakened heart-mind. – He says, “I can’t
claim to practice it. But I value it.” What he is saying in my understanding… because
clearly he practices and he emanates it but he means that he is… he is… it is not…
it is not across the board, he forgets too, but he says… he is saying, “I care about
caring. That is why people like me.” I heard this quote a long time ago and it was one
of those quotes that has just stayed with me because I can really relate to that. I…
Clearly my… I am not always sitting with this wide open tender inclusive heart. But
I care about the awakened heart. And that caring keeps drawing us even though we go
into trance and get over… you know, the limbic hijack and all that… We keep on evolving
because we care about caring. And you wouldn’t be here – each one of you that is listening
– unless there was some… something waking up in you and knowing that caring that that’s…
that this is what matters. So it gives us motivation when we sense that is where we
are going, we are evolving towards that awakened heart-mind and that matters to us. Because
then we can begin to notice without slamming ourself, “Oh, okay, I have been in trance.
But I care about caring.” That was a bit of what happened for one woman
who describes an experience with her mother I want to share with you. She was very dedicated
to noticing and witnessing when she went under the line, you know, when she went into trance.
And she describes being with her mother when her mom has told her about having breast cancer.
And she said, you know, immediately she went into sadness, guilt, anger, future-tripping,
regret; in other words: she was overwhelmed by the shock. Okay, so this is stress. She
says, “As it usually does my mind immediately went into planning mode.” So just track
the story. So, instead of like “Oh…” – the resonance – she is right there planning.
That is a stress-reaction. “What needs to happen? What are your treatment options? How
soon we can get the lump removed?” So you get the idea. And she says, “Thank God for
this work because” – this… this work meaning training in mindfulness, noticing
going into trance – “because despite of a complete head-spiral I still had the presence
enough to ask myself an important question, ‘What am I noticing now?’ And in that
moment I was able to see something I would have missed otherwise. My mother didn’t
want to talk about any of those things. As I was weighing her options she sat in the
high top chair in my kitchen staring blankly into a cup of coffee. I was trying to be strong
for her sake and mine but suddenly it became clear that wasn’t what she needed. She was
scared and needed to be scared. I debated whether to give her a hug which sounds terrible,
I know, but I was barely holding it together and squaring around making dinner, pouring
doctor’s paperwork and staying busy was my way of avoiding total collapse. Being present
allowed me to shift to her way. I took a breath, walked across the room and wrapped my arms
around her. It was awkward sideways hug but it was also a long, necessary one. And then
something happened. Slowly she started rocking side to side like a mother rocks a child except
the child was now the caretaker. It was a sweet, tiny moment I will never forget and
one that I surely would have missed if it were not for the power of mindfulness.”
This is Emily Benington. I would like to reflect here, invite you to
reflect, because this is really us beginning to bear witness to these evolutionary pulls.
She began to see her pull towards getting busy, her pull towards moving away from where
the pain was, and was able to counter that conditioning. So let’s just take a look
in our own lives for a moment. Close your eyes if you will. Take a moment to reflect.
So you might bring to mind someone who is dear to you and who is currently facing difficulty,
someone you would like to relate to with more compassion. And take a moment to remind you
of what lets you know you care, that you want to be the friend or partner or sibling or
whatever it is who truly listens, not fixing, who has that… that kind presence. So just
remind yourself that you care about caring. And then without judging notice how you go
into trance with this person, notice the pull of your stressed brain that might get lost
in worrying or obsessing or getting things done or proving something or distracting,
trying to control what is happening. Just notice your aversion of it. Sense what you
want to look out for, what you want to be alert to, next time. If you can witness this
without judging –… in other words feeling that sincerity that you care about caring
you will be more alert, that that care will carry you to your future self – the more
awake heart-mind that is possible. So we are going to move now into how we can
cultivate compassion. Because most of us when we come into presence to be with another person
for whatever is going on what we are going to find first is that the first place we need
to bring compassion is to our own hearts. Very often in many situations there is discomfort,
pain, suffering right here and if we try to skip over it our compassion will be abstract,
will not be authentic. So that’s why it is often said in Buddhism that the heart of
Buddhism is compassion and the heart of compassion is compassion for ourselves. Okay? So it is
not selfish. It is just that if something is going on and you are having a reaction
first take care of yourself or you won’t be able to open your heart to others. So there
is a basic understanding that authentic healing requires self-compassion, that we have to
have that capacity to attend to our own life with kindness that wakes up those mirror neurons
that can attune to others. I am right now writing a book about the acronym RAIN – R
A I N – which is to recognize, allow, investigate and nurture. And that nurture piece… there
is no real freedom if we don’t have a tenderness towards what is going on, it is absolutely
essential. So the process of compassion and self-compassion is very simple: We have the
courage to recognize “Oh, suffering is right here” and if we really connect with it “This
really is suffering, ouch!” – the heart gets tender. But what happens usually? What
happens when you are hurting, when you are having a hard time? How do you usually relate
to yourself? It is really interesting to watch. For many of us we relate to ourselves often
how our caretakers related to us which could have been anything from ignoring or judging
– “You are too sensitive” – or trying to fix or get rid off something which is a
big one or “Others have it worse,” you know, “Why are you complaining, others have
it so much worse!” Or we might tell ourselves “It is your fault, you got yourself into
this!” But you see how each of those is something other than directly just going,
“Oh, suffering, ouch.” It is not until we stay and just get it that this hurts that
our hearts will start opening to ourselves. Any notion that we don’t have it so ba,
that others have it worse, takes us away from that. And again if there is no self-compassion
those mirror-neurons that need to be activated to be empathetic towards others are not there.
So I would like to give you an example of how it… how it can work. Because when there
is self-compassion we naturally extend. And this was a story that really struck me because
it was… A man and a woman got married and he… and their family became those two and
her son so he was a step father and what came up was… The child was eight years old, had
a lot of tantrums, he was difficult, he was rude and this guy foun… is finding himself
not liking his step-son; feeling anger, feeling rage. So whenever there was outbursts and
the child acted out and he felt a lot of aversion he tried to hide it from his wife because
she had her own challenges and the last thing he wanted was her to feel like she… you
know, “I don’t like your kid” that kind of thing. But it was really corroding their
relationship. So we decided to work with RAIN. RAIN is basically mindfulness and compassion.
And the recognizing was recognizing and allowing his reactivity, “Okay, angry, feeling judgmental,
feeling rageful” and then him… him making that u-turn rather than blaming the… the
child really deepening. The I of RAIN is investigate. And he found under the anger and under that
“I don’t like you”-feeling he found fear “You are ruining my life and you are
going to ruin… you are ruining your mother’s life and you are ruining our relationship.”
And then he also felt shame for that. So that is what he found underneath when he was investigating.
And we talked some about how many parents – and this is not just step-children…
biological children – don’t like our children, you know, it is hard to name it but when things
are really unpleasant we react and children can get in the way of us meeting our own needs
for safety, for gratification. So through the eyes of his wiser self, his future self,
he kind of witnessed the situation and saw the stuckness of here he is in a marriage
where he is feeling like the way this child is is… is really threatening the relationship
and so on. And, rather than being harsh with himself, he said, “Okay, this is hard,”
just “This is hard,” that simple. You know, self-compassion can start with words
like, you know, it can be as big as “I am sorry and I love you” or it can be simply
“It is okay” or can be “This is hard”; but some kindness directed inwardly. And…
But when he let himself acknowledge “This is hard” and softened towards himself he
was able to start talking to his wife. And it actually opened things up for her because
she felt like she was failing and she was really miserable too. So they were able to
be vulnerable together in it, hold each other, which then allowed them to become a lot more
creative and flexible and less reactive with the child where, obviously, if he was having
tantrums and acting out, was having a hard time. So they could… they had space for
it. The reason I tell you this story is: it wasn’t until he was going, “Ah, this is
hard” that his heart opened so he could be with his wife and be with his step-son
in a way that allowed some tenderness and creativity and change. We have to start with
what is going on inside him ourselves. If he had instead say, “Wait a minute! I am
the adult! I shouldn’t be feeling this!” he would never have gotten to an authentic
place of change. Does that make sense? Self-compassion first.
If we can embrace our own suffering then we can begin to widen out. So the widening out.
We are going to look at now how do we cultivate that compassion for others. And what I really
want to look at in the last fifteen minutes that we have is: How do we take compassion
from a fleeting state that we sometimes experience, just a little tenderness, to being a trait,
an enduring expression of our being. And there are three steps really to… to really installing.
My friend Rick Hansen who is psychologist and many of you have probably heard of him
is the one who really has gotten me inspired about this potential to really cultivate from
a state to a trait, how we really install compassion. And the first is that, you know,
when we witness vulnerability to really feel it and you know, let ourselves be touched
and when the tenderness comes, when the real visceral tenderness comes, feel it for fifteen
seconds, twenty seconds, but let yourself marinade in the feeling of tenderness. We
don’t pause. Let yourself really feel it. And then in some way extend – whether it is
through prayer or action – but extend because the completion of compassion is some extension
of our being. The site that is correlated with compassion in the brain is right near
the motor cortex; we are meant to reach out and help, it is very interesting. So let’s
look at those. The first step is to begin to see that there is… there is suffering
or vulnerability. We don’t usually see. We are more in our stress-trance. We don’t
look at each other and go, “Oh, look, you are having a hard time!” We typically don’t
see very deeply. What stops us? Well, either we are living in stereotyping people, a certain
type, in which case we are just seeing the type but we are not seeing behind the mask
or else somebody is acting out in a way and we are seeing the way they are defensive or
aggressive but we are not seeing what is behind it, we are not seeing how it is covering vulnerability.
James Baldwin says, “I imagine that one of the reasons that people cling to their
hate and prejudice so stubbornly is because they sense that once hate is gone they will
be forced to deal with their own pain.” Now when we run into someone who is acting
hateful, do we look deeply enough to sense, “Oh, there is pain behind the hate!”?
Most of us don’t. We recoil. Do you know what I mean? So it takes a commitment to really
look and see what is going on. And then we… if we look we will feel tenderness. And then
we can extend ourselves in some way that is meaningful in that moment. One of the examples
I love of this… of really the expression of compassion – I heard in a Krista Tippett
interview with Ruby Sales. And Ruby Sales is an African-American social activist, older
woman now, very active in civil rights. So here is what she says. She describes getting
her locks washed. And she says, “My locker’s daughter came in one morning and she had been
hustling all night and she had sores on her body and she was just in a state. Drugs. Something
said to me, “Ask her: Where does it hurt?” And I said, “Shelly, where does it hurt?”
And just that simple question unleashed territory in her that she had never shared with her
mother. And she talked about having been incested. She talked about all the things that had happened
to her as a child. And she literally shared the source of her pain. And I realized in
that moment listening to her and talking with her that I needed a larger way to do this
work.” So what Ruby Sales is talking about in a larger way is cultivating this capacity
to see the vulnerability, let ourselves be touched and reach out: “Where does it hurt?
Where does it hurt?” Such a beautiful question. As we begin to get more tender and to look
and to respond it is contagious, the people around us they… they get touched and then
they act out way more. You know, just the way there is limbic contagion, you know, when
people are angry or upset, there is compassion contagion. I remember experiencing a bit of
it… It was two-thousand-and-eight because I remember it was during that recession-period.
And I was going up to New York to give a talk on something. And my… One of my great fears
in the world is getting lost. And I was driving to Union Station and somehow or other three-ninety-five
got all botched up, got completely lost, late for my trai… afraid I would be late for
my train. I went to a gas station and parked and was trying to find someone that would
give me instructions and an elderly gentleman was kind of over-heard me and could sense
all my anxt. And he interrupted the guy that was trying to explain to me. He said, “Come
on, Hon, you just follow me.” And he just drove and I followed him right to Union Station.
And in those moments I felt this sense of the world being a friendly place. Now it is
not always friendly on some levels. But deep down there is love, people have that capacity.
I just felt that field of loving. I got on the train and I was really excited. I was
reading… I don’t even know what I was reading. But I was reading something I was
excited about. And this young man next to me started talking to me and told me that
he had lost his job because of the recession and so on. We talked a long time. And there
was something about just dropping the thing of wanting to read and just being there. I
think he probably went back to his wife and his kids and he was probably more open…
It goes on and on. And it is so much of a happier way to live. And what is interesting
with the science is that, although with compassion we are training ourselves to look at where
the suffering and vulnerability is, the actual experience of compassion lights up the parts
of the brain that are related to positive emotion; it actually feels good because it
has to do with belonging and connection. It is the world we want to live in. We care about
caring. There is a… a little saying that to be kind you must swerve regularly from
your path. So whatever this conditioned path of “I want to get this done” and “I
want more of this” and “I want… This is my agenda with you” to swerve and pause
and look and see how is here, really look and see “What is it like for you right now?”,
to let ourselves be touched by vulnerability, to feel that tenderness and feel it, really
feel it. I invite you next time you have a taste of… of that tender caring to literally
fifteen to thirty seconds get to know it. As it is described neuroscience our negative
experiences that we have go deeply into our implicit memory, we can recall them, it is
the… this is the negativity-bias, it is evolutionary, right? The positive ones like
tenderness and caring, like feeling creative, like feeling happy, we get whiffs of them
but they don’t have the stickiness, they don’t go into implicit memory, so there
is states that come and go. What makes a state into a trait is: when it arises pause and
really take it in, “Ah, this is the tenderness of compassion,” really feel it, feel it
in your body, in your cells, and then it gets stickier, it goes into your implicit memo5ry,
and if you repeating that over time the state of compassion becomes a trait, you really
sense that as who you are. So that is the invitation. And we will practice a little
bit with that right now if you will. Now if you want to adjust how you are sitting
and close your eyes for the last few minutes. When we talk about “a state to a trait,”
when we talk about cultivating compassion, we are really talking about a shift in identity,
a shift from a sense of a self that is very self-centered and really operating off a fear
or grasping to a sense of enlarged beingness where there world is part of our heart and
our actions are on behalf of the world. And the Dalai Lama described this shift in identity
as really the hope of the world. And so we practice… And you might bring to mind again
as you did earlier the person you would like to feel some more compassion towards, where
you would like to be less in trance, more there. And feel your intention towards compassion
that starts awakening in… into your future self, your awakened heart-mind really manifesting
that compassion, who you can be. And bring this person to mind in a close in way so that
you can deepen your attention and sense, “Well, what is it like for this person right now?”
You might imagine if you could really step inside this person for the next minute or
two and looking out from that person’s eyes what does the world look like right now? What…
What are they believing about the world, about themselves, about… What… What is disappointing
or what feels threatening, what feels hurtful for this person? Where does it hurt for this
person? Feel: you have their body, their face and their experience. Just feeling inside
the vulnerability that this person might be feeling and really what the most vulnerable
place in them needs. What does this person need? What would be most healing? So as you
sense yourself now just widen back out and sense this person is a part of your heart
but feel your own vastness, feel that presence that is here and really calling on your most
awake heart and sense that you could in some way give this person right this moment what
is most needed energetically. So if you could put a hand on their cheek or their heart or
hug them and really send the message that would most be healing to hear. It might be
simply the message of “I am sorry and I love you.” Or you might mentally whisper
their name and send that message. Or Thich Nhat Han says, “I care about your suffering.
Darling, I care about your suffering. And you might imagine this person really being
able to receive and feel that tenderness and let it fill you. Really let this tenderness
for this person fill you. Get familiar with it, what it is like the caring. This is your
deepest most awake heart. And you might sense this heart-space is wide open, that it is
including all the beings that struggle just the way this person that is dear to you struggle.
All the beings from different countries, different ages, races, religion, perhaps species that
might struggle with the same kind of suffering. So you are feeling that tenderness really
includes them all and us all. You might listen to the words of this poem: Just like you.
“Walk gently on this earth with purposeful steps.
You share this space with seven billion human beings and countless other precious life-forms.
Just like you they all want to be happy. Just like you they all need love.
We are not going to survive unless we walk gently on this earth together until we touch
something in others that feels just like the charts of our own pain, the fluttering warmth
of our own joy, until we sew their wounds into our hearts and seal it with our own skin.
Walk gently on this earth. Walk gently on this earth.
Walk gently on this earth.” Namaste and thank you for your attention.


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