The Virtue of Compassion

In order to exert the virtue of compassion one must be in unity with that which opposes us. This seems like a paradox until we understand that we are not separate entities, we are just conditioned to thinking this way. When we reach out to another as if they are lost parts of ourselves, we open the door to a multidimensional world of love and free ourselves from the limitations of space and time. To have compassion does not mean we must tolerate the darkness, it means we can lighten the shadows by just our own force of love. This is easier said than done and of all virtues this may well be the hardest one to achieve and the most valuable.

I have a friend who writes me on occasion. His name is Juan. Juan has been actively seeking his spiritual freedom for some years now. He talks about the laws of prosperity and being in the moment. He talks about watching his thoughts. He is a jovial Sagittarius who stays true to his sign by flitting through life like someone on a grand adventure. One day he told me: “Next time I get sick, I’m going to enjoy it.” My head snapped back to attention as I pondered that. Isn’t that just asking to get sick? I’m silently wondering. Then he explained it by suggesting that the aversion to the sickness is another way we fight ourselves. If our body has chosen to be sick, maybe we should pipe up and learn how to enjoy the experience? In a way, he is suggesting that self-acceptance is more important that the external conditions of our experience. I think he has a point. It is compassion to self. In the end, all is compassion to self. There are no “others.” We’re all one.

So, I wrote him about a particularly difficult issue I was having and it seemed to have no resolution. Nothing was changing. It remained as part of my experience and unmovable. My inability to change the situation had me depressed.

Juan wrote back:

“My Beloved Friend Claire,

What an interesting letter you send me. I read it with great interest and an open mind. I thought for a while that it was me, the one writing the letter. Most of us go through this experience in life, so I understand your feelings for the moment.

One reason we don’t change is because our minds tell us, by fear, that there is nothing better for us, so we continue in that fearful state. The way to change is to start thinking in a certain way. Do you know that when I arrived here in Florida it was hot and the air conditioning in the car needed Freon but I took a bold step not to fix it. I told myself: ‘If you want to live in a hot climate now get used to it.’ This way the mind didn’t interfere with me at all and it didn’t.”

Just as Juan was learning how to live in Florida in a hot climate, he suggested I learn to live with my circumstances by not trying to “fix the unfixable.” Florida was a hot place and he had chosen to move there. Eventually, he would be forced to be in a place without air conditioning, whether now or later, and he chose to start accepting it now.

Wouldn’t it be interesting to see every conversation we had with someone else as a conversation with ourselves? Then we could say: “Oh, my beloved friend, thank you for sending me such interesting views. In fact, when you started talking, I thought I was actually talking to myself and I listened closely, with an open mind, to hear what message you had for me. Your feelings are just right in the moment as if it were me, I would also be feeling this way too. But, you and I both know your feelings will pass and they do not define who you really are – which is my beloved friend.”

In my mind, this is true compassion. The notion that one must fix someone else because their behavior is unspiritual or intolerable is not compassion. First, we fix ourselves and through this simple act, we affect the world, because it’s all us. There is no other. There are times when our actions can produce positive change in the world, and then action is desirable. However, if we are faced with a situation that won’t or can’t change we have only one option: acceptance. Compassion is nothing more than self-acceptance, accepting all others as us and digging in our heels and standing there as the wind buffets us and the rain pours down on us. Throughout the experience we can still remain centered knowing that this too shall pass. It is just a part of us seeking expression in this experience for soul growth. We don’t have to be happy about it, and we don’t have to see ourselves as winners. We can just sit with it, like a sick friend who is tossing and turning in his bed, delirious with fever. We reach out our hand to put a damp, cool cloth on their brow and say: “There, there, my friend. We are having a difficult dream, and this too shall pass.”

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