From the Heart

January 6, 2014
I’ve always loved the New Year. And even though it’s still not raining and I’m still worried, the coming of the light and the sense of turning a corner into a fresh start feels hopeful and full of possibility. A friend told me The Farmer’s Almanac says we’ll have rain this month. I hope we do. I think she was trying to ease both of our fears with a little compassion and kindness.
A poem for the new year…
A Rabbit Noticed My Condition
I was sad one day and went for a walk;
I sat in a field.
A rabbit noticed my condition
And came near.
It often does not take
More than that to help at times –
To just be close to creatures who
Are so full of knowing,
So full of love
That they don’t – chat,
They just gaze with their
Marvelous understanding.
                                             -St. John of the Cross
Compassion is like that. It is the natural response of the heart to another’s suffering. When we can no longer close our eyes to truth of another’s suffering, when we’re willing to see things as they actually are, we can no longer look the other way and think “that’s too bad, I feel sorry for her.” That’s pity, not compassion. In fact, the Buddha taught that pity is the “near enemy” of compassion. I like to think of it as the “near opposite” because when I do feel pity and can’t face the truth of my pain or your pain, I don’t want to make an enemy out of it.
When I feel sorryfor another, I still maintain a very real separation between us as a way of protecting myself from the pain of circumstance. But with mindfulness and time, we see more clearly. As the fog lifts, compassion naturally develops. We become more able to face difficulty, and our responses become wiser and kinder. As we really come to know the truth of our interdependence, we find that the only way to respond that makes any sense at all is with compassion.
Another poem…
Love Does That
All day long a little burro labors, sometimes
With heavy loads on her back and sometimes
Just with worries about things that bother only burros.
And worries, as we know, can be more exhausting
Than physical labor.
Once in a while a kind monk comes
To her stable and brings a pear,
but more than that, he looks
into the burro’s eyes and touches her ears
And for a few seconds the burro is free
And even seems to laugh,
Because love does that.
Love frees.
                                                           – Meister Eckhart