Napa Valley Insight Meditation Message Board › Compassion: Reading for May 1st NVMG meeting
This Wednesday (May 1)we will begin an exploration into the power of compassion. The reading for our discussion comes from the first two sections (pages 240 – 246) of the 9th Step of Awakening Joy, entitled Compassion: The Natural Expression of a Joyful Heart. You can print out a copy of the entire 9th Step by clicking on the link below:
From a Buddhist perspective, caring for others not only feels good, it is the innate wisdom within us that has the capacity to change the world. Compassion arises as our heart meets the suffering of others and responds. The capacity to care about others and about all life is the essence of a compassionate heart and the doorway to our own liberation.
True compassion is equally rooted in a deep love for oneself and others. It doesn’t mean rescuing everyone we see from suffering – that would be impossible. It means doing what we can, while also honoring our own limits. This is different than codependency, which is often confuse with compassion. Codependent individuals put the feelings of others before themselves, setting aside their own needs in order to serve someone else. Compassionate people possess the ability to empathize and sympathize with the suffering of others while taking responsibility for their own needs.
Wise compassion is also about leaning to let go of the outcome of our good works. Whether we give money to a stranger on the streets, volunteer to teach in the prisons, help clean up the environment, or support our partners, we strive to give our help and care freely with no strings attached. As we deepen our compassion practice, we learn to accept that we can’t accomplish everything that needs to be done and to take joy in the fact that we have done the best we can. This concept is beautifully captured in the serenity prayer that has been adopted by Alcoholics Anonymous and other twelve step programs:
God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
The courage to change the things I can,
And wisdom to know the difference.
Once we have done what we can to help, we let go, accepting the fact that we don’t really have control over the outcome. The more we can give to others freely, the more our compassionate heart grows, and the greater the abundance of love in the world.