Compassion means to feel with. As much as anything else, being compassionate is a matter of practice. When something happens, instead of jumping feet first into your own feelings/opinion of the thing, you relax, physically relax, breathe deeply into your lower abdomen and let go of your feelings. You look at the other person and try to perceive what is happening. At that point, you can begin to tune to their frequency. If you bend your knees and settle into them, your senses open from a point inside your chest, a calm place that doesn’t reach outside to the other person, but just sees and feels while resting inside the center of your body.
In a direct confrontation, one is often met with anger and while one can relate to that, even must somehow relate to it, anger is a secondary emotion and doesn’t get at the essence of the other person’s motivation. When it is possible to go deeper, even if they are not ready to allow anything deeper, connection on the level of transformation is possible.
Frankly, the government shutdown, the radical hatred of President Obama, the idiocy over the Affordable Care Act, the penis-measuring over the debt ceiling, anger me. But my anger doesn’t get me anywhere and truly deeply madly, I’d like all of us to move on. So it’s time to bring out the heavy artillery – which is conscious compassion for our fellow citizens. What do they think and more importantly, what do they feel about it? Here is one of the most useful things I’ve come across in a long time: The quote here is from Frank Wilkinson and the charts and more are in the NYT.
A lot of Americans were not ready for a mixed-race president. They weren’t ready for gay marriage. They weren’t ready for the wave of legal and illegal immigration that redefined American demographics over the past two or three decades, bringing in lots of nonwhites. They weren’t ready — who was? — for the brutal effects of globalization on working- and middle-class Americans or the devastating fallout from the financial crisis.
Their representatives didn’t stop Obamacare. And their side didn’t “take back America” in 2012 as Fox News and conservative radio personalities led them to believe they would. They feel the culture is running away from them (and they’re mostly right). They lack the power to control their own government. But they still have just enough to shut it down. *
How is it possible to go forward without taking seriously the ‘fear’, ‘worry’, ‘discouragement’ of our countrywomen and men? Very often, mythology is more important to people than life and death. We experience our internalized mythologies as ‘truth’, not opinion. But standing back one comes to understand, that as the brilliant art and cultural critic Jerry Cullum so succinctly puts it: All perception is physically and socially constructed perception, grounded in neural networks, modified by individual psychology, shaped by social surroundings.**
We can climb out of our ignorance and blindness several ways. One of the most important is the physical, conscious practice of compassion. When we move into the thought and feeling sphere of another person, by definition, the lines around our ‘truth’ shift. It just isn’t the same for any two of us.
I’m not sure what to do about the retrograde fear of people who cannot grant full humanity to races, genders, sexual ways other than their own, but I know from my own fear that when I am locked into it, I’m not in a listening mood. I’ve been stopped dead in my crazy tracks by a kind word, by the someone else dropping their anger at me and seeing me. By a joke. Laughter is good. Only then might I be ready to admit new possibilities.
the graphics are from this illuminating report