Skills of Compassion.

In the last blog we looked at what it is to be compassionate. It is now time to look at the skills we need to be compassionate. Lord Buddha thousands of years ago recognized this and recommended the following. Science is now catching up and suggesting the same skills.

Skill 1. The right view is knowing that suffering is caused by viewing the world in a way that’s not serving us and causes us to live in an illusion. We have to remind ourselves that we are not independent of everything; we are dependent on animals, plants, earth, sun, moon, water for our survival and well-being. To be independent of all this would mean we are like god himself, omnipotent. We all know we are not and yet we behave and act like we are. When we truly realize that we are not independent our behavior may change in a way that’s respectful towards others and our environment; we may not pollute the earth and the air, we may look at our fellow humans as fellow travelers in the same boat; what frustrate our needs will also frustrate theirs.

Skill 2.  The right concentration is that which allows us to focus in a way that is life-giving or life flourishing for all rather than self-motivated focus that doesn’t account for the needs of others.

Skill 3. The right intention is when our sole intention towards everyone is to relieve suffering even though there may not be any benefit for us.

Skill 4. The right speech is a communication in a relationship which is non judgmental, comforting and helpful. Non-judgmental does not mean giving up discernment.

Skill 5. The right action is one where we strive to help satisfy human needs that is life-giving or helps us to flourish.

Skill 6. The right livelihood we are lucky if we are doing a job that is promoting healing and human spirit. There are some jobs that are very bad for human spirit and people doing them become numb and “hardened”. In these jobs there is little opportunity to show kindness, promote healing and human flourishing. These jobs are bad for those that do them and for the human spirit as a whole.

Skill 7.  The right effort we have to make the right effort and be dedicated to learning and practicing the skills of compassion.

Skill 8. The right mindfulness we have to learn to be present in the moment so that we are fully engaged in life and not dead in the past or not yet born in the future.

Resources

The Compassionate Mind  by Paul Gilbert

http://flickrhivemind.net/

How can a same act be both cruel and virtuous?

If we belong to or identify with a group, than we will regard that group to be the ‘in group’, anyone outside this group will be the ‘out group’  and therefore they become the ‘not us’ or ‘them’. This orientation will trigger our tribal behavior and we will become extraordinarily contemptuous of, cruel towards, and paranoid about ‘not us.’  Because we know that other groups can be hateful and as paranoid as we can be, we fear them; and so continue the cycle of hate and paranoia. In certain context, we may even attribute cruelty as a virtue. Around the time of 911 crisis for example we may remember certain cruel acts on both sides were not uncommonly reported in the media, depending on which group you were in, it was either interpreted as an act of cowardice or heroism; same cruel act but interpreted as a virtue by one group and cruelty by another. This kind of behavior has been a source of great suffering for thousands of years.

Why does this kind of behavior continue? One answer is that we derive our self-identity from the group to which we belong and adopt its values. The group then orients us to compare ourselves to others; and as we get comfortable with the idea of belonging and being accepted by our group, we seek to have our contribution valued, wanting validation that our existence matters to the group. A sense of belonging is important to feeling of well-being and feeling safe. It is the sense of belonging that keeps us in the mode of the ‘in group’ and noticing the differences in the ‘out group’. This is a tribal behavior and it is this that keeps us from being compassionate to other groups and will keeps the suffering to continue unless we change our tribal thinking.

Resources

The Compassionate Mind  by Paul Gilbert

http://flickrhivemind.net/

Ugliness

I don’t see my daughter very often because she lives in Toronto and in September she will be moving to the USA for further schooling. But when I do see her, she seems to create a learning experience for me each time. I remember once I moved her to tears by depicting someone as ugly because of their particular physical feature. Without knowing I was linking the persons feature to ugliness. Since then I’ve been careful not to fall pray to this common illusion of linking some aspect of physical appearance to ugliness. We as a society do this all the time; obesity and baldness for example are quite often viewed as bad and therefore ugly.

What moved my daughter to tears was my blindness to destructiveness when I thought I was pursing the pleasant, the beautiful and the good. Just as Hitler believed that he was pursuing the “good” by  the creating a more perfect society with more perfect people and left millions suffering and dead. And he was a vegetarian because he hated cruelty to animals!

Indeed, that is the very nature of the problem, that in the name of seeking the best and the most beautiful, we became out of control. I don’t know of anyone who has become out of control by seeking “ugliness.” But surely, ugliness is just our conception; being overweight and being bald is just outward appearance; inside they could be the most beautiful people, we just have to look deeper.

Some cultures today believe that our Western society has become out of control in the name of pursuing the the “Good.” Indeed, they think our devouring, polluting and exploiting ways are evil. There may be element of truth in that but one has to be careful in making these kinds of sweeping judgement. There is also lot of good in the West.

The compassionate point is to focus on what is common to all of us: that we struggle with our own feelings and urges, that we can open our eyes and not be deluded by the false realities we are creating around us.

Resources

The Compassionate Mind  by Paul Gilbert

http://flickrhivemind.net/

http://twistedsifter.com/2011/03/25-mind-blowing-aerial-photographs/

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