Think of the worst thing that is present in your life these days. Whatever it is. A sickness. Grief. Separation. Depression. Redundancy. Rejection. Failure. Whatever it is. Bring it to mind right now and feel it. Hold it in your awareness. Let it be. Don’t push it away. Don’t indulge in over thinking about it. Just allow it to be as it is. And know it’s OK to feel pain. It’s OK to have low days; OK to have low months, or even years. Embrace your suffering. For this moment.
Now, without suppressing your feelings I’d like you to contemplate with me on some other scenarios. Think of the hungry stomach-swollen children in Sudan and the thirsty new born babies in Haiti. And think of their heart-broken helpless mothers who cannot do anything to protect their children. Bring to mind all the people who, at this very moment as you read these words, are literally running for their lives, hiding from someone who is coming to kill them. There are dozens of them. In this very moment. Think of the young children who live in the slums in Brazil, exposed to daily murders, armed robberies and rape and the effect that these daily life experiences have on their innocent souls. And think of the heavily drugged, heavily armed orphaned teenage boys in Siera Leone deluded to think they are all-mighty, randomly killing anyone crossing their ways. Think of the numberless people who have been caught in earthquakes, hurricanes, floods and tsunamis. These happen regularly. Every single day on our planet. We usually know of only the most devastating catastrophes. Still countless people loose their homes, lands and dear ones in wars, conflicts and natural disastrous every single day.
And think of all the dying people in the world. In so much pain. Terrified to let go and say their last good byes. And their grief stricken friends and family. Perhaps you are on of them. Think of all the sick people in acute pain in hospitals all across our globe. All the people who just today heard the devastating news that they only have a few months left to live. And their loved ones. All the heart broken couples. The men and women who got divorced today. And their confused fearful children. Think of all the people who lost their jobs today. All the people who have no idea how to make a new beginning, how to provide for their families. Think of all the alcoholics out there. And the recovered alcoholics fighting the urge to drink. The battered women and the women who have been raped or sexually harrased. Abused children. Over worked individuals and children in sweat shops in some third world country. Or the lonely people. Or people who find no meaning to life. And all those who hate themselves.
And think of prisoners and detainees, most of them live in constant fear for their lives, and can only get to breath fresh air for a few minutes every day. Bring to mind all wardens, the kind ones and the the hard hearten ones and the abusive ones. Think of their pain and of how much it must hurt to treat a fellow human being with so little respect. with so much hatred and anger. And think of all the abusive husbands, and parents, all the rapists, the thieves, the murderers. The people who hurt others on a daily basis. Think of their pain. Feel the darkness in which they live in. Imagine how awful it must be to be in their shoes.
And there are all the hungry and thirsty animals all over the world, the caged animals, stray dogs and cats and distinct species and many many many more beings who suffer so much. It is impossible to cover all the sufferings of the world in one short post.
Now go back to your own pain and see how you feel right now. Please don’t dismiss your pain. Just notice how it feels in the context of broader sufferings.
There is allot to be said. The proportion most of us get from this little exercise on our own lives probably yields a natural sense of gratitude. But it also opens us up to acknowledging and being empathetic to the pain of others.
Most of us on this challenge are lucky not to be born in Sudan or the Brazilian slums. Most of us had good parents that taught us good conduct and so we didn’t end up killing or abusing someone else. But life is arbitrary and since we don’t really chose where to be born, to which reality or who will be our parents we could have easily been born to far worse life situations. The hungry child in Ethiopia could have easily and randomly been us. And if that seems to far to comprehend just reflect on how each and everyone of us will surely die one day and suffer the agonies of the dying. All of us will get sick and old, lose a loved one, find ourselves in a crossroad not knowing which way to go, or lose interest in life for a while. We might even fall into depression or acute emotional sufferings. So this little exercise is not just about feeling grateful for what we have. It is also not about feeling sorry for those less fortunate than us. It is about feeling compassionate to our fellow beings. It is about realizing that suffering is a universal condition and expanding our hearts to the suffering of the world . And it is about understanding this isn’t “us” against “them”. It is THE pain. THE suffering. A universal condition.
And this is a small part of what His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama says about compassion: “Whether people are beautiful and friendly or unattractive and disruptive, ultimately they are human beings, just like oneself. Like oneself, they want happiness and do not want suffering. Furthermore, their right to overcome suffering and be happy is equal to one’s own. Now, when you recognize that all beings are equal in both their desire for happiness and their right to obtain it, you automatically feel empathy and closeness for them. Through accustoming your mind to this sense of universal altruism, you develop a feeling of responsibility for others: the wish to help them actively overcome their problems. Nor is this wish selective; it applies equally to all. As long as they are human beings experiencing pleasure and pain just as you do, there is no logical basis to discriminate between them or to alter your concern for them if they behave negatively….. Therefore, a truly compassionate attitude towards others does not change even if they behave negatively….”
Compassion, much like love and gratitude, is a verb.
May all our brothers and sisters under the sun will be free from all sufferings. May our brothers and sisters under the sun will live in peace and harmony. May we be able to hold our fellow human beings with compassion. May we know we are forever just one.