Ayurveda Day 28: Compassion

Compassion is a lost art form in today’s society. Yes, I do refer to it as an art because it takes the skill of an artist to truly appreciate and manifest compassion in life.

But why is compassion relevant in today’s society?

In a globalized society, we have all adopted certain values, above all being taught that competition breeds progress. In growing up we put our children in a competitive school system and in competitive extra-curricular activities. From there we go on to competitive universities or colleges, fighting for the best grade amongst our peers, and for the best job. Within that job, we fight for higher promotions and more money.

But nothing can be gained unless something else is lost. This is a fundamental law of nature. If we are gaining something in our lives, it is taken from somewhere – either from our environment, our community, or ourselves. It’s not the competition that is inherently bad. Unless one does nothing, it is unavoidable that you will have an effect. However, if done without intention, or with a disregard for it’s effect, or with ego, then it will be at the expense of other things that you make your gains.

There are three main stages in nature, all of which are unavoidable:

– Creation
– Preservation
– Destruction

We are created. Then most of us exist for the majority of our lives in the preservation stage. We do whatever we can to survive. We earn money for as long as possible, we try to prolong our health as long as possible, and maintain a certain standard of life for as long as possible, making it better and better along the way if we can. We try to stave off the inevitable destruction, or transformation towards death, that all things must experience. Just as a star is created, so to will it be preserved and ultimately be destroyed. If even the stars in the universe cannot avoid this fate, what chance do we have? But it is natural to want to try and live a healthy life for as long as possible! Of course.

The real tragedy comes in the fact that we compete in order to do so. We justify our actions because we have desires, goals…passions that must be fulfilled for our life to have meaning. We could justify it in a million ways, but we value this passion so heavily, often pursuing it at any cost.

The best way to understand the importance of compassion is to understand the word itself:

“co(m)” as in together, and “passion” as in a powerful, compelling feeling

A lot of people have made terms like “sympathetic” or “kind” be synonymous with the word compassion. But the true definition is about working together to bring out other people’s passions. It is not standing in the way, altering things to suit you, or completely destroying other passions so that only yours survive. But this is the fundamental building block of preserving our society.

Imagine passion and compassion like an orchestra:

The parts of the symphony where everyone is playing together, harmonizing, and no one is fighting for centre stage – that is compassion.
The parts where amidst all the harmony there are bursts from an instrument, punctuating and juxtaposing the beauty of the entire orchestra – that is passion.

What would that symphony sound like if it was only passion? Loud cacophonous noise, each indiscernible from the last. Every person fighting for their own place, and ultimately no one gets one.
But without passion, the symphony would be dull. Maybe peaceful, but without anything to punctuate and showcase that beauty.

Finding a balance with passion and compassion is important in today’s society because when a person can truly look at people, the environment, and themselves, they find a way to make amazing music! It will appear that everyone has a part to play, and it was the part they were meant to play. As we exist in this stage of preservation in our lives, we must not do so at any and all costs. Be a part of the beautiful symphony, don’t try to control it to only suit you!

But how does one know when they are practicing too much passion over compassion?

The signs will be easy, if you are listening. Your voice will drown out anyone else. Your desires will be more important. You will feel that if everything goes the way you have planned, then all will be perfect. You will also feel critical, judgmental, and frustrated when things don’t go your way. We’ve all been guilty of this at times in our lives. So find that compassion. Truly recognize how to harmonize with that which is around you.

Okay but how does one increase their compassion?

Start with gratitude. Gratitude is a precursor to acceptance, which is a precursor to compassion. You will never be able to harmonize with those around you if you cannot be grateful for what they have to offer and accept them for who they are. Bring out the best in people! Everyone has something to contribute! Don’t judge a goldfish by it’s ability to climb a tree. Let go of your expectations, because your judgment does not change who others are, it only changes who you are.

Practice compassion the next time you feel upset over something. Ask yourself,
“What would things be like if we all had our own unique part to play in the symphony?”
Imagine yourself as an artist, and let compassion guide your thoughts, words, and deeds.

With gratitude,

S

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