Two of the most important qualities that make us human are the ability to sympathize and empathize with others who are suffering, and the willingness to help them; in other words an attitude of caring for others. So why are we not helping each other all the time? And why do people speak of compassion fatigue?
Let’s take an analogy. Do the cells in your body say thanks to your heart for pumping blood to them? Does the heart say thanks to the lungs for bringing in oxygen? Do the lungs say thanks to the brain for maintaining the involuntary function of breathing? Imagine if each part of your body thought it was separate and had nothing to do with the rest of the body. After all, there is little apparent connection between the ear and the toe. This sounds ridiculous, right? Now compare that with the relationships we have as fellow human beings. Do we see ourselves as connected or separate? We often act with others as if we are the ear and they are the big toe having no connection with each other. It is the same apparent lack of connection that becomes the reason for us not going the extra mile to help others or show compassion towards a person who is suffering.
A compassionate heart puts others first and does not think about inconvenience or sacrifice, even with total strangers, because helping others is simply being true to its own nature. In fact it may be said that real Divinity already resides in such compassionate and loving hearts, and they need not wait to go to heaven, which is ever present around them. At a higher level of evolution, help is extended as if one is helping oneself rather than the ‘other’. When this awareness comes about on a large scale, we will see a quantum leap in the evolution of human consciousness.
Compassion is all about feeling, resonating and responding to others. Even if we have not personally experienced the same pain, we can yet support someone who has fallen. At any time, we can always ask our heart, “If I were in this situation, what would I want?” We all have the natural capacity to “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”. This capacity becomes diminished only when the voice of the heart goes unheard, overridden by the more self-centered considerations of the lower self, which may see itself as separate: “Oh, if I help that lady who has fallen down, I will be late for work. Then I will be in trouble with my boss. Also, maybe I will have to get involved in taking her home or to the hospital.” “If I spend time helping my junior colleagues, they will get the credit for the project and I will lose out on my own promotion.” “If I say sorry to my wife for making a mistake, she will have the upper hand!”This feeling of separateness becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy, reinforcing loneliness and a lack of that essential thing – love.
But if we withdraw our senses and turn our focus inwards on ourselves, we look into our inner mirror. We can then adjust ourselves if something is not quite right. As we look into ourselves we become increasingly aware of our indifference, and the self-centered thoughts and emotions that otherwise go undetected. It becomes a potent moment where we come face-to-face with ourselves. It is here that change becomes possible.
It is through meditation alone that compassionate consciousness can be effected. As we increasingly connect with the heart, it guides us on questions of kindness and compassion, and many things beyond. When the hand slips into the pocket to reach for a few dollars to give the homeless person on the street, but the legs have already walked past, it is the heart that makes us turn back to help. It is also in the silence of the heart and mind that we come to acknowledge and make peace with our failings. Once we can do this with ourselves, we can easily become tolerant and understanding with our fellow beings.
Imagine reaching deep down into your consciousness, peeling away the layers of name, gender, ethnicity, background, qualifications, religion etc. Imagine that in deep relaxation you are able to go beyond the body and mind. What remains? There is still an awareness that you exist. At that level, how different are you from others?
Now, imagine a canvas on which various things are drawn: people, animals, an island, trees, mountains and the sun. Each object is separate, but they are all on that one canvas. Once the outlines of the individual objects are washed off, what remains is only the canvas. Our consciousness is like that canvas, only in our case it is so vast and the contours so invisible to the naked eye that we do not see how we are all connected with each other. This is not at all different from all the various parts of the body being connected to create a whole being. And with just a little imagination, we can surely understand that when one part of the body is sick, the rest cannot possibly remain healthy.
The personal experience of that inextricable connection with others brings about a consciousness that naturally empathizes. So compassion is no longer a conscious willed act, not even a necessity, but an intuitive reaction as natural as breathing. By awakening this consciousness, we become more aware. The greater the awareness, the better our human race becomes.
How to raise our consciousness to a level that is more fluid and flexible, ever ready to respond correctly with the right dosage? We develop it by diving deeper and deeper within our hearts so that we feel our connection with everything around us. Then compassion and kindness become natural and spontaneous, in every thought and act. Heartfulness Meditation with pranahuti helps us do just that, gradually removing the filters of excessive desire and ego that complicate the affairs of the heart and mind. We shift our attention from ‘me to we’. As we proceed further, consciousness expands to a still higher dimension, where the qualities of generosity of heart, humility, compassion and kindness reach their epitome. That is the Heartfulness way!
All the best,