The Experience of Compassion

Dear Friends,

Although we can probably agree that compassion is a good idea, there might be confusion about what the actual experience of compassion is. Buddhist practice emphasizes a clear connection with each moment as it arises. This intimate connection challenges and transforms our view of the world. It tenderizes the heart.

Compassion is this experience of the heart becoming tender. When we can open to life, just as it is, the defensive crust of the heart begins to break apart, revealing a more pure sensitivity. We usually defend against this exposure because it seems dangerous to feel so deeply. We may take those feelings personally and react in a way that creates stress and resistance.

The art of living a wise and compassionate life is to allow the beauty and challenges of life to break open the heart over and over again. We practice not being confused by the intensity of this exposure and allow the energy of this sensitivity to transform itself into skillful action. The heart is sensitized, but also enlivened by this undefended relationship with life.

We might think that we first need to be compassionate in order to open to the world. Instead, we find that it is the wise effort to open fully that reveals the heart’s capacity for profound sensitivity and responsiveness. Compassion is learning to trust this powerful, fearless movement of the heart.

Wishing everyone a peaceful fall,
Mark

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