2023-03-20-Gil-Aspects of Compassion (1 of 5) Awareness
7:14PM Mar 23, 2023
central organizing principle
So in this talk, I begin a five part series on compassion. And compassion is one of the wonderful capacities that human beings have. And probably it's a capacity which is underutilized, maybe even under appreciating. And they can make the central or be the central organizing principle for human life, what gives a life purpose, meaning direction, support, inspiration. And that's certainly been true for me. And I think for a good part of my adult life, that compassion was the central organizing principle that I set my direction of my life, based on compassion for the suffering of the world. And whether that's still the case, is maybe a matter of kind of subtlety. That, I don't know if it's still compassion, or something that's kind of almost the same as compassions. Things change and morph over time. And, and now, maybe the central principle is, why would I call care, but that somehow is, I don't know, a little different than compassion, but compassion. And the simplest definition of compassion is being sensitive to the suffering of usually others sensitive to the suffering of others, in such a way, that we have the aspiration, the wish, the desire to alleviate that suffering. So those two things are sensitive to suffering and the desire to alleviate it. And those when it's when it's compassion that Buddha's can put focus on compassion, it's not an obligation is not something we should be doing. We might want to do it. But it's, but it's meant to be something that wells up within, we talk about being compassionate. But when some people hear the idea that we should be compassionate, they interpret the B part, as do, we should do compassion. And, and it's very profound, this idea that we be compassion rather than that we do compassion, because with the idea of being compassionate, that something that wells up that something just kind of oozes out of us are kind of there for us. It's not something that we have to make happen or act in a certain way. So the what this way of being is a is a profound possibility, that has different characteristics and qualities. And the and so in this week, I'm going to talk about five different characteristics or aspects of compassion, only the fifth, which is action, meaning that for this being compassionate, there's a whole slew of ways of being in ourselves, that sets the stage for compassionate action. And without those prep that preparation without that foundation, then compassionate action might not be compassionate, it might be actively involved with alleviating suffering, but it can be done with anger, it can be done with distress, it can be done with a sense of strain and stress and tension, and it can be done in a way that that it can be exhausting or stressful or worse for people. But how is it that compassion can be enacted and acted on without it being exhausting without diminishing us so that the compassion is sweet? There's a there's a beauty and a kind of profound beautiful pleasure that comes along in us in the compassionate action. So for that to happen, for other things, kind of would be good to gather together and have us Part of it. So the four, the five things we'll be talking about today all start with a, maybe that's helpful for remembering. And so today I want to talk about awareness. Tomorrow, attunement, and love little different than maybe empathy, but attunement to others. And then appreciation. And then aspiration. And then action. So awareness, attunement, appreciation, aspiration, and action. So those first four then support the action. And so to be grounded in those or have those developed in us, and our practice in us, then the compassionate action is well supported as kind of as a chance to be a beautiful thing, profound thing that we're just glad to have it and to feel it, there's not necessarily a distress with it. So begins with awareness, mindfulness, attention. And, and here, there's a kind of very important point I want to make about awareness practice, or having a strong presence of attention, awareness, mindfulness. And that is that we're not leaning into things. We're not sinking into things. But there's a kind of autonomy, maybe not in ourselves and all the ways. But there's an autonomy. In a being aware, there's a capacity to be attentive, without being entangled, or caught or reactive to what is happening. It may be it would be a little bit like being at a gathering of people who are, maybe they're having an angry, shouting match between each other, maybe they're I don't know what to being really afraid and running around kind of not knowing what to do. And you stand in the middle of them, and you care for them, you're supporting them friend to them. But it's clear that you've kind of like, you're not in the quicksand with them, you're not kind of involved with the anger and caught up in the fear. But you're present. It's a little bit like you're been standing on a stool may be above the fray, looking down that it all kind of amazed what's going on here. This is quite something, an experience my first experience of this possibility, that was kind of an inkling a glimpse that made a big difference for me, was my second year in college, I guess I was 19 or so we were living in my four other guys and I were living in a apartment three bedroom apartment. And with a balcony sliding door to the living room. And I was out on the balcony with a sliding door closed. And two of my roommates were on the couch in the living room, having an animated conversation. And all I could see was their gestures and animation. I couldn't hear the words. And, and not knowing what they were talking about. But just watching how animated they were. I could feel I was present and attentive. But there was no entanglement that wasn't caught in what they were saying. It was like I was autonomous, I was free. I was available, I was there. And that experience of being aware of people actively kind of having an animated conversation, in my being free of it was that was the first glimpse I had of that possibility. This is not the same thing as aloof. This is not the same thing as being removed or indifferent.
It's just that we might have all kinds of feelings and connections through them attunements and aspirations and interest in them. But there's a way in which the awareness is calm is peaceful, is not ruffled or agitated, is not leaning into. And one way that awareness gets mixed up to and identified with what's happening is when the awareness is pulled in to the thoughts we're having the discursive thoughts and and it's almost as if we identify we become the discursive thoughts and awareness then is happening through the filter of those discursive thoughts. Or we get caught up in the emotions and feelings we have And the awareness gets kind of channeled through those in order to be aware of the world. And, and with a clear awareness, awareness is its own thing. It's a, it's a kind of a, when it's really kind of strong, it's there's a clarity, that it's above the fray or step back from being entangled, or it just their present very present there, but is upright and autonomous, clear, open, available, not identified by anything, not caught by likes and dislikes. It knows the diet like likes and dislikes, it knows discursive thinking. But it's not those things, to cultivate this kind of kind of sense of autonomy, in the Awareness itself, is very, very important for compassion. Because then compassion has a channel from which to be clean, a channel with which not to be entangled, not to be reactive, not to be mixed up with the whole range of emotions that might be coming, not mixed up with all the story making of the mind discursive thinking and beliefs and judgments that we might have. And, and so the, so it kind of creates a context and a foundation for being compassionate. Without that, if there's a headlong rush into being compassionate, then awareness gets pulled along, we're not so present and attentive to what we're doing. That whatever little awareness is present, is being being hijacked are being mixed up with our reactivity or sense of duty or sense of alarm, our sense of being in a hurry, our sense of requirements, obligation, our sense of distress, all kinds of things come along, if awareness is not autonomous, if awareness has this kind of upright autonomy, where it's standing on its own two feet, and is not being pushed around by the winds of life, then there's lots of room for some of the deeper wellsprings of of the best qualities, we have to flow into that space. But if awareness has been hijacked, and is caught up and not quite there, then these deeper qualities are not as easily available. So, awareness, mindfulness attention, to really learn it, develop it being grounded it, have faith in it. If someone if you hear the idea, the you should be more compassionate. I would propose that the best way to interpret that or take that on is don't be compassionate, begin by slowing down, standing straight and tall, and being metaphorically and just being aware, and see if you can find that place where awareness is autonomous or free, kind of like lotus blossoming above the Muddy Waters. So at the healthy foundation for compassion begins with awareness. And with that kind of autonomous awareness, then we're ready for the attunement with someone else that tune into their suffering and what that means I'll talk about tomorrow. And so what I'd like to recommend if you're interested in an exercise for the next 24 hours, is when you're it's in somebody's situation where maybe we're nothing's really required for you to do anything, but you're aware of someone else's suffering. See, what you can see what you can discover about an autonomous awareness being really present for the person for the situation, not removed, not aloof, but to really kind of open to the situation with clear awareness. But where the awareness is autonomous, where the awareness is not entangled or caught up in this situation, to them again, to the best situate options for this to doing this is a situation where you're not going to be Acting to help someone do something. It's some situation you know in the public where you see something that's someone's suffering but there's other people helping you're not going to help or you read about someone in the news or something. So thank you