Compassion in Action

“Taking the form of Guanyin,
find shelter for the homeless person.”  Misc Koan

Guanyin is synonymous with the Bodhisattva Avalokitesvara, the manifestation of mercy, compassion, kindness and love. (Bodhisattva- a being of enlightenment, one who has earned to leave the world of suffering and is destined to become a Buddha, but has forgone the bliss of full awakening with a vow to save all children).

Many, when contemplating this Koan, think it says you should act like Guanyin and take care of the homeless person.  Maybe you should provide money, shelter, food, or something. In other words, you should be compassionate; you should be willing to suffer for the sake of others.  But this approach is likely to make you feel remorse, resentment, arrogance or even guilt, rather than the kind of sweet compassion that you have the opportunity to experience.  I don’t believe the Koan is suggesting you should be more of this, or less of that. That way of thinking just reinforces the experience of you as a separate, trapped, isolated self. The Koan actually invites you to consider things from a different point of view entirely.

A friend recently said that “our lives season us for compassion.” That feels so true right now. When our lives bring challenge and difficulty and we find ourselves struggling with the changes in our lives, it is this very experience that tenderizes our hearts. 

This past month the US election results and the aftermath has created a great opportunity to practice compassion in my life.  This election has been a victory for the collective shadow in our society. I am part of that shadow.  I am part of the collective and so it is an moment in time to investigate my own internalized Donald Trump. The dark shadow places inside of myself. When I can truly look at myself, truly meet all of me it hones me for compassion. I find I have more kindness for myself and when I have more kindness for myself – I naturally have more kindness for others EVEN Donald Trump. 

I watched Donald Trump on a recent 60 Minutes program. I found myself wanting to give him a chance, to have an open mind as I would want people to have for me. As I watched, I noticed that I was rooting for him. I wanted him to succeed. I wanted people to genuinely feel as if their lives will be better. I also know I don’t have the answers and I asked myself, “are you willing, Illana, to allow him to succeed?”

Since this insight, Donald Trump has continually disappointed me and dashed the hopes I have tried to cultivate – but none-the-less I have found compassion for myself and within that deeply discovered kindness I have found myself able to listen and hope with Trump supporters.

Perhaps compassion begins when we let conditioned ego-mind relax or even die. Compassion arises spontaneously in the very act, the very moment, of really allowing everything — including our tears or our fears, regrets or even our deep love — to be just as it is, untethered, in clear awareness and fully experienced just as it reveals itself. 

This means being in touch with oneself.  This means rediscovering your own friendship, your own self, perhaps for the first time. It’s like a rite of passage where you emerge simply and fully being yourself.  Becoming human involves turning toward your pain; finding your unique path that transforms pain into joy; suffering into freedom.  You do it over and over again.  That is what being a full human feels like. It’s what being compassion itself is. It is from here that shelter is found, offered and delivered for the homeless.

Love yourself and you will find love oozing out for others.

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