A Day in a Life of Compassion

By: Stephen Levine
Posted: May 26, 2011

What might it be like to awake into a day of compassion? To brush aside the cobwebs of fear and distrust and give your heart to the benefit of others. To not see the homeless, the imprisoned, the battered, even the prostitute as somehow less than yourself. A day of the equality necessary for compassion.

A day of random acts of kindness.

The Dalai Lama says “Kindness is my only religion”.

And the Pope, whether you share his beliefs or not, none-the-less travels the world in his embattled body to give what he believes is for the benefit of others.

When I receive your pain with fear I react with pity. But when I receive your pain with love I respond with compassion. The somewhat oversimplified truth is that fear, the lineage holder of ignorance, reacts while a liberating awareness, the inheritor of compassion, responds.

Wisdom and compassion, though they give rise to each other, are not quite the same thing. To wisdom everything is clear, confusion is transparent. But compassion sees the density of things, the pain to be attended to. To wisdom the pains which may occur are all part of the process from which we learn compassion and the way beyond suffering. To compassion everything we are going through is important and honored with love. Actually compassion is an active form of wisdom.

As an experiment in compassion, because compassion is so much greater than the fear and judgment that insists it is the basis for the often unreasonable, unloving, rational mind, imagine that within the presence by which you know you are present there exists a love that knows no boundary. Imagine that this presence sees you with the eyes of infinite loving kindness and you that in this very moment it has wiped what ever you believed was your karmic slate clean. That from this very moment you have been forgiven for every unskillful action you have ever done. How remarkable that feels, how seemingly impossible and how completely liberating. Now imagine that you can see yourself through those eyes of infinite mercy and look beyond yourself into a world of self-negating suffering and merciless indifference and see the agony so many are experiencing and begin to embrace them, to wash their feet and their hands with the golden light that emanates from your heart of infinite compassion. If the mind begins to wander the labyrinths of fear disguised as the distrusts of rational thought recall for a moment the words on Gandhi’s tomb which entreat us to take no action without keeping the poorest person in the world in mind. And continue with the process of blessing the wretched and the poor keeping in mind how the most compassionate heart in the world might do it. See as Jesus sees, as the Buddha sees, as the eyes of the great prophets of every faith saw. And see yourself as one of the many no longer separated by fear but joined by an overwhelming care for each other. Feel how the Presence in presence is the pure awareness which is pure love. Notice how only thought keeps it from being so.

Feeling the compassion inherent in our sense of presence that has no boundary but that which we think it does expand beyond thinking and flood the world with mercy. Let it come through you and let its blessing extend out to all those too wounded and numb to feel and all who call out for the end of suffering. Let it feed the hungry heart of loneliness and despair that populate the world. Let it, like Avalokiteshvara, like Quan Yin, like The Mother of Mercy, say to those in need, “My arms are always around you all you need do is put your head on my shoulder.”