Compassion: A Path Towards Liberation
When we feel compassionate towards another being or towards ourselves, there is a deep embrace of the present moment and a sharing of experience.
Compassion is spoken of with great regard as it is intuitively understood by many to be the foundation of our hearts and the key to our connection with others. Spoken of to a great degree in countless religions and spiritual traditions, compassion is fundamental to our awakening and our liberation. In the words of Osho, compassion is “the ultimate flowering of consciousness.” As such, it is beyond worthy of our exploration as we move further along our path towards wholeness, clear-sightedness, and freedom.
As we come to understand what this notion entails on a deeper level, disentangling it from our understanding of ‘kindness’, we move closer towards embodying it in a meaningful way. While true compassion arises authentically, there are ways we can practice compassion that enhance our honest embodiment of this radiant quality that has the potential to free both ourselves and others. The more willing and able we are to open our hearts, the deeper the current of compassion will run through us.
Kindness vs. Compassion
While kindness and compassion are terms sometimes used interchangeably, they are not in fact the same. Many spiritual teachers, such as Sadhguru and Osho, have explored the difference between the two. Kindness, for starters, entails some type of outward action, or a bestowing of something onto another. Compassion, on the other hand, is an “all-encompassing passion”, as Sadhguru explains. It is a recognition of oneness and interconnectedness. When we feel compassionate towards another being or towards ourselves, there is a deep embrace of the present moment and a sharing of experience. It is not something we do; it is something we embody.
Compassion is, in a way, kindness taken a step further. While compassion may include authentic acts of kindness, these acts arise from a deeper place of recognition. When we feel compassion, there is no outcome we are trying to attain – for ourselves or for another. Compassion is a full embrace of what is here, exhibited from a warm and open heart. Kindness, on the other hand, can involve underlying expectations, such that someone else’s experience might change or that we ourselves may receive recognition from a deed well done. When kindness is rooted in compassion, these lines dissolve.
How about the difference between love and compassion? As Osho describes, “Compassion is the highest form of love.” As compassion dissolves expectations and conditions, the fullest essence of love becomes known.
How Compassion Liberates
When we interact with the world from a place of unconditional understanding and compassion, egoic identification is released as we come into greater resonance with ourselves, with others, and with the universe at large. In this way, compassion holds the potential to free us of the lines we draw between ourselves and others. It is a heart-centered recognition of the world, shifting our perception of things down from the narrow constructs of the mind. Bringing us into greater alignment with the unconditionally loving core of our being, we find freedom, peace, forgiveness, and acceptance.
Exploring and tuning into our capacity for compassion also helps to release others. This does not mean that our expressing compassion will free anyone (or ourselves) of pain, but it does mean that whatever pain or whatever circumstance is present can be fully honoured and experienced. When we allow things ‘to be’ as they are, held in the light of love, they naturally begin to soften, or to dissipate. It is, however, important to step away from our expectations for things to change. Rather than trying to control any situation through loving kindness, can we practice loving and being with whatever exists? Can we trust that the experience will transform, as all things do, in due time?
How to Cultivate Compassion
Cultivating compassion goes beyond doing good deeds as most of us can sense on an intuitive level. As we practice embodying this highest form of love, we uncover our own barriers to compassion and enhance our understanding of what it truly means to be compassionate. Through patience and an open heart, these practices can help us to move deeper into our experience of this liberating force.
Turn your attention inward – particularly when challenging emotions arise.
True compassion is born within. By turning our attention inward – in both formal meditation and during challenging emotions – we begin to uncover the barriers we hold that work in opposition to compassion. Viewing these inner barriers from a loving lens can help us to loosen their locks.
All of us have previous life experiences that may make being unconditionally compassionate challenging; this is nothing to judge ourselves for. In a modern world that thrives on superficiality, it can feel as if we are going against the grain to move away from our judgments and our preconditioned beliefs and into a place of love. So, when challenging emotions or dividing beliefs arise, can we soften our mental hold on the stories these energies tell? By lovingly shifting our awareness to the heart, we begin to sense the fickleness of the mind as we shift deeper into a more compassionate state of being.
2. Listen from an open heart rather than from the mind.
When in conversation with others, whether those we are with are sharing stories of trial or triumph, we can cultivate compassion by shifting our lens from mind to heart. Many of us often listen with an unconscious yearning to respond, processing their words through our own beliefs and filters. To shift this tendency, can we become more present when listening? By opening the heart when another is speaking, refraining from our tendency to analyze or assess their words, we become more available to truly hear what another is saying. As we listen compassionately, we dissolve the lines of separation, and in doing so, we are able to share the present moment more fully.
3. Find healthy ways to transform emotions that are in opposition with compassion.
As human beings, we will undoubtedly experience various emotions throughout our lifetime. Emotions as a raw experience are not problematic if we know how to effectively work through them. In many cases, emotions are a great indicator that can point towards where we need to grow, where we need to set boundaries, or how we might move into a more authentic state of being.
We can transform and release emotions such as anger, jealousy, and frustration through a variety of means. Through creative expression (dance, art, music, writing, and so on), through prayer and meditation, and through open-hearted contemplation, we can transform the energy of emotions that are in opposition with compassion. This does not require us to judge, deny, or repress our emotional landscape; it is simply a call to witness and release – to transform our experience into one of love.
Finding freedom through compassionate exploration can take time as we sift through the preconditioned beliefs, expectations, and judgments we hold. Cultivating compassion does not require us to be absent of emotion; it simply asks us to move beyond the ever-changing landscape of mood and mind. As we sink into the heart, compassion rises to the surface.
Practicing patience as we explore this heightened expression of love allows us to make room for our humanity and our continued evolution. At the heart of everything is love; opening ourselves up to this potential is the first step in our journey towards embodying a level compassion that liberates.