I’ve never thought of myself as being particularly compassionate. I know… one is supposed to be compassionate, part of being a “better person.” But what does that mean? I’ve recently been able to see that I habitually conflated compassion with commiseration and sympathy, and that I usually added guilt and obligation to the mix. I wound up with a mess that never felt good.
I know intuitively that joining someone in their misery and complaining doesn’t help anybody. More recently I see that it doesn’t make me a better person either. But then, what is compassion?
The other night, at a Seer’s Explanation workshop, I was looking at a list of psychological terms people offered as potential search terms for my “search engine optimization” project. When I looked at the word compassion, I suddenly saw it as a contraction of “common passion.” And that opened up a whole new area of inquiry.
One of the things I’ve discovered in this work (i.e. developing and communicating the Seer’s Explanation) is that I, and others, feel best when we’re passionate about something. Rather than trying to get rid of whatever condition or circumstance we think is causing us to feel less than great, I find it’s more effective to get excited about something else and act from that feeling of excitement. When I’m able to help someone else find that feeling by emphasizing their dreams and desires and by assuring them that those dreams are valid and important, we’re actually sharing our passion – for life – in common. That’s the most satisfying definition of compassion I’ve yet found – helping someone else focus on their passion.
In this context, I’m reminded of acquiring a new guitar. We used to buy guitars that were stiff and kind of dull, and then we would put them in front of hi-fidelity speakers and let them “learn” how to vibrate at the frequencies the music offered. The music would induce a compatible vibration in the instrument. Maybe that’s how we inspire one another…