Compassion: Going to the Source

While listening to a lecture about Tibetan healing, I realized the need to find a practical method to attain compassion. Za Choeje Rinpoche, the sixth reincarnation of a sacred healer, spoke well as he told us that negative emotion is the root of all disease and that the healer must meet this negative emotion with compassion. His talk was full of esoteric truths, but the practical application of the method is secret and shared only with initiates. Not much help for us in the West. Yet there is a practical method available to us. We must work however, if we are to gain the ability to sustain compassion.

First of all, we must heal ourselves; only then may we be able to create conditions for others to heal themselves. So, as we begin, we will look at ourselves both as healer and as the diseased and unbalanced patient. We all have this negativity; culture demands it. It has been said, and rightly so, that Western society runs on negative emotion. There is a certain energy to it. We will discover why as we work to understand this term.

We can find this method for attaining compassion as we work to cure ourselves. In this healing we can start with the non-expression of negative emotion. This in turn will give us a whole new vision of negative emotion, and of what we get from it. Being negative is fun – yes, fun, to our ordinary state of being. We also love to watch others be negative; it gives us fresh material to be negative ourselves. Try not being negative for a day, or even an hour, and you will quickly see how attached you are to it. Notice, for example, how thoughts and feelings turn as you exercise the physical body. Once you allow the negative emotions, you will quickly tire and begin to ache. Notice others who are in good or bad relation to exercising the body and how the expressions on their faces match it.

Let’s look at the debt we set up by getting sick and being negative. Once we have whined to all those around us, we are compelled to listen to them. And how quickly we become indignant with someone who won’t hear our tale of woe. If you study this closely, you will see that we need to be sick often in order to maintain a societal balance. The next time you find yourself sick, try not telling anyone. While it will be difficult, you may notice you get better immediately. Another exercise would be to not look at a car crash, as everyone else rubbernecks; notice the curious feeling of having deprived yourself of such a ‘delight.’

By a constant and thorough study of negative emotion in ourselves and the struggle to not express them, we will begin to "remember ourselves" -that is, we will be able to see and know ourselves well enough to stop the negativity before it starts, or gains momentum. This effort will also enable us to value balance of the bodymind in a profound way, and tools to help achieve this balance, such as the Zen Imagery Exercises, will become more attractive. When this process becomes a permanent part of us, we become able to awaken to a new state of consciousness.

When we have attained this new state, we will be able to maintain compassion. Let us start by defining compassion, knowing we need more than a mere label; we need a practical working understanding. We might think of a coming together of our individual passions, "feeling with." Webster’s Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary defines it thus: sympathetic consciousness of others’ distress together with a desire to alleviate it. This may leave us with more questions than we started with. An Eastern source, the Law of Five Elements, shows compassion as a result of balance; the earth, or grounding, element is in the middle of the four directions. When the bodymind is in balance, none of the four directions will pull us from our center of compassion; not even the negative emotions of others. In our struggle to heal ourselves, we now understand the distress of others. This is key – we must place ourselves in the other person’s position, which can be called "external considering." Only by travelling the path ourselves can we understand the dis-ease of negative emotion in others.

As we work on ourselves it will also be helpful to notice how we are affected by positive contact as well. Only by becoming impartial may we attain compassion. We must keep to center at all times and this will come only with difficult work and a non-judgmental study of ourselves. The importance of keeping our center of gravity within ourselves will become clearer as progress is made. A good exercise to this end is to struggle to attain ‘non-desires’ over desires. This will eventually make us impartial.

After we have learned compassion in all external circumstances, we will be ready to talk about love. Compassion is often thought of as having something to do with love – here we must also take some time to avoid taking a wrong turn. Love is said to be the answer; it is also said God is love. If the name of God is unpronounceable, the meaning of love may be as close as we get to indefinable. Unfortunately most religions and spiritualistic sciences tout love as a means to awaken; in reality it just feeds imagination. Yes, love is intoxicating; it is a drug. We must therefore come to a practical means of discernment, for it is dangerous to dream of love too soon. For now it will just blind us. We must first mature in our consciousness; then we will be more able to understand such higher concepts as love.

To match negativity with compassion outwardly, we must first do it inwardly. This is not so easy a task as reading an article (or even writing one). It takes consistent, long-term efforts and persistence. Even in reading though, you may have begun to understand the difference between a true healer and the mere "physical mechanics" currently practicing mainstream and alternative medicines. All healers start broken and to the extent they heal themselves, they may direct others.

It takes a mature compassion to look impartially into the eyes of fear, rage, depression, excitement, paranoia, judgment, anxiety, and the myriad other forms of negative emotion. We ‘feel with’ the other without becoming negative ourselves and the example we set is immediately noticed, both within and without. This is a healing of the human experience that comes from the source of compassion.

For more ideas on work with negative emotions see the exercises on the Kesdjan web site.