Compassion…it’s not something we can do; it’s something we already have within us, but at the moment, right now in fact, we are blocking it. We are blocking it because of the domination of our mind.
This is the key to unlocking compassion, ending the domination of our mind… but how do we do that? More on that in a moment. First, we need to realise where compassion comes from. It’s in our hearts. We all know it.. deep down, but we’ve forgotten it. Some people might say they don’t have it, but we all have a heart. It’s our connection to the unconditional and unlimited love from the Source of Love, and the key to compassion is to open our heart. Listen to what Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh writes in his latest book, “How to Love”, published just this year:
“When our hearts are small, our understanding and compassion are limited, and we suffer. We can’t accept or tolerate others and their shortcomings, and we demand that they change. But when our hearts expand, these same things don’t make us suffer anymore. We have a lot of understanding and compassion and can embrace others. We accept others as they are, and then they have a chance to transform. So the big question is: how do we help our hearts to grow?”
Yes, how DO we help our hearts to grow? We’ll get there shortly I promise.
Thicht Naht Hanh is right: if there is a doorway to compassion it is the opening of our spiritual (non-physical) hearts. It’s only because our hearts are closed that we so rarely experience compassion. Instead of compassion towards others, our more frequent experience is one of judgement. Judgement comes because of the mind-dominant state that the world has been living in for so long, and when our minds are dominant, our hearts are closed. According to Ed Rubenstein, Ph.D, author of The Way of the Spiritual Heart,
“Mind-dominant states are characterised by emotionally reactive patterns, limiting thoughts and self-defeating beliefs that are present when the mind is in charge. Examples are un-forgiveness toward self or others, resentments, arrogance, anger, pride, vanity, greed, jealousy and self centredness.”
The great paradox is that when we begin to open our hearts, our minds are actually more open too because our minds are influenced by our hearts. An open mind actually perceives reality quite differently from a mind that is closed. This is the greatest secret: we cannot know compassion while our mind is dominant, because we are experiencing a dramatically different reality.
While our closed minds tell us that it’s normal to experience emotional reactions as described above, in actual fact, this shows us the depth of our amnesia because we haven’t just ‘forgotten’ the heart; we have forgotten who we ARE. Emotional states are not who we truly are, and yet we often describe people as being ‘an angry (anxious, worried, arrogant, etc.) person’. We cannot be an emotional person, any more than we can ‘be’ the clothes we are wearing. When we are within those mind-dominant states, though, we enter a soap-opera of our own creation and our identity shifts.
This is where the spiritual terminology of ‘being asleep’ or ‘unconscious’ come from. A spiritual awakening is the process of opening our heart. When our heart opens, it’s like we perceive reality for the first time… although it may only be a glimpse to begin with because our mind is strong and the habits are millennia old.
When our hearts are open, compassion flows from our heart as naturally as a flower opens to the sun. Does the flower think how to open, does it do anything at all? No… a flower opens to the sun because it was designed that way. Do we make our breathing happen, or the beating of our heart or the movement of blood around our body? No they all happen naturally because that’s the way we were designed.
When I suggested to Elizabeth [LivingNow editor] that I might write something on compassion, she said: Sounds OK, except what’s in it for the people who have not got the compassion? How can you engage them? How can you help them? Typically thinking about her readers’ needs, I thought. What a good challenge. The only point to writing an article like this is to convey that Everyone has a heart and this is the time on Earth that we should be opening them. There is one very simple and important key to the opening of our heart… perhaps the ultimate in paradox. A koan like no other.
We cannot open our hearts.
I know. It makes no sense on the surface. So let’s think about that flower and the sun metaphor again. It’s natural… it’s spontaneous. It’s the very purpose of the flower’s existence to open. The opening of our heart to the Source of Love is exactly the same — as automatic as the opening of that flower to the sun. That’s the purpose of OUR existence. All we need to do is leave our dominant mind behind. So how do we do that… leave our mind behind?
Here it is… mind domination involves some level of emotional reactivity. We are always — 24/7 — in some state of ‘fight/flight’ response. Our sympathetic nervous system is triggered constantly so we are NEVER fully relaxed… just less stressed than at other times… but those less stressed times we now call ‘relaxed’.So, the end of mind domination comes first through the doorway of being relaxed. Try it now…
1. Close your eyes… and relax… really really relax. Give yourself permission to relax. Let your shoulders stop resisting gravity so your shoulders can relax and comfortably sink as all the tension keeps dissolving.
2. Now… after a while, lift your hand slowly without rushing and gently touch the centre of your chest where your heart is located at the level of your armpits. No need to focus on the spot under your fingers as your heart wants to open way beyond your chest. Touching your heart shows your willingness for your heart to be opened, but you are not doing it!
3. Now, smile sweetly and freely to your heart without trying. Let your smile be natural, gentle, soft and free. Smiling changes your mood, helps you be more relaxed and helps to release endorphins and increases the uptake of serotonin in your brain, which ultimately improves how you feel.
4. Keep letting go of any seriousness or determination… any effort or ‘doing’ (it’s such a strong habit). This is not a technique. This is about the relationship between your heart and the unconditional love from the Source of Love.
5. Now feel the true heart feelings… peacefulness, gratitude, calmness… the gentle light and expansive feelings. Just keep feeling and enjoying all those feelings.
Those steps will unlock the doorway to your heart. Regular heart meditation will open your heart even more as you release the negativities and blockages that have built up in your heart because you have followed your emotions for so long. Slowly, but surely, you will feel compassion start to flow from your heart. Stress will begin to ebb and your feelings toward others will soften. Grudges and feeling of non-forgiveness will make way for your true heart feelings as the blockages dissolve and your heart opens even bigger.
Only the unlimited and unconditional love from the Source of Love can open our hearts and end the pattern of mind dominance. We can close our hearts, by choosing to follow our emotions and staying trapped in the trance of our mind-dominant lives. Or, we can choose to turn away from that. We can stop… and choose our heart and allow it to be opened.
So what are you waiting for? Relax. Smile… and enjoy all the beautiful feelings in your heart… peacefulness, calmness, lightness and so on. Just let them be… allow them to grow stronger… don’t do anything! It’s THAT simple. Your heart will keep opening forever while you can relax, smile and enjoy and, with an open heart, all our interactions with others will be filled with love and joy. Others will begin to feel those feelings too as their hearts also respond.
When we do things with love in our hearts, our hearts will open more and people will feel the difference. Without our hearts open, our actions will feel hollow or driven by our own needs and expectations. We’ll do good things perhaps, but it will be because we think we ‘should’ do them, not because we feel like it’s the most important thing we should do as living humans.
Our hearts want to share and reconnect again with the Source of Love. It’s a very deep longing to belong. The time is now.
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