Thursday, September 8, 2011

The New Face of Compassion: A Deeper Dive

Last Saturday, I was hanging out in a park in Berkeley. It was one of those days when I feel like free-writing. Free-writing, for those of you who aren't familiar with it, is simply letting yourself write whatever. I write in such structured ways for most of my time that it's a real relief and joy to open up my creativity further. You know. Write more sentence fragments. End trains of thought abruptly. Play with words to make up new meanings. Make new words. Paint word pictures of brief glimpses of beauty that I see. And so on and so forth. It's always a good time.

I happened to see an old black man, whom I assumed to be homeless, lying on a park bench. It was interesting to me because I didn't see him at first. His clothes had blended him in to the bench. His clothes had helped him to be camouflaged, hidden, forgotten. Part way through the afternoon a brief skirmish breaks out. Some guy has a knife. Someone is calling the cops. Voices are upset. But he sleeps on. Undisturbed.

So much is made of compassion, but how many of us ever really touch true compassion? The ego co-opts it so quickly and makes it about us. We turn giving, charity, and compassion into ways to make ourselves feel better. They become ways for us to feel like we're making a difference, but in awakening, you really learn that you have absolutely no clue what God's plan is, nor what is right for anyone else. Sometimes, it's all you can do to figure out what's right for you. And that deep understanding changes compassion irrevocably.

Intuition becomes a lifeline. As you just live your life, you'll notice all kinds of crazy things happen that you might never have expected to have happened. I think a lot of the uprisings in North Africa certainly weren't things that people were really expecting to have happen, and even now, it's tough to know how everything will work out. I believe they're hunting down Muammar Gaddafi in Libya right now, but who really knows what the next government will be like? The universe is playing such a much vaster game they we can understand.

But that doesn't lead towards a kind of apathetic experience of life. If anything, awakening will make you more empathetic to all people. You'll feel the joys and the plights of everyone from CEOs and Presidents of State to school teachers, jail wardens, and the homeless. You'll see very deeply and honor that these are the paths that they've chosen.

I was in that space today as I gazed at this man slumbering on the bench. I had so much compassion and love for him. This is his path. I have no idea what will come in his life. I have no idea what he wants or where he "should" go. I just know that at the end of the day, he is human like me. He's experiencing life in the way that he is experiencing it. And that's okay.
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