"Every human being has the same potential for compassion; the only question is whether we really take any care of that potential, and develop and implement it in our daily life." - H.H. the Dalai Lama
I have been doing a lot of thinking about the activity of compassion lately and how to not only work to build it within myself, but also how to teach and increase compassion within others.
Here is the "dictionary defenition" I found online:
"Compasion: sympathetic consciousness of others' distress together with a desire to alleviate it ." http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/compassion
I find myself questioning a bit of this definition because of what I feel is a missed portion to highlight. Sympathy is defined as a shared feeling between two, often assigned to negative feeling states. Wanting to help alleviate it in others, great direction. What I feel is missing is that for compassion to really take root, one must understand how interconnected we are to all around us. When this awareness of connection occurs, we realize that it is not only alleviation of suffering of other persons, but all that surrounds them (including ourselves). If we do not recognize this, then we categorize the other as different from us, as the "poor unfortunate ones", and ourselves as the saviors. That is, until we are touched by the things that create pain in our lives. One woman I know (and is someone I would consider a beautiful person) very often makes statements of dedication and caring to her family and friends wrote of this growing awareness of interconnectedness in the not-so-distant past.
"Since my sister was diagnosed, I have learned a lot about cancer. I have learned how it touches the lives not just of the diagnosed, but their family, their friends, friends of family, etc. It truly amazes me how many people have reached out to me with their own story. And how many I know that are fighting now."
I think that the way to enrich the compassionate quality in ourselves and others is by doing this very thing, which is to take a look at the ripples created in our lives, extending both from us and towards us. When we do this, we open ourselves to the disire to help our brother's and sister's in the human family, and if we go far enough our fellow citizens of the animal kingdom.
I remember playing the "Kevin Bacon game", which for those who don't know it is to find the degrees of separation between yourself and Kevin Bacon. What if we played this game with everyone around us? How many degrees would there be? How would our actions affect them? How would their actions affect us? Pretty powerful activity I think. But, don't take my word for it. Try it yourself. And when there is a need for compassion, don't act for yourself, don't act for the one person, act for everyone that that life touches.