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Imagine this scenario: You're walking down a street and you pass a person sitting on a park bench. You can see, even from the distance, in this person's posture that says something is a little off. As you get closer, you see the person is slouching over and sobbing.
What do you feel? Perhaps you feel the tug on your heartstrings, and the empathy towards this person immediately enters your emotional being. But what do you do? What you do next is the difference between feeling empathy and sharing a moment of compassion.
So many of us feel all the feels, but rarely do we act upon it. When you see that person on that park bench, do you pause and then keep walking? Or do you pause, take a seat next to the person, and wish them a good day? Or perhaps offer a listening ear to a stranger? To what extent would you offer yourself as a beacon of support to another being?
Acts of compassion are rooted in a more sensitive state of mind and act as an extension of empathy. Compassion in action is the impetus to go beyond the initial emotional experience, and act toward positive change in a situation in which you feel so moved. Whether it's something small like holding the door for an elderly person, or something large like starting a non-profit organization in the name of something you care about, compassion can come in many different shapes and forms.
The seeds of compassion extend through all life forms; from the tiniest insect to the largest animal, compassion is widespread throughout the entire animal kingdom. There are may stories of animals helping one another from dolphins, to alligators, to elephants. The possibility of compassion extends beyond humans into all sentient beings.
Let's take a look at the role of compassion, the energy behind it, and how to develop a daily practice towards being a compassionate being.
The Origins of Bodhisattva
Buddha is thought of as the original Bodhisattva, as he was the epitome of kindness and selflessness. Those who follow in Buddha's steps and path are known as Bodhisattvas.
Maybe we aren't exactly all the next Buddha or Bodhisattvas. However, there has been a huge rise in the practice of yoga in the Western world, bringing with it a heightened awareness around the absolute necessity of compassion.
In any given yoga or meditation class, you might hear a very popular chant that encompasses the prayer and dedication of compassion:
"Lokah Samastah Sukhino Bavantu: May all beings everywhere live happy and free, and may the thoughts, words, and actions of my own life contribute in some way to that happiness and to that freedom for all."
Feminine Energy and the Goddess Tara
Masculine energy rules processes like willfulness, work ethic, and structure. Feminine energy, however, is the driving force behind empathy (as stated earlier, the fuel for compassion).
So when the two come together, an interesting and unique force develops into a virtuous liberation. Typically, a Bodhisattva is a male, following in Buddha's footsteps. Yet the Goddess Tara, the most notable female Bodhisattva, is the representative of the embodiment of compassion. Known as "The Mother of Liberation," she represents the willful drive of empathy into action, creating compassion through work and achievement. Whether "Tara" is an actual female person or just a representative conjured up in the ideas mixed together in Hinduism and Buddhism to create a feminine representation of this energy force, it is believed that she hears the cries of pain and suffering and offers mercy, warmth, strength, and a lifeline away from enduring pain.
Daily Practices of Compassion
You don't have to run out and save the world to be considered compassionate. Small steps in your everyday life can develop compassion, which will bud and grow along the way.
And to you, an arbiter of empathy and strength, may you continue to find daily moments along the way, recognize them, integrate them, and give devotion to the selfless compassion in your heart and being.
Amy Leigh Mercree (Florida) is an author, media personality, medical intuitive, and dating, relationship, and wellness coach. She has been featured in Women’s Health, Soul and Spirit, Elevated Existence, and Glamour UK ...