(this is not my photo)
“First, I should apply myself to meditation
On the equality of self and others.
Because we are all equal in wanting to experience
happiness and avoid suffering,
I should cherish all beings as I do myself.”~ Shantideva (Guide to the Bodhisattva’s Way of Life)
(I wrote this a couple months ago and never posted it yet and just fixed it up and added to it now!)
Meditation doesn’t just have to be about sitting or laying still, eyes closed in a deep state; it can be any kind of mindfulness throughout the day during just about any kind of activity or just thinking about something, contemplation, reflection…
Recently I heard people laughing and joking about something bad that happened to someone else (someone’s poor little dog was killed by a large bird! 😢 )and I felt disbelief and something close to anger.
I was thinking they wouldn’t be laughing if it was them or someone close to them who it happened to.
I decided to express my distaste and tell them I’m almost certain they wouldn’t be amused if it were them it happened to. And one person said “well it wasn’t us so we can joke and laugh about it.” And I instantly, without much thought, blurted “but it’s just as bad when it’s someone else!!”
And then instantly I felt like I was being or coming off as a snob, someone who is sanctimonious or some moralist who acts superior to others, like my morals are above theirs or my compassion is somehow more complete than theirs.
It’s great to live how we want to live and express our views but it’s not good, in my opinion, to act like we’re above others who don’t share our views or lifestyle.
I wasn’t doing this in the incident I shared above but I can see how someone may think that, especially people who don’t know me well.
I definitely don’t think of myself as someone who lives and thinks better than others.
And I believe we all (or most at least) have the capacity to love even though for some, this ability is currently more developed than others and some are naturally more compassionate, we all (most) have the ability to strengthen it.
I don’t feel superior to those who I mention above. But I think it’s good to equalize ourself and others, being aware that underneath we’re the same and it’s not better when something good happens to us than when it does to others and no worse when something bad happens to us than to others.
But in brief encounters with people, it’s hard to express this view without seeming snobby or like I said, sanctimonious, unctuous….at this moment I can’t seem to think of words that seem less showy than these. Prig? lol That word always gets me laughing. It sounds to me like a slur or derogatory word but I dont think it is.
It’s great to find a balance of expressing our views but not being overly judgmental or destructively critical of others who hold different views.
I’m usually very good at this. But sometimes I feel the need to contemplate, find some sense of “demarcation,” and it can get confusing and it’s really subjective.
So I decided to share here.
This is one advantage social media has over the rest of life, we can write and share things that would be inappropriate in specific situations or come off as preachy in person.
On social media, some things can inspire while in life outside, they may be interpreted as negative. And in social media context, we have more of an opportunity to explain than in some “real-life” or in-person situations. Like here, I can write a whole blog post elaborating and anyone who wants can read but in brief encounters in person, I’m likely not going to get into a deep conversation or explanation about certain things. Like, it’s not likely I would stand there and go into an explanation of loving kindness meditation to people who probably couldn’t care less.
An example of something being inappropriate in person but not on social media is, if someone is in a severe depressive episode or experiencing some other terrible pain, it’s not always helpful to tell that person specifically, “it gets better” or “think positively” or “think of all you have to be thankful for…” But if that same person happens to stumble upon a blog post or photo or song shared with a similar sentiment, it can be very helpful.
It’s not good to be preached to but it’s great to come across inspiration on our own or things our friends share online.
Anyway, this incident I shared reminds me of just a few weeks ago when I laughed at someone when something bad happened to her. She frequently acts in a rude manner and frequently says negative things about people, both those she knows and strangers to her and shortly after she was bragging that she has a better lifestyle and morals than everyone else and if everyone was as great as her, we would all be rich and happy and loved and not have problems…. stuff like that, she experienced an unfortunate incident that I felt served her right. Nothing tragic or anything; I would never find that amusing. She believes when bad things happen to people, it’s their own fault(I believe this too, in a way, for the most part but in a compassionate, empowering way, not a callous way. “Bad things” are only bad and distress us because we havent yet trained our brain to remain positive, calm, and peaceful – it’s disempowering to believe we have no or only very little control over things in general- things are the indirect or direct results of our conscious or unconscious choices and even if not, we can still learn to control our reactions to things).
I usually do not laugh at people’s misfortune, even people who often act in an unkind manner but I did here. And at first I did not even feel guilty being amused even though I felt that it’s wrong. Then later I reminded myself that her pain is not a laughing matter and if it were me it happened to (or a friend of mine or my sister, or a person who usually seems more kind…), I wouldn’t be laughing. I felt a healthy sense of guilt that reminds me to not act in unkind ways against others.
So, I’m not innocent of this either, sometimes putting up too much of a barrier, too much separateness, instead of identifying with someone else’s situation. Usually I’m extremely empathetic to the point I feel everyone else’s pain and happiness and extremely compassionate but there are still occasions where this isn’t the case and I have room to evolve.
This woman is no different than me underneath. Just like me, she experiences pleasure and pain, happiness and suffering, desires and an aversion to pain…
I felt a pang of guilt and disgust with myself for laughing at the poor girl but I reminded myself that at least I caught it and actually want to be better.
Equalizing the self and others is a Buddhist technique but it can apply to every person, Buddhist or not.
In the simplest sense, it means keeping in mind that no matter who we are, we all have the desire for happiness and an aversion to suffering. We gravitate towards pleasure and relief and attempt to avoid pain and suffering.
All of our emotions are also emotions of others. We know what it is to suffer or be in pain or can imagine and so we have an idea of someone else’s suffering and the same with happiness and joy.
Whether those others are friends, family, strangers, enemies, people who are difficult to interact with, loving people(even non humans)….underneath we share a similar humanness or inner experiences.
There’s a certain meditation that helps us get to the place of always or almost always or even just more frequently identifying with others, deepening our empathy.
It’s called the lovingkindness meditation.
I sometimes have avoided this because it can be difficult.
During this meditation, at one point, we are to think of someone who we do not care for, don’t like, or someone who brought us pain at one point.
And we are encouraged to think loving things about that person.
I can tell you, it’s hard occasionally! Some occasions it’s easier than others but some occasions it feels near impossible.
Also, we are asked to think of someone who is neutral to us which is also very difficult for me because no one is usually neutral to me in the way this meditation suggests. I am already extremely loving and empathetic (not bragging! Lol) and can easily love and identity with strangers and others who aren’t close to me. Very often, I have affection for everyone I look at. I even often feel deep gratitude for the lives of strangers I happen to see just walking outside. When I hear about a person or animal’s life being saved, even those I never met and probably never will, I am overcome in deep gratitude and relief. And when I hear of a person or animal killed or died some other way, even ones i have never laid eyes on or even heard of til after the death; I am completely shattered. Sometimes I even feel as if my world just stopped turning. I can feel numb for days to hear of the death of someone I never knew.
So thinking of a neutral person is hard, but not emotionally difficult like trying to love a person who I see as unpleasant, difficult like in a practical way. I have to wrack my brain trying to come up with someone.
I don’t not like most people, even those who seem unpleasant. It’s very rare that I have a serious problem with or very negative, general opinion of someone. And even when I do, I can usually talk myself into compassion for those people.
Even people who have said/done vicious things to me, I have much compassion for still, even if I don’t talk to them much anymore.
But I can think of a few people in this life, some I haven’t seen in years, who I don’t want really bad things to happen to but I also sometimes really don’t want to think loving thoughts about them either. So it’s sometimes just easier to avoid this meditation.
But the fact that it can be difficult, is even more of a reason to take the chance and engage in it.
It can be hard to want to think loving things about people who we feel do us wrong or do horrible things to others. It can be difficult to want to wish them well. And the ones I sometimes have difficulty thinking of in a loving way, are usually only people who said/did minor unpleasant things to me compared to what happens to some people. So if it’s this hard for me sometimes, to think positively of people who do less serious things, just imagine how much more difficult it probably can be for someone who was sexually assaulted to think of the attacker in a loving way or a person who has a friend or family member murdered or assaulted in some serious way to think of the predator in a loving manner. It probably feels impossible for some.
There’s an old man who used to grab me and feel me up all over and do other things to me when he would see me. He is (physically) stronger than me, as most men are, or at least was years ago. And he abused his power, his strength. Instead of using it for good, to help another, he used it for selfish purposes. He claimed to not be able to speak or understand English(though I heard him speaking it before). No matter how much I pulled away or said stop, he wouldn’t let go. I never liked it but would let it slide. Then one day he really assualted me and I felt a kind of fury surge through me that I never felt for a person before. I remember texting my mom telling her what happend. I was so pissed! I wanted to find another man to kick his ass for me but especially for any other girl or woman he may have assualted, but I never did. So I can imagine the pain & fury of someone who was seriously abused or assualted or is close to someone who was.
Try to find it in you to look up the sexual offenders list online, look at their pictures and read what they did. Imagine all those innocent people, most often women and children, who feel destroyed after a predator took it upon himself (not always but they’re usually men ) to violate an innocent person, not giving an ounce of concern for the person. Actually taking great pleasure in the screams, the tears, the agony of those being tortured.
We automatically, easily have deep compassion for the survivors, victims, and families and friends. But try to have compassion for the predators. Try to love them, wish them well, hope they are happy and at peace. See how difficult it is? It feels near impossible. For many, maybe even most of us, all we feel is repulsed. This is why loving kindness meditation can be so difficult.
And it may even feel like we are betraying the victim or survivor if we love the one who committed the atrocious act. Or it may feel like if we forgive, it means we are condoning or allowing horrific acts of violence. But that is not the case. Forgiveness is a form of healing not only good for the one who did wrong but even more for the one who is wronged or who has compassion for the one wronged. And forgiving a person who hurt a friend of ours doesn’t mean we are betraying that friend or doing wrong to a person who is the survivor or victim of a serious assault.
Compassion and love for all does good for the whole world; it’s not just about people who do the horrible things “deserving” love & forgiveness. It’s not about them but about the world as a whole being better when we don’t perpetuate violence and hostility and negativity, when we put out positive energy.
I have been told on quite a few occasions that if we truly care about an issue, cause, person…we would or should feel fury or hatred for the “other side” or those who oppress people. We should hate child abusers, pedophiles, animal killers, sexual predators, serial killers, baby killers, injustice, inequality, racism, poverty, homophobia…..the list goes on. So many claim that if we dont hate or feel anger towards certain things or people, we won’t act to make things better. I know they have good intentions but i disagree. Compassion, love, kindness can fuel us to act; not just hatred and fury. It’s true fury about things wrong in this world can provoke us to act for the better but it can also influence us to act and feel negatively. And like I said, compassion, love can inspire us to move.
Instead of focusing on the horrible monster who killed a child, why not instead shift our focus to the love\compassion we feel for the innocent and the friends and family of the victim? Instead of allowing our body to be filled to the brim with fury and loathing for injustice, racism, discrimination, bullying….how about instead dwell on the love, the well wishes we have for anyone affected by those things. Anger isn’t wrong but it is potentially destructive and not often as pleasant feeling as love. ❤
During my lovingkindness meditations, I rarely think of murderers who kill in cold blood and sexual predators, animal killers. And when I do, it’s sometimes so difficult to summon direct compassion for them even when it’s not me who is involved in any way(I experience compassion for them sometimes and anger and disgust other occasions). It’s hard to think loving thoughts about people who do horrific things to innocent, sentient beings even if I don’t know those innocent beings.
When I think of people who did something to me that I feel is “extra” terrible or those who do horrible things to others, I remind myself that these are the people I have to focus even more loving energy on. Some I will most likely never see/see again and really don’t care to but the point is to get my own mind in an even deeper state of loving so I can BE more love for everyone everywhere I go, just live in a state of deep love. I often feel this anyway but I can still strengthen it, especially by focusing more conscious love on those I find it most difficult to love. I usually focus my love on people it’s easy to love and those I do not know, like “strangers,” everywhere I go and even some very “difficult people” I encounter or have known. But the people who I often find it incredibly difficult to think positively of, I usually don’t try to consciously love them. Even if I’m not wishing bad things on them either.
It’s like that saying “I don’t love you or hate you. I nothing you.” lol
(But in a diffrent way than the “neutral” people mentioned above – this is more of a conscious kind of thing)
But not wishing bad things on them, holding our tongues and not lashing out or saying unpleasant things is a form of love or act of love. It’s a good start. So in this way, I have love for them too.
There’s people I have had very unpleasant encounters with but still feel positive emotions for them.
But then there’s the ones where it sometimes seems too much to want to lavish love onto them, even if just in my head.
When something is especially painful or difficult, it’s often even more of a reason to tend to it.
Those people, even if acting viciously or recklessly, still, like me, have the ability to be happy and the ability to suffer, the ability to love, and the potential to evolve. They have loved and lost, have fears, goals, plans….just like me, they can be struck with a heart attack, a bullet, a headache, tragedy, loss, death…like I can. They were once innocent babies and will (if they live long enough) be very old and even more susceptible to sickness and injury and closer to death.
We’re really all in this together.
It seems like nonsense to want to seek revenge and think negative things about others. But it can be tempting. We can resist temptation though and surrender to love (in whatever way we choose, positive thoughts, well wishes, affection, just not saying negative things…) even when it’s difficult.
To think like this, we train our brains to live in love. And this generates positive energy/auras.
I still occasionally find it hard to think and feel loving thoughts about those people but I get better with it.
“Fake it til you make it.”
This isn’t really about being fake but practicing compassion or positivity to truly BEcome and feel more positive and loving.
We don’t have to love everyone the same way or equally or want to see, talk to, or be friends with everyone. But we can have loving thoughts about everyone we think of and encounter, not just for them but to have our own body filled with loving energy to touch all those around us, and the whole uni-verse.
When we harbor negative energy it can not only be a detriment to our own self but to others. We may act consciously or unconsciously, in accordance with the state of our energy. This goes for both loving and negative energy.
This isn’t just about experiencing empathy for the pain of others but also the joy and happiness even when they have things we want and do not or cannot have. Let’s make the happiness of others our own! ❤
If you don’t love or want to love everyone or those who do horrible things, that’s ok! This isn’t about judging people or saying everyone should live a certain way. We all have different ways and interests. As long as we’re basically good and not out killing and/or torturing people/animals/sentient beings…, destroying property…, just for the thrill of it, it’s all good! And if we are out doing stuff like that, I hope we wake up soon and stop!
Here is the desktop link to a video for a lovingkindness meditation.
Mobile version of the same video:
And here is an older post of mine on Empathy.
Also, this is a beautiful Buddhist song about compassion, empathy, experiencing the joy and sorrow of others as if it’s our own. It’s a Buddhist song but can apply to all of us.
Here are some of my favorite lyrics in the song:
“I need not be the grass to value the land or the poor slaughtered beast to know its pain” ❤
“I need not know a stranger to understand the joys and sorrows he encounters in this land.” ❤
“I need not be the winner with a trophy to celebrate his joy and to share his glory.” ❤
“If we just try to show a little compassion, not just to man but to all sentient manifestation, then no tears will be shed in isolation; another’s joy will be a cause for celebration.” ❤
“Let us live life with a little compassion…” ❤
“All I need is to look inside my heart – for compassion is there right from the start.” ❤
“In the end we should all come to realize sorrow & joy seen through another being’s eyes.” ❤
I’m wishing you much love & light today and always! ❤ 😀
Very thoughtful post, Kim. I always think of you as very compassionate!
Thank you very much!! I’m sorry, I just saw your sweet comment now! I’m searching the blog for shantideva quotes I have shared before, in preparation for a new blog post, & saw someone commented and was disturbed to see I never responded! Thank you!! ♡ I always love your comments! 😀