Tag Archive | meditation

Congratulations to me! 😀

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“Woke up this morning with a big ass headache
Y’all I ain’t kidding this son of a bitch hurts
Where the hell are my pants must be with my shirt
I still got my boots on but make no mistake
They can’t help me kick this big ass headache” 😂😭😍❤

Big Ass Headache – Justin Moore -mobile

Big Ass Headache – desktop

No, I did not get the job I been waiting for or any job! I lost my job of ten years after the store went out of business and mentioned that just over a week ago I got an interview, which I’m very thankful for! It’s always great for the experience. The job interview went well and I got to meet two adorable kitties! It’s a pet sitting\walking place and they had two really big cats there. But I never got the phone call for a second interview or any rejection e-mail or anything, which is nothing new; I’m used to that! I’m still positive about it though even though it can be a bit discouraging.

Anyway, I am not congratulating myself for success with jobs! Something even better! Many people who know me may know of my headaches. I have a severe case of tmd or tmjd, Temporomandibular Joint Dysfunction. For most of us who have it, it’s not severe. But mine is really bad. My pain isn’t always severe; it’s usually not. But I have pain and other symptoms (jaw locking, vision\hearing problems, teeth breaking, jaw clicking, the list goes on n on)almost constantly and some occasions the pain flares up to beyond severe, the point of seeming absolutely unendurable. There’s no known cure or effective treatment. Agony beyond words. Here are a few of my posts where I mention the living hell that this disorder is. I’ll also give a brief description of the pain here too in this post.

He’s My Son (a heartbreakingly beautiful song)

Inner Strength

On Pain & Suicide Headaches (prevailing)

(this one is on the extremely long side!)

Stepping out of our ruts

On Pain, Hope, & Life Lessons (Healing Hands)

And then a hero comes along with the strength to carry on

It’s like being burned. Like scalding hot water being poured over the side of my face, scalding my eyeball, head, face…mixed with the worst toothace, earache, sinusache imaginable, and an intense pressure in the eardrum building up, up, up til eventually it feels like it’s being punctured and as if it will very soon explode. It’s worse than it sounds. The disorder I have can feel like various kinds of other disorders and headaches. The one I’m describing above is the Cluster headache. Cluster headache is a rare disorder that my disorder, tmjd, can mimic. I don’t have these headaches very frequently but when I do, they are extremely traumatic. Just one will probably scar you for life, emotionally. A life changing experience that can never be forgotten. They aren’t dubbed “suicide headaches” for nothing! The pain is so severe, many people contemplate and even attempt suicide just to stop the pain while it’s occurring. Sometimes during these headaches I have screamed through the night til my throat became raw and I lost my voice. I often have to keep hitting my face and head over n over in a panic or claw at things because I’m so frantic and panicked and desperate when it happens. There’s an impulsive urge to claw at the face and eye and bang the head against a wall. That’s not uncommon in those of us with this pain.

They usually occur at night or very early in the morning when it’s still dark out. When they appear and they can last a few hours. And when one ends, another can begin soon after. There’s nothing amusing about it but when thinking about it, sometimes I have the urge to laugh. It’s the only physical pain I ever experienced that leads me to feel as if I may really go insane. When they blast through my head, it’s like nothing else in the world matters or even exists.

Recently I was thinking how I haven’t had one of these headaches in a while. Through the years, I learned to cope with them better. Sometimes they have been frequent and sometimes very infrequent. They usually flare up worse in the cold weather, for me. Last night or early in the morning I had my first one of the season. They begin very abruptly, often with no warning sign. Just slamming into my face out of nowhere. Then last minutes to hours then end just as abruptly. I had one around 1:00 in the morning. It lasted less than an hour. But it was excruciating.

The reason I am happy about it is I was able to meditate through the episode. I could never do that before! With these headaches, there’s no staying still. We often have to pace, hit or throw things, hit ourselves, scream hysterically….even though I learned to handle them better, I still could not be very still or meditate through the pain. I have come to be much more positive and less angry during flareups than I used to be but still have room to evolve.

Last night when the first headache hit, I felt like I was in a nightmare that couldn’t really be happening. It was unbelievable. But soon enough I stopped the loud inner chaos to ask, “What can this teach or remind me?” “How can this strengthen me?” “How can I take this experience now and use it for the better, not just for me but for others?” “How can this better me?” “How can this agonizing experience be used by me to help, uplift, or inspire someone else?”

This is not uncommon for me to ask these questions during a very painful experience or any struggle but it’s usually more difficult to think like this, to execute such wisdom with this kind of physical anguish. Last night though, it was easier. And that is because of the work I do on myself in general. I’m naturally very positive but in general I work to strengthen that natural inclination, make it more intentional, conscious.

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If we only work to be positive, to meditate, to practice gratitude, to focus on breath….during problems then we don’t get much practice and not only that but it can be difficult to find the motivation or desire to do these things when serious pain arises, especially emotional pain. We may be tempted to give into the pain, let the pain conquer us and not practice positive techniques. But if we consciously practice positivity in general, whether or not we are naturally positive, we will be more ready when serious pain occurs. I can’t stress it enough! It’s depression that taught me this! But it applies to physical pain as well and any problem!

https://inspirationalgem.wordpress.com/2014/10/08/serendipitous-strength/

Anger and especially fury, is not an emotion I’m very prone to. It’s the emotion I experience least often. It usually takes a lot to get me angry and even then it usually subsides quickly. But when I experience these headaches I would often become furious, aggressive (not against living beings though), i would have the urge to break and throw things, demolish buildings, scream and tear things to shreds. I wanted to hear and see, feel destruction, the way my body feels when it’s forced to endure such cruelty. I would be outraged at the pain. I wanted it to materialize before me so i can scream some more and rip it to pieces.

But a year ago, in June, I had one of these debilitating headaches at work and it devastated me. It frightened me. It disabled me. It almost destroyed me. I used to let them bring me to ruin. This can be a good thing. Fall to pieces so we can build our self up even stronger. And that’s what I did. This headache at work did not infuriate me like they do. I felt no anger, just pain, fear, love, compassion. The anger did not arise. And the one last night was the same. I waited for the fury, for the destruction, for the outrage. But none came. I felt fear so strong I could almost taste it.  There’s always that nagging fear “What if this one doesn’t end?” even though we know they eventually end. I felt love, compassion, hope, anxiety, optimism….but no anger.

This is a sign that i am evolving so well. They are so much easier to bear without the fury. Sometimes anger is good and can fuel us, give us a backbone. But the fury I have with these does not serve me well. It just seems to trap me. It’s like there’s no outlet for it. I can’t go screaming and destroying things, especially late at night. I always have the urge to run when I have these head attacks. But instead I sat down and focused on my breath. The most basic thing. I wrung my hands and keeled over. But I (gently) forced myself to stay focused. My own breath calmed me. I just breathed in & out, in & out, consciously. The pain throbbed away, at some points seeming to threaten my sanity. But i mustered up all the wisdom, courage, strength I know and just let it throb. I tried not to identify with the pain or even my own body. I told myself that “pain is arising in my\the body” instead of thinking “I’m hurt” or “i’m in pain” or “my head hurts.” It’s all the same concept and the reality may seem the same but our choice of words can really make a difference.

I took all my experience with meditation & mala recitation each day and applied it to my waking nightmare last night. I chose not to judge the pain. This isn’t bad. It just is. Just like I don’t judge my straying mind or bodily sensations or thoughts during meditation each day. They just are. And that is ok. Something can be bad but that doesn’t have to be a bad thing that it’s bad. Just let it be bad. 

I sat in meditation posture in a dark room, right hand lightly cupped in my left, thumbs gently touching, back straight, feet flat on the floor and i just breathed. Then I envisioned the Buddha before me surrounded in bright white light of wisdom, compassion, love and I breathed in that white light and breathed it out into the uni-verse. At first I kept gasping for breath because the pain was too much but eventually my breath calmed. And I stayed like that for a while. But even in the midst of so much horror and this technique helping me cope, I knew I want to not just help me but i have this strong desire to help others. Visualizing the Buddha was helping me greatly but that may not help everyone else in need. Not everyone is into Buddha. We don’t have to be Buddhists to benefit by his wisdom and follow his teachings or practice Buddhist techniques. But still, some aren’t interested in Buddhism. So I imagined Buddha fading away into his bright white light but the light remaining and I kept breathing.

It still helped me greatly. Whoever isn’t into Buddha can just imagine the white, sparkling light or imagine another religious figure in his place or a fictional character in a novel or movie or any person dead or alive. Any figure who stands for or symbolizes love, peace, strength, compassion, hope, fierceness….will do. Just breathe in the wisdom of that figure. And keep holding on. Very likely the pain will end even if not right now. And in the off chance that it doesn’t we can learn to live with it and live well. We have to detach and not judge or identify with the pain. It may take practice and some serious work and setbacks and relapses but it is possbible to live with whatever it is. Whatever the struggle is, we can endure it and survive it together. Whether it’s grief and loss, depression, anxiety, severe physical agony, chronic illness, addiction, sexual assault, an eating disorder, a devastating diagnosis, a breakup, a common cold, a bad day at work….no matter how seemingly serious or trivial the problem, we can do things to help it be better and to help others. We can live with it. Bringing light & love into the mix.

Last night I lived with pain that felt like I was being burned alive. (Being seriously burned  is way worse of an experience and can kill someone. My condition can’t kill me like being burned but it has to do with nerves and feels like a severe burn.) Pain that has at some points provoked me to scream for hours on end til my mouth tasted like blood and I had no more voice. Pain that has possessed me to crack my head against walls. Pain that has influenced me to contemplate ending my life just to make it stop even though I wasn’t depressed at all and was happy just seconds before it hit and shattered my world. After the first head attack finally ended I fell asleep while reading a book about gratitude, and was woken up by another one at 3:30am. I handled it similarly. My hands wrung, fear gripped me tightly, my face and head throbbed but I remained calm and stayed positive. After the headaches ended, I did not feel as traumatized as I usually do after they end. Today I can feel the aftermath but I’m very well. When the headaches do end, often the effects of it still rage inside or linger. It’s like after a heavy and wild storm ends but we can still see or feel the aftermath. Wires and trees knocked down, things thrown about, just a gray lingering. 

The only pain in this life I have felt worse than this is grief (and I have experienced some serious pain, depression, kidney stones, surgery…)when my pets die and when my close human friend, Diane, died, or when I hear of tragic things happening to others or see someone else suffering, human, insect, or animal. This pain is like the physical version of grief. But I feel that it’s more difficult to cope with than grief because it’s physical and demands immediate attention. It’s that same throbbing, unbelievable, unbearable, urgent, “claustrophobic” senation that is a component of grief. 

As soon as my head attack hit, I knew I would share my experience to potentially help, inspire, uplift, console, or even just entertain another. I want to bring hope to anyone suffering or in any kind of pain, whether it’s as bad as I was, not nearly as bad, or way worse. There’s always hope. Life is hope. Just breathe. Keep breathing.

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(i found this wall at 3rd street & girard avenue, here in Philadelphia! Thank you whoever is responsible for this deeply inspiring message! ❤)

When pain or anxiety or fear make it too difficult to keep our positivity, faith, philosophy,meditation or gratitude practice going, that is when we have to push even harder to keep it going strong. That’s when we have to be firm, be tenacious, stand strong against the winds and not be uprooted. This is when we can’t slack or stray. We have to keep going. It’s ok to fall, to scream, to cry, to sob, to relapse but keep getting back up and holding onto that positive philosophy even if the mood isn’t positive and we can’t right now feel it. Keep meditating, keep giving thanks, keep exercising, keep working, writing, running, keep searching for the beauty in the world…whatever it is we do that helps us, keep it up. Keep breathing. ❤😀

“She dropped the phone and burst into tears
The doctor just confirmed her fears
Her husband held it in and held her tight
Cancer don’t discriminate or care if you’re just 38
With three kids who need you in their lives
He said, ‘I know that you’re afraid and I am, too
But you’ll never be alone, I promise you’

When you’re weak, I’ll be strong
When you let go, I’ll hold on
When you need to cry, I swear that I’ll be there to dry your eyes
When you feel lost and scared to death,
Like you can’t take one more step
Just take my hand, together we can do it
I’m gonna love you through it.”

I’m Gonna Love You Through It – Martina McBride – mobile

I’m Gonna Love You Through It – desktop

Much love & light to you, now & always. I’m wishing you the best, cheering you on, loving you through whatever it is and even if it’s nothing. If you are having a happy, pain-free day or life, I’m so happy! May you know inner-peace and joy, always. ❤😍😀

xoxo Kim ❤

Inspiration❤

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This isn’t my photo! Just an inspiring quote I recently discovered! I haven’t been doing much for the last few days except working & meditating (and eating pita bread & hummus! Yum! 😍 ) 

I haven’t even been reading much which is extremely unusual for me! I have been engaging in meditation more instead. My meditations have been deeper and longer and more persistent than they used to be, over an hour for each one. I notice a significant difference each day than when I don’t meditate much. When I don’t meditate for a while, even when I’m very calm and peaceful and not anxious or depressed, I’m not as mindful of my inner peace and it doesn’t feel as deep as when I meditate even just once in the last two days. The feeling of tranquility, inner peace, calm, serenity…, is almost palpable. For me, the effects of meditation last two days. I noticed this because when I meditate just once one day and not again, I still feel the effects two days later, that smoothness, that seemingly indestructible inner calm. Two days later! Imagine the effects of meditating every single day! 😀  I have much experience with meditation but never made it a constant habit. I meditate off and on, stopping for a while then starting up then stopping, then again…which is better than nothing! 😀

I am not someone who experiences much anxiety or sleep problems but after losing my close friend unexpectedly to a heart attack, a year and a half ago, I experience anxiety and a sense of panic (not full blown panic attacks though) in ways I never used to before and I find meditation so very helpful. But we don’t have to have a specific problem or condition for meditation to be helpful. Even if we’re generally, naturally very peaceful and joyful, meditation can still be fantastic.

So I have been on a kind of retreat, not like a trip somewhere but not doing as much as usual (other than working) like reading, social media….

In Buddhism, sometimes we are encouraged to go on a retreat in our minds, even if we have to work. We still go to work and do things we have to but lay off other things for a while, like Internet. It energizes and calms us. This wasn’t my intention now; it just sort of happened that way.

Also, I recently heard on the radio that eating any kind of beans each and every day can add eight years to our life! Hummus is one example the person provided. I love hummus! Lol My mom thinks it sounds like a dirty word. 😂😍

I’ll have to look it up to learn more about that! Very interesting!  Today is the fifth day of my twelve days in a row of work! It’s not so bad. It is a bit busy! ‘Tis the season for ice cream, milkshakes, banana splits….😍

Thank you to everyone who wrote me comments! I will respond soon! I appreciate every comment, like, share…..😍

Much love & light,

Kim ❤

 

 

 

Listen to the Buddha ❤

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(Not my photo but I’m going to make one like it with a pic of the adorable Buddha amulet I recently got in the mail! 😀 )

If you need a reminder to let go whether it’s something trivial like being looked at the wrong way, an annoying person you must deal with, … Or something a bit more serious seeming like unrequited love, traumatic past, loss, anything at all, here it is! Envision yourself breathing in the bright white light of the Buddha, all his unconditional love, indestructible compassion, and deep wisdom and exhaling all of your struggles, pain, fear, anxieties,… In the form of dark smoke leaving your body. This is what we do in meditation class. ❤

Buddha is a very wise man! 😄 😀

Much love & light & inner peace now & forever! 💙

 

Xoxo Kim 💝

 

Mala

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Recently, I got a new Mala!
Isn’t it lovely! 
I really love this one! 

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I don’t really care for the fact that it doesn’t have divider beads though! 😦

Oh well, I still love it!

The kind of red coloring is so pretty!

Malas are Buddhist prayer beads.

They are used for Mantra recitation, to generate positive energy and discipline the mind.

There are various mantras associated with different Buddhas.

It’s believed that when we touch the beads and say/think the mantra, the energy goes onto the Mala. 

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The way I practice Mala recitation is in a secular way, I don’t pray to a Buddha to actually answer me. It’s just a peaceful meditative activity that gets our mind in the habit or more in the habit of positive thinking or a positive, peaceful state.  Even if we are already positive and peaceful, it can help us to be calm even more frequently, even in very stressful, depressing, situations later, even when we are not engaging in recitation.

We don’t have to be Buddhists or religious or any specific kind of spiritual to practice Mala recitation and benefit.

The mantra can be recited once a day or all throughout the day, even walking up a street, at a restaurant, in line at a store…whenever we want, wherever we want(as long as it’s safe/appropriate to be concentrating on it, I don’t know about while driving or performing surgery, in a talk therapy session with a patient…). The point is to truly experience it though, not to absent-mindedly engage in it.

The mantra I chose for this Mala is the

Manjushri Mantra,
Om A Ra Pa Ca Na Dhih

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“This mantra is believed to enhance wisdom and improve one’s skills in debating, memory, writing, and other literary abilities. “Dhīḥ” is the seed syllable of the mantra and is chanted with greater emphasis and also repeated a number of times as a Decrescendo.”

“A leads to the insight that the essence of all things is unproduced.
RA leads to the insight that all things are pure and free of defilements.
PA leads to the insight that all dharmas have been “expounded in the ultimate sense.”
CA leads to the insight that the arising and ceasing of things cannot be apprehended because in reality there is no arising or ceasing.
NA leads to the insight that although the names for things change the nature of things behind their names cannot be gained or lost.”

Source: http://www.wildmind.org/mantras/figures/manjushri

Manjushri is a bodhisattva, depicted as a beautiful young prince of transcendent wisdom.

You can hear the mantra said over and over here (mobile) or here (desktop)... It’s so soothing.

Malas typically are strung with 108 beads and divider beads. A mantra session can be performed for all 108 beads at once or less. It’s believed by Buddhists that the energy for the mantra goes on the beads and each recitation session adds more energy. If a different mantra is used for the same Mala, the energy for the previous mantra clears and the new energy goes on. 

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I have five Malas.
I’m not yet in the habit of practicing everyday though like some who are very dedicated.
It can be overwhelming until we truly ingrain the habit.

People who have practiced for many years with the same Mala, often take great care not to have their Mala lost or damaged because there goes all that positive energy, years worth, down the drain! 

But Buddhism/Mala recitation  is all about inner  peace, and all those years of Mala recitation, hopefully, provides them with the strength to handle such misfortune. 

If you want to see about various mantras, check this out!
http://www.thebuddhacenter.org/buddhism/mantras/ 

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If you aren’t into Mala recitation and mantras, this is probably a boring post for you. 

And I love to mostly share things that can be appealing to people in general. 

Unlike what many people say about themselves and their blogs, I don’t mostly post for myself. I do post things for me but my main intention is to help uplift & inspire  others who may come across my content now or later. It will always be here (hopefully!)!
Of course everything I post is something I want to share so in that way it is for me. 

Even if I wanted to post something I thought no one else would care for, I still would post it. I already have but most of it got “likes” anyway! I’m so honored when people like my content.

But I always want to include something that may be more interesting to others.  

So if you opened this post and couldn’t care less, you’re in luck! Lol

Because I will share some fantastic quotes here as well! 

“My life has no purpose, no direction, no aim, no meaning, and yet I’m happy. I can’t figure it out. What am I doing right?” ~
Charles M. Schulz

Lol I feel this way often, like I have no specific purpose, but not in a bad way, no need for a purpose, my purpose is just to be. It’s beautiful to feel that way. When I’m depressed sometimes I feel the opposite about it, like I have no purpose and it sucks! Lol It’s all about the attitude! 

“The universe was a vast machine yesterday, it is a hologram today. Who knows that intellectual rattle we’ll be shaking tomorrow. ” ~ R.D. Laing

“A rose is a rose is a rose.” ~ Gertrude Stein

Whaaattt??? Lol 😉

“The present moment is a powerful goddess.” ~ Goethe

“Life is a child playing around your feet, a tool you hold firmly in your grip, a bench you sit down upon in the evening, in your garden.” ~ Jean Anouilh

“The man bent over his guitar,
A shearsman  of sorts. The day was green.
They said, ‘You have a blue guitar,
You do not play things as they are.’
The man replied, ‘Things as they are 
Are changed upon a blue guitar…'” ~ Wallace Stevens 

Such deep wisdom here. 

“Wind moving through grass so that the grass quivers. This moves me with an emotion I don’t even understand.” ~ Katherine Mansfield

This is one of the most beautiful experiences in the world! To witness something so mundane and so simple and be so inspired, filled with immense emotion that can’t even be described, like gratitude, love, beauty, happiness, joy, awe…I feel this often! ❤

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"No snowflake falls in an inappropriate place." ~ Zen saying 

"There is nothing useless in nature; not even uselessness itself." ~ Montaigne

"To the dull mind nature is leaden. To the illuminated mind the whole world burns and sparkles with light." ~ Emerson

Oh yes, it burns and sparkles with passion, light, love….

"Do not seek to follow in the footsteps of the men of old; seek what they sought." ~ Basho

Allow their wisdom to guide us but follow our own way.

"If we achieve satori and the satori shows, like a bit of dogshit stuck on the tip of our nose, that is not so good." ~ Taisen Deshimaru

Lol Don't flaunt that shit! Be humble. Just be.
;-D

So reading this post wasn't a total waste, right?…right?! 

😉

Much love & light to you! 

Xoxo Kim 

Retreat

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“There is no need to run outside
For better seeing,…
…Rather abide  
At the center of your being;
For the more you leave it, the less you learn.
Search your heart and see

The way to do is to be.” ~ Lao Tzu

I love this thought provoking quote!
(I think that irony inheres in certain quotes such as this one which is thought-provoking but about not thinking, not doing, not explaining, just being.)
Sometimes all we have to do is seek within, to the stillness and quiet at our center, deep inside, to find answers, to experience serenity and calm, to experience joy, wisdom, and peace. 

It dwells in your core even when you can’t feel it. It can be discovered.

I noticed that the more I meditate, the less I care about certain (often trivial) problems and the better I handle them. Even when I go days/weeks without meditation, the first day I begin again to meditate, I experience more calmness and if I’m depressed the night that I meditate, I often wake up with a sense of happiness and hope. Meditation really has an amazingly positive effect on the brain chemistry and a beautiful psychological effect.

Meditation doesn’t even have to be a deep guided meditation or a long meditation session. It can be just five minutes of sitting in a quiet place, eyes closed, wordless and gentle music as you focus on your breath. Your mind will wander and thoughts will take over. Wandering and thinking is the nature of the human mind. And that’s ok. Just gently bring it back to your breath and the sensations in your body. That’s a very simple meditative practice. You don’t have to know anything about meditation to engage in it. It doesn’t have to be scheduled or planned. It can be during your lunch break in your office, in your bed at night before sleep, when you wake up in the morning, anywhere….not driving though, obviously! lol Or in any other situation that would render it dangerous. 

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If we take a few moments each day to just BE, it can help greatly in situations that are distressing, even if we don’t realize right away.

Often, we are so wrapped up in doing, solving, working, worrying, planning, scheduling, explaining, thinking, wondering….that we forget just being.  

I hope you will take a few minutes to connect with your inner being and forget the world for a while. I’m wishing you much love and peace and happiness! ❤

Xoxo Kim

P.s. Thank You so much to the people who wrote me comments/messages!! I will get back to you very soon!! ❤ ❤

Offering the Victory – Universal Love <3

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“May I take defeat upon myself 
And offer them the victory”

Hello loves! ❤

I hope you’re having a beautiful day!

On Valentine’s Day this year I attended a Love retreat at a Buddhist Center here in Philadelphia. It was a series of four classes on Love, each class was 45 minutes long, a lecture and meditation on Love, compassion, and kindness. Universal Love was the topic; universal love is all encompassing love. Completely unconditional love. Love for our friends, family, pets, strangers,insects, rodents, flowers, all sentient beings,  enemies, assholes, difficult people…Love for everyone. Love can be an affective feeling, a warm, positive feeling for someone but it’s also just a selfless, genuine wish for someone else to be happy With or without us, even if that someone is a person we view as a difficult person who we don’t have a warm affection for or a positive opinion of. That’s universal love, a wish for everyone to be happy no matter what. We can still want people to be happy and well (in a way that is not at the expense of others in a negative way) even if we don’t like them. It’s not always easy. It can be extremely difficult. It may take much work, thought, reflection, practice, and meditation to get to that point that we generally want even people we don’t like or ones we’re angry at, even difficult people who want nothing more than to see us fall, to be happy. But it can be done. Sometimes those thoughts and feelings may come very easily to us but sometimes we really have to try hard.

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Eventually it can become our general way of life. There may be setbacks, relapses, occasions now and then we want nothing more than to tell someone off, yell at someone, seek revenge, give someone a disgusted look to get a subtle point across without being too dramatic, or just hope bad things in our heads…but generally, with practice, we can cultivate an attitude of Universal Love. 

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The Love we were lectured on and meditated upon is completely, pure, raw, selfless Love. Ultimate, unconditional Love. With absolutely no expectations of anything in return.

Even when someone else is being selfish, unkind, uncaring, rude, vicious…we can genuinely wish that person the best whether out loud or just in our heads, speak with a calm tone, be kind. Sometimes it’s easy and sometimes it seems near impossible but with practice, it can be our Way.

And even if we choose to terminate a relationship with someone, it can be in a positive/productive way. We can lovingly let go, end on positive terms even if that person is not being loving or positive. On our part, it can be loving. 

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Some of the life lessons we learned during the retreat are:

1.) Offering the Victory and accepting defeat upon ourself (“ourself” as opposed to “ourselves” means people in general, like universally, as opposed to a specific group of multiple people such as a specific family or room full of people…- I just learned this! Lol :-O) even when we know we’re right and others are wrong, to be completely selfless and let go of self cherishing – self cherishing in this case means putting ourself, our own needs and desires(even seemingly reasonable needs and desires) above others.  Sometimes we know for a fact that someone else is wrong and being selfish, rude, unkind and we may have the urge to lash out, argue, be defensive, be rude back, give someone a dirty look or just think negatively in our heads…but it’s possible to get into the habit of offering those people the victory, show them love, let them be “right,” maybe even say sorry just to keep the peace and love around us. Not out of fear of confrontation or what they’ll think of or do to us if we don’t give in, or low self esteem or being weak or fake, but out of love, a genuine desire to make the world a better, more loving place. It takes a certain kind of strength to do this but it’s very worth it. It’s more important to be loving than to be right. 

It’s so tempting to meet someone’s negativity and rudeness with our own negativity and being rude back. It’s often temporarily satisfying to put people in their place or curse them in our heads or out loud but it accomplishes nothing in the long run. It just puts negative energy out into a world where there’s already enough. 

It’s important to keep in mind that just because you do, say, think selfish things does not make you a bad or even necessarily a selfish person. And it’s something that can be changed if you want to change it. If not, that’s ok too. The teachers of universal compassion and love and selflessness, Buddhists, and monks are not being negatively judgmental just as I am not being judgmental. Universal Love is about acceptance, even acceptance of people who are not being loving and people with drastically different views than our own, opposing views, polar opposite views. Some views and religions are incompatible with one another but the people who hold those views do not have to be incompatible with each other.  

We can not agree with people, not like what they think or do but still love them and show compassion and kindness.  

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I’m putting this into practice more and more each day. I’m not perfect at it. Sometimes it’s so hard. Every single day I am faced with a situation, as are most of us probably, whether very trivial or more serious, where I can choose to put my own needs above someone else’s or accuse someone of being wrong. Sometimes the person really is wrong, sometimes it’s me who is really wrong, but no matter which of us is, I make it my ultimate goal to lovingly accept the defeat upon myself and offer the victory, each day.  

On many occasions, it’s hard and some occasions I suck at it and act selfishly, some moments I give into selfishness knowing I’m acting selfishly, other occasions I’m not aware right away that I’m being selfish, but on others it’s much easier. And the more I practice, the easier it becomes. I’m still not perfect at it, I may never be. But my ultimate intention is pure. 

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For many people it’s difficult accepting defeat or admitting they’re wrong even when they are, so imagine how difficult it is accepting defeat, apologizing, letting others be “right” when you know you are right or they are definitely wrong, especially when they’re being rude and negative.  But it makes the world a better place. Imagine if we all, or even just many of us choose to accept defeat upon ourself and let them be right whether or not they really are! The world would be so loving! Totally worth it! And our actions and love will likely inspire others to become more loving. 

But it’s important to not let it wear you out, always letting yourself be defeated and others be right. You have to get your mind in the right state, train it to happily, lovingly accept defeat upon yourself and offer them the victory. Many people complain that they put others first constantly and it takes a toll on them, that they don’t get credit for the positive things they do, that they get walked all over, taken advantage of, give too much, are too kind and want to stop being so kind to those who “don’t deserve it….”

But that’s because they aren’t properly training their mind to do all this with no expectations in return, in a completely selfless way. They are being loving and kind but still expecting something of others or the world, that they aren’t getting, in return. They expect others to be sweet and friendly and helpful just because they are that way. But the world doesn’t work that way. And when their own loving compassion isn’t met with the compassion of others, they feel cheated, worn out, broken, like it’s unfair. But universal love, accepting defeat and offering the victory is about being loving, compassionate, and kind irrespective of whether we receive that in return. Love to love, not to be loved. It’s fantastic to be loved. But being loved isn’t the goal, the goal is to love. Whether the love is returned or not. To love is more important than to be loved. The solution isn’t to stop loving or caring for those who “don’t deserve it” but to build up our minds so we are not buffeted by the unpleasant circumstances we are in sometimes or the negativity of others. 

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To accomplish this, we have to meditate, reflect, practice and get to the point where we can give, give, give, get nothing out of it, be kind and not receive kindness in return, but still not feel worn out and wronged. Instead we feel even more energized and exhilarated. And even if we don’t receive the love and kindness of others, our own love we unleash onto the world and in our own minds is enough.

Again, we love to love, not to be loved. For this to become our Way and not just happen occasionally, it takes a certain kind of meditation. It must be done properly to be effective and not mess up our minds. I’m going to share the information for the book on training the mind in this here post, later towards the end. I’m nowhere near qualified to teach people to train their minds and that’s not what I’m doing here. Not only am I not a teacher, I myself do not yet have my mind trained much. So I’m in no position to teach others. I’m in the process of training my mind, which unless I attain full enlightenment, will be an ongoing process. But even short of reaching full enlightenment, it is extremely beneficial to just reach some stages. I’m just giving suggestions and sharing my own stories and struggles and experiences. 

Sometimes I am so tempted to “self cherish” and want what I want above what someone else wants. Even “reasonable” selfishness is good to avoid.
 
Here is a real life example when I was so so so tempted to self cherish and be selfish and put my desires or needs above someone else’s. But I chose to offer the victory instead. 

Recently I was at home one night, on a wonderful cold, frigid, Winter night in Philadelphia, drinking hot tea, in my pink winter pj’s, warm on the sofa with a snowstorm going outside, all warm and cozy and sweet. I was sickly and in pain in my right kidney – something that happens quite frequently. I’m prone to kidney stones and what I think are (mild) infections.  But I was very content. My sister decided she wanted to go out for ice cream. I really did not want to but my sister wanted me to go. I was tempted to say no. To say I’m in my pj’s, in pain, I’m not going out. But I kept in mind the teachings of the Buddhist classes I been attending and my desire to more frequently put others first. I was never a horribly selfish girl, even before the classes and my interest in Buddhism, I often selflessly put others first, changing my plans, willingly putting myself out to the point I have been called a “fool” and “pushover” and other insults on multiple occasions by multiple people,  but who isn’t selfish every now and then? Especially when others are wrong or rude or selfish? We often react similarly to that person, reacting with less than kindness or putting our desires first even if we are usually very kind and selfless. So I said ok I’ll go. 

And at first I really wasn’t happy about it, I was reluctant. But determined to “fake it til I make it.” Keep practicing doing what I don’t want to do as long as it’s making others happy.
Not to be “a fake” but to practice acting more selfless to feel more selfless. To BE more selfless. Even if you aren’t happy putting yourself out to help someone else, as long as you aren’t helping just to get something in return, like a positive reputation or favor in return, you are still being selfless if it’s purely to help others be happy and help make the world a better place. There’s nothing wrong with feeling a bit disappointed once in a while. The fact that you put your own needs last even when it’s reluctant indicates that you are being selfless. Even though you are disappointed for you, you are still happy for others.

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 I want to help people be happy. Even if it means not getting what I want in other ways. Just helping others be happy so often helps me be happy even when I’m not getting my own way and am disappointed about it. But sometimes it’s harder to be happy when I’m not getting my own way. But I’m trying to be better.  

I had to go to CVS to get a picture enlarged to give my friends of us in New York City together. We went for a fun trip a couple years ago and I bought the large photo. They did not want to spend the money. So they got pocket size ones. I got the larger one but lost it the next day. The other day I found the pocket size one I had and decided to get it enlarged as a gift for each of my friends. So I decided after getting ice cream with my little sister, we would go to CVS. And my sister said no! She said no! She wanted to just get ice cream and come home! I felt a pang of anger surge through me. I was so tempted to say “fucking seriously?! I’m agreeing to go out in a snow storm sick and in pain, getting all dressed for you and you can’t stop at CVS with me for two minutes just to scan a picture?!” I opened my mouth to speak then held my tongue. 

That’s not the kind of woman I want to be. I want to help others even when they are not being very agreeable, even when they’re being selfish and unreasonable. If I would have said what I wanted to, that wouldn’t be terribly selfish. It’s actually quite reasonable. I was doing her a favor and it would have took less than 5 minutes to stop at CVS. But she did not want to do me the favor, stopping there with me. Even though it was reasonable selfishness it was still selfishness, self cherishing. Putting what I wanted (going to cvs) over what my sister wanted (just coming home). And I still don’t believe I would have been wrong to respond saying I really want to go to cvs. 

And I wouldn’t negatively judge others who would say that. But I want to become completely selfless (like the Buddha) and always put others first but still being peaceful in my mind. I want to be this way because I want people to be happy, even those acting unkindly and selfishly, even ones who don’t return the favor. And I want the world to be better. 
Even though this is, generally, my ultimate goal and truest desire, on certain occasions, it’s hard to live up to, difficult to not get caught up in the negativity or emotions of that specific occasion. It takes practice. 

After I held my tongue I was still pissed. But I saw it as practice to become better and better. And I took advantage of this wonderful opportunity to practice. I thought about the Buddha’s teachings and the monk’s lessons in our classes and my meditations and the woman I aspire to be. And my anger eventually melted away. Even though I was still resentful for a while, at least the environment was still more peaceful and my sister was happy and everyone was happy. If I would have spoken up, expressed my displeasure, it may have relieved my own anger or annoyance a bit but she would have become infuriated or devastated (she’s very sensitive).

So holding my tongue was good even though I did not get what I wanted. And in the end, all the things I want won’t bring me as much peace and happiness as a peaceful, compassionate, selfless mind that puts others (family, friends, strangers, difficult people, even assholes….) first. My meditation and teachings help me so I can put everyone else first but not feel lowered, degraded, worn out. It’s a journey, a process, it will not always come easily. I will always have selfish intentions now and then but I will become a more selfless being with practice. Like I said, I have never been extremely selfish. But like many or most of us, I want what I want occasionally and I think it’s more important than what someone else wants sometimes and I try justify it by showing how it really is more important….but I intend to becomes less and less that way. I offered my sister the victory. I accepted defeat upon myself. 

I’m not bragging. I’m using my own real example because I believe when people are open and honest and share their own stories, they are easier to take seriously. If I’m going to preach or give suggestions, it’s good to use a real experience of my own, right?  And a genuine example, if I have one, is often better than an imaginary one I can make up in my head. 

You can practice Love and selflessness every single day in very simple but significant ways. For example, when you’re walking in back of slowpokes, instead of thinking unpleasant thoughts like “I wish these people would just move already!, How selfish walking so slow when they know people are in back of them!,  Assholes!” 

I’m not innocent of these thoughts occasionally. I thought all of them at some points. 
And actually during one of the breaks the very day of the retreat I found myself almost late for one of the classes in back of very slow people thinking “Move! Move! Move! I’m about to be late!” and not in a pleasant way. Lol And I caught myself and realized the irony of it.

We can instead think “I wish these people well, I hope they’re happy or become happy, I wish them health, joy, friendship, love…” it puts positive energy into the world and if nothing else, it gets you in a positive, loving habit and then you begin to act more lovingly also,  unconsciously and consciously. 

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The Buddhist monk teaching our class most weeks, and the retreat, gave an example of someone going to Starbucks and asking for a latte and thinking how slow the worker is being and thinking “just hurry up with my coffee!” but instead we can think “Yeah! Pump it up! I hope he’s having fun pumping my coffee!” lol! Everyone burst out laughing! It’s funny but it’s true! Let’s hope the workers are having fun or are peaceful and happy or at the very least, not suffering.

And when our pet chews the sofa or our shoes, think how much we love him/her instead of being destructively furious. It can be so hard but with practice, it’s possible.  

For many of us, no matter how loving and positive we are even to strangers, we probably almost never even think to hope the person making our coffee is feeling happy pumping the coffee, or the person who cuts us off in traffic is well, or the pizza delivery man is healthy, or the person who writes us an incredibly rude comment online feels loved today and always….those are incredibly small (but significant) things we completely do not think to do no matter how loving we generally are. But they help significantly. Us and everyone around us.

Soon we begin to exude love and compassion and positivity.

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Outside the Buddhist Center, after the classes, I saw a man crossing the street, walking a dog, and he was almost ran over by another man in a car. I don’t know which one was in the wrong, I wasn’t paying attention, but they both did not handle it well. The one man beeped the horn much longer than necessary. The one man yelled “watch where you’re going asshole!” and the other yelled “suck it you fucking asshole!” and the other responded “not on your life, asshole!”. And they both gave each other vicious looks and the one walking with the dog flipped the one in the car off. I couldn’t stop laughing because first of all, again with the irony, outside a Buddhist Center where they preach nothing but Love and on the day of a Universal love retreat! And because how they both just kept yelling “asshole!”

Lol I probably shouldn’t be so amused but I am! 
  
2.) Mindfully focusing on all the kindness and love we have been shown since we came into the world, the love and kindness shown by family, friends, teachers, animals, strangers…

We are alive today and much of where we are is because of the love and kindness of others either directly targeted at us or indirectly. Since we came into the world we have been shown kindness and love. Even in the simplest, smallest ways but are still significant.

The doctors and others who took care of you and your birth mother before you were born,  took care of you and your unborn children, your family who kept you alive and safe, your friends you had in and out of school growing up, who taught you things, your teachers, professors, instructors, the law enforcement officers who keep our communities safer, the people who grow/make our food, doctors and nurses, cashiers in stores, government workers, janitors who keep our buildings clean, fast food workers who serve us, strangers who showed us random acts of kindness throughout the years…

During the meditation, I was surprised at the emotions that welled up in me when we were meditating on this concept. While I felt warmth, love, gratitude, joy, happiness, inspiration, awe, I also experienced guilt, contrition, awkwardness, sadness, embarrassment, grief  about all I have been overlooking all these years, completely disregarding. As grateful and reflective as I often am, I still overlook, ignore, close my eyes to so much.  But this retreat awakened me even more.

 At some points during the meditation, it was difficult to focus, too painful, too awkward, too uncomfortable ,at some points, I felt so small,  but I once read that the best teachers bring us to ruin, instead of having his/her students clapping and cheering, s/he has them in silent awe, mouths gaping open in disbelief, astonishment, heads held low in embarrassment, remorse, guilt at all they have been ignorant of. These aren’t the words that I read but the same concept. I’m paraphrasing, capturing the sentiment. And it’s what I felt during the classes. 

I invite you to try this activity. Just sit or lay in a quiet place or listen to some gentle, wordless, music and reflect on and feel gratitude for all those who have shown you kindness and love, even the ones you never met, the people who grow/make the food to be sold in 
stores, your family and all the things they have done for you through the years, your friends, acquaintances, pets, neighbors, strangers you remember who showed you love in some way, the doctor who was your biological mom’s when she was pregnant with you, the persons who safely delivered or assisted in delivering you when you were born, your ancestors who all led to you, singers, celebrities who inspire you, all of the people in this life who help you or have helped you in any way no matter how seemingly simple or small.

We are also encouraged to think of and give thanks for those we haven’t yet met but will meet in the future. Future best friends, coworkers, family members, future children, strangers we’ll meet at a Busstop, walking up the street, a new neighbor who may move in near you and become like family to you, the employees in restaurants and cafes we will go to, future lover/s, there are infinite opportunities waiting to unfold for us to meet various kinds of beautiful people.  And experience many more beautiful things. This brought and still brings me so much hope. To think of all those people and all those experiences and opportunities that are still to come to me, tomorrow, next year, in twenty years and more….

Think of and give thanks for all these people and animal friends and experiences who bless and will bless your life.

And let us give thanks for all our blessings.

Also let’s remember to accept defeat upon ourself and offer the victory to them. Even when we know without a doubt that we are right and they are wrong. Love is more important than being right.

You may think “why should *I* be the one to give in?” We have control over our own selves, not others. It’s up to them to decide what to be and up to each one of us to decide for ourself. 
I hope you choose to be all that you can be in each moment. You probably won’t always live up to that goal but on many occasions you will and that’s fantastic. 

We will have setbacks and succumb to selfish ways again and again. We will expect things that others will not do for us, we will cherish ourself and ignore the needs and desires of others, we will be ungrateful, angry, and negative sometimes because we are not fully enlightened. And that’s ok. We can just be as loving as we can and when we fall, gently remind ourself that love is the Way. 

When we keep putting others first over and over and being kind to people being rude, we will very likely still feel annoyed or angry even if we don’t act on it. That’s ok. Eventually we will be better and better at putting others always first while still feeling happy and pleasant about it. 

3.) And remember to view each unpleasant encounter with someone as an opportunity to practice becoming more loving, more patient. It’s a habit that must be maintained to keep it going. It’s an ongoing journey. Practice, practice, practice. Challenging encounters are a good thing.

“No one ever learns to be a great driver by just driving upon a straight road.”

4.) “It is like a diamond, like the sun, and like a medicinal tree.”

That is to say that when we train our minds by following the instructions of Geshe Chekhawa’s text on being more compassionate, loving, kind, meditative, offering the victory, accepting defeat, any little thing we do is good. Even if it’s just a sliver of what he teaches. When a diamond is cut into little pieces, every fragment, even the most microscopic piece, is extremely valuable. Geshe Chekhawa’s text is best when practiced as a whole, but like a broken diamond, even the smallest part is extremely valuable. Priceless are his teachings, even when only part is followed. Sunlight completely dispels all darkness but even just a few beams of golden sun provide some light. If we practice his full text, we completely dispel all of our darkness of ignorance but just engaging in some parts of the practice is incredible. Even just one moment you choose kindness as opposed to lashing out, it is like a beam of sun. Beautiful. 
And just as every part of a medicinal tree (roots, trunk, branches, leaves, flowers, and fruit) provides medicine, so every part of the instructions on training the mind provide insight, relief, invaluable information to us.
Every word of his is infinite wisdom. 

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And you don’t have to be a Buddhist or plan on becoming one to incorporate some Buddhist views such as these, into your world. Even if you have another religion, universal love is compatible with it. 

I purchased a book at the retreat called “Universal Compassion” by Geshe Kelsang Gyatso, who is the teacher of the monk who teaches our class. I love his books and have many. This is the book I mentioned above on training the mind to be completely selfless but still completely happy and peaceful in general. It is a beautiful and practical book that helps us train our brains to be all that we can be. 
 Geshe Chekhawa’s teachings are mentioned there. It’s based on his wisdom. 

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These are just some of the things I learned during the retreat and practice, meditate upon  in class every week and at home during my meditations and everywhere I go. I’m so thankful I attended and have awakened to so much wisdom and experienced amazing things during meditation and lectures. It’s amazing to be surrounded by people who have similar goals and interests as me. I hope I can remember and share bits of wisdom I learn each week/day and share it along with my own experiences and struggles, to help others.  

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Links on Metta(universal love):

http://www.buddhanet.net/metta_in.htm

http://www.wildmind.org/metta/introduction/what-is-metta

Lovingkindness meditation: 

Desktop:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sz7cpV7ERsM&app=desktop

Mobile:

http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=sz7cpV7ERsM&app=m&persist_app=1

This page, below, has free mp3’s for songs and meditations/guided meditations about love & compassion.
 
http://www.buddhanet.net/audio-library.htm

May you be well.
May you be happy. 
May you be peaceful.
May you be loved.

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Xoxo Kim ❤ ❤

On Empathy

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“Could a greater miracle take place than for us to look through each other’s eyes for an instant?” ~ Henry David Thoreau ❤

I have thin, super thin, psychological boundaries but I have learned to handle it well and I see it as a true gift and pure strength. Thin psychological boundaries means I often have difficulty emotionally separating myself and others. When someone suffers either physically or emotionally or experiences pleasure or joy, I feel almost as if it’s happening to me. It literally hurts me, even physically when someone else hurts. And elates me or fills me with sheer joy when someone else is thrilled or elated.  Even if the person isn’t someone I like much or someone I don’t know or even on TV or a fictional character in a book. 

One day a psychic program on TV was on in my house.  I don’t believe in psychic abilities or that psychics are real but it can still be interesting. 
I was sitting on the sofa while it was on and saw parts of it. 
The psychic lady said a lady’s neck was snapped by a murderer in some room in a house somewhere that the psychic lady was standing in and the psychic lady got all worked up saying she has to get out of there because she was so disturbed over what she “saw” and she said she “saw” marks on this lady’s neck and she was holding her own neck and my neck started throbbing and felt all bruised and my head and face started throbbing on the one side, the side where I usually have the cluster-like headaches, and I was holding it the rest of the day off and on! And I felt the dead lady’s neck injury and the psychic’s emotional distress all day. I know it was “empathy pain,” not really something wrong with my neck. Not an actual headache. I was still happy that day, it doesn’t usually overly interfere with my own life.  And I don’t believe what the psychic lady was saying but I believe she may have believed it. Or believed it to some extent. Or is great at acting.

 I felt so connected to that psychic lady, deeply connected. Both of us did not have a neck injury at all but both of us experienced both physical sensation and emotional distress over someone else’s painful situation. I often get “empathy headaches” when someone has a headache. I usually keep it to myself so as not to or appear to be taking the attention or sympathy off of the true sufferer. 
 
There have been occasions I was so overwhelmed over someone else’s pain or sickness I succumbed to my bed for an hour or more. I can handle emotional pain better than serious physical pain so it’s often the physical pain that overwhelms me more when someone else experiences it. Both kinds of pain can be just as bad and painful, it’s just that severe physical pain is more difficult to me. 

It’s ridiculous and a bit uncalled for to have empathy to this extreme. I can still be empathetic without going to this extreme but it’s not my choice. I don’t have it like some people are said to have to the point they’re almost “psychic” like they feel an overwhelming sense of dread then something terrible happens. Or their chest hurts then someone in the room has a heart attack. It’s just when someone is already suffering that I see of or read/hear about, I feel it too. 

Also, unlike with some people similar to me in this way, such as my sister, I don’t feel overwhelmed in crowded places or have to retreat to a place of being physically alone to “recharge” or recover. I can handle crowded places and various people all around me. In fact, I usually prefer it to being alone. I am an extrovert even though I’m very shy around people I don’t know or don’t know well. And I can be around many people and not have to come home and rest afterwards.  I feel energized and uplifted in a room full of people, even if I don’t interact with them in anyway.  Just being physically near people lifts me.

I used to see my extreme empathy as a blessing as well as a curse but now I just view it as a gift. While it can be exhausting, annoying, ridiculous, painful, feeling as One with others can’t be a “curse.”

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I can usually sense people’s true emotions even when they are lying or pretending. I usually catch micro-expressions (the split second facial expression people reveal right before they show a different one – it’s the true feeling before they pretend to feel something else or try to cover it up. If they are angry, for example, anger will briefly flash across the face before they put on a fake smile) easily and can often sense people’s anxiety, elation, or anticipation. Sometimes when one person in a crowded room is extremely anxious I pick up on it even if I don’t know which one it is. I can often sense the overall mood in a room full of people. Whether most people are happy, thrilled, anxious, in a hurry, gloomy….not just see it on their faces but actually feel/sense the energy. 

I also understand situations really well even if I’m not involved or never have been. I can just clearly imagine things happening and why. I have a deep understanding.

I think authors of fiction books need a very developed empathetic ability. I’m not talking about being caring and compassionate but a deep, thorough understanding of how situations work even if they never been in a similar one. An incredibly deep imagination. They have to get in the heads of various kinds of people, even people who are so very unlike themselves, to bring their characters to life if they want them to be of substance, realistic, well developed, and believable. They have to imagine, deeply, how certain situations play out and conjure up the emotions of those who would be in those situations even if they themselves were never in those situations. They have to put themselves in that place. It’s absolutely amazing the skills fiction writers have! I love it! 

It seems that we often overlook their incredible empathy. We often acknowledge their incredible writing skills and even their amazing intelligence, maybe even the fantastic research they had to do for the book’s theme, but look at that empathy! They can write an entire book as if they are that character or in the character’s head! Mind blowing! I don’t see/hear people praising this enough! It’s the same for actors who have to play characters and not just act, but feel, literally (mentally)  become a whole other person! Incredible! 

Empathy. 

 It runs deeper than just caring and compassion. Someone can still be caring and compassionate but not really *feel* or understand someone else’s situation.

And someone can experience a kind of empathy but not feel concern or compassion. For example: I feel the pain of others even just watching movies that aren’t real. There are scenes in movies where a “bad” character is getting hurt like getting hit over the head or something by someone trying to protect themselves or others and I felt like my own body was being hit even when I wasn’t feeling much compassion for the character, even when I was happy when a character was getting revenge.
I have experienced empathy without compassion and compassion without empathy. They often go together but not always.

There are occasions I was empathetic and understanding enough to know something I wanted to say or write to someone would emotionally hurt or infuriate  that person and I said or wrote it to intentionally inflict pain or anger upon the person out of my own anger. I was empathetic in some way but not very compassionate in those moments. My empathy led me to know to some degree how the person would feel and I wanted the person to feel anger or sadness or pain. This isn’t usually a good thing and I think empathy is better used to help heal, not hurt. We also need compassion. 

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Most people have a basic ability to experience empathy; it’s a natural human trait we have that develops as we are growing up. It’s related to compassion. Certain experiences can deepen some people’s empathy. Some are naturally more in touch with theirs than others. And we can learn to deepen our basic empathy into something more. Paying more attention to people and all sentient beings, tuning into our own emotions, drawing on our own various experiences, meditation, trying to better understand, imagining what it must be like to experience something, focusing on the fact that when we suffer or hurt it’s a similar feeling to what others feel when they suffer and hurt…

Empathy isn’t just feeling someone else’s pain but also experiencing another’s joy, happiness, and pleasure.

I have known people who won the lottery, like 100 or 1000 dollars, and I felt like I just won. When I hear of someone getting a new job, job promotion, getting married or engaged, having or adopting a child, getting ready for vacation, I feel it too. The thrill, the anxiety, the anticipation, the sheer joy, the love. I can’t be feeling it exactly how they are as I have my own body and mind/mental/emotional experiences. But I can strongly and deeply sense it.

There’s a definite and deep connection. 

It’s hard for me to get jealous (although I have experienced jealousy and probably will again) of people when great things happen to them when I can bask in the joy and beauty of their experiences almost as if it’s my own. When one person wins, we all win.

I think about things like this often and was recently thinking about it again when I saw the news at work. 

It was startling to see on the news that in some countries people are dying of infectious diseases in the streets.  When they are sick or injured they are left for dead. 

One man of an African country, the man who inspired me to write this post here, was shown on the news laying outside dying of an infectious disease. He was writhing in pain and sickness and laying in a puddle of his own blood, a result of the disease’s progression. 

There were people standing around watching, sure to keep their distance so as not to contract the disease themselves. And then there was the person filming the horror. 

Some moments my empathy or feeling of connectedness is deeper and some moments I don’t feel as connected to what is before me.

The moment I saw the sick, dying man in excruciating pain and sickness, I felt more connected. I felt it with my whole body. A longing to take all the sick, hurting, dying people in my arms so they can feel my touch before they go or before they heal. So they can know someone cares, even if I contract the disease myself. What I felt was both empathy and compassion, a perfect combination. Empathy can inspire greater compassion. 

Imagine laying sick and in pain while people surround you at a safe distance and watch, you’re still so alone. No one will touch you. No one is coming for you, until after you die, to remove your infected, contagious body. Imagine them all staring at you, fear in their eyes, utter helplessness. For some of them, all they can probably think is that they’re glad it isn’t them. Truly, deeply imagine. 

But I felt an instant connection to a stranger across the world, briefly flashing across a TV screen. Someone of a different language, a different country, a different nationality, different culture, skin color, ethnicity.

I have never been deathly ill or left for dead. I never been to his country but still I know that underneath we’re the same.

Strip away all the outer layers of culture and language and color of skin, distance, financial status, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, and other experiences and underneath at a most basic, primitive level, we are One.

Our basic humanness exists the same underneath no matter the color of our skin, our level of education, career labels, class status, our location in the world, financial situations, our various experiences…..these things are important in some contexts, they contribute to different experiences and struggles for different people and it’s not always good or wise to overlook them, it’s important to acknowledge their circumstances(skin color, country, ethnicity, status in other contexts…) so we can get a better idea of their struggles and pain that may be different than our own, but in some cases they are completely irrelevant. Like in the case of raw pleasure and pain, sickness and health, living and dying. 

I’m not advocating for general “color blindness” or anything of that sort, like saying we should all literally ignore our differences such as skin color or class status. That isn’t good either because then we overlook the unique experiences and struggles that someone in a different situation than us may have. 

If we mentally block out or ignore the color of someone’s skin, ethnicity, or other factors or characteristics that are different than ours, in the name of compassion or “all getting along” then we automatically mentally block out or ignore the struggles that come along with those factors or characteristics.
People who say things like “I only have one race, the human race” or “forget skin color, we’re all human or all bleed red and that’s all that matters…” or something like that, probably have very good, loving, intentions but promoting that and living that way is NOT helpful. 
Ignorance in this way, is NOT helpful or wise or a good thing. 
This can contribute to lack of empathy and understanding of people’s situations pertaining to their own circumstances different than ours. 
It’s ok, even necessary to acknowledge diversity but accept it. But in some cases differences are irrelevant. 

Any one of us can be in the position that sick and dying man was in, our country and our money and our education or language or ethnicity won’t definitely protect us against diseases or death. For some people, truly understanding and realizing this in their heads, can deepen their empathy and compassion for others. And it’s just as bad when it’s someone else as if it were myself or someone I know. Just because I don’t know him doesn’t mean he’s a less important person than someone I do know. Or less important than me. It doesn’t mean it’s good to just go my own way ignoring his suffering. 

Some people are more at risk than others because of their location or discrimination they encounter and some have access to better health care but none of us are immune to suffering or pain and dying of disease or injury. And none of us are immune to being targets of cruelty or the indifference of others against our suffering or pain or sickness. 

Another thing I saw recently that disturbed and actually offended me(and I’m not easily offended at all) is people getting all happy over some podcast about *real* murder victims. They were talking about how thrilling it is to watch or listen, how they can’t wait for the next ones, how it’s so exciting, how fascinating! Not once did I see any one of these people expressing sympathy/empathy or compassion or sorrow for the victims and their friends/family. These are REAL murder victims, flesh and blood, like us, like people we know, some of them children, some adults, who were brutally murdered in cold blood, some tortured, raped/sexually assaulted, destroyed and discarded like they were nothing, not characters in a book or movie or story, real people. I understand taking interest in these stories but no one here displayed sympathy in even the most subtle way, not even an underlying hint of concern for those involved in the devastation, expressed in their tone. It was all just pure pleasure for their own benefit of sitting around listening to it and having fun while drinking coffee all warm and cozy at home. It made me cringe.  

I don’t believe for a second that these happy people who “can’t wait” for the next podcasts about homicide victims, these people who are “so thrilled” over victims murdered in cold blood, tortured and thrown away like trash on the side of the road, are horrible people or sadists, or that they aren’t generally loving and compassionate and empathetic. They may not be, generally, any less caring or empathetic than I am. I don’t believe they were taking pleasure in the pain itself that the victims endured.  It’s the mystery and thrill they get to experience, secure and embraced in the comfort of their own safe homes in their pj’s with their cups of coffee.

 But they were too “detached” in my opinion, in this, here, case. It’s complete thoughtlessness. They were too wrapped up in their own lives and pleasure they put up too much of a barrier. So much so, they are thrilled over real murder victims. It hurt me to witness and I know if it were their own friends and family members or themselves abducted, murdered, targets of rape and other sexual violence, it wouldn’t be so thrilling. They wouldn’t be so eager to see what’s next. I can just imagine a devastated person close to one of those poor victims reading that people are sitting around getting off of the violent, senseless deaths of the people they knew and love. It’s dangerous to let ourselves become numb to the real tragedy, suffering, and pain of others. Even when those are people we only see through a glass screen on a tv or voices we hear through a phone, radio, or words we read through a computer monitor. Even just distant echoes of pain that come to us through some invisible radio waves in the air. Those are real people. That is real suffering. 

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I think it’s important to always tune in to our empathy and compassion whether or not we have ever experienced something similar to what someone else has. And whether or not we know those people well or at all. We do know they are someone, someone just like us. 
Like us, they have/had a name, a story, a dream or goal, needs, and desires, love, joy, pain, sorrow, and happiness. 

Let us be happy for those who are well and happy and successful and full of joy and have compassion, concern, understanding, and empathy for those sick, injured, and in pain, dying, grieving, struggling in any way. But we don’t have to not allow ourselves to be happy because other people are struggling. It’s ok to be happy for our own blessings. Gratitude guilt is not necessary. It won’t help anyone or anything. Dragging ourselves down or not allowing ourselves joy, thankfulness, or happiness, just because others are not well will not contribute to overall goodness to the world, all it does is put more unhappiness or suffering into the world. 

And also, one day we may not be as fortunate in the ways we are now so there’s no need to feel guilty anyway just because we are well and others aren’t. As I said, none or us are immune to tragedy and pain. Next week my house can burn down, you may experience the break up of a close relationship, someone we know can die, we can be diagnosed with a terminal illness….But no matter what, there’s always something to be thankful for and happy about, even in pain, chaos, destruction, grief, depression, anxiety, homelessness… 

I think we do need some emotional boundaries but not too thick. A healthy kind of detachment is good to prevent burnout, exhaustion, being overwhelmed…. but not when it’s blocking our empathy and attempts at true understanding to some level. Not when we are so detached we forget the real suffering and pain of others. Not when we’re so detached, we feel pleasure associated with someone else’s horror or painful circumstances. 

It’s great to experience gratitude for our own happy circumstances and everything but not good, in my opinion, to get so wrapped up in it we forget about those who aren’t so fortunate now, in the ways we currently are, or tune out the depth or degree of their pain.

Empathy won’t always cure diseases or take away someone’s pain and it likely won’t help us in one country be able to immediately help someone dying in another country. But it can motivate us to reach out in some way, maybe to people physically near us who appear to be struggling or people we know online, or reach out to write to people with more power than us, like politicians or people in charge of something related to the issue at hand, or ones who have good things happening to them and we can share in their joy, letting them know how happy we are for them, how proud or thrilled for their accomplishments or fortunate situations, maybe to write a comforting message to someone in need, maybe just to share a link with info about a health condition or situation that needs awareness, to bring more awareness to it and help educate more people. And maybe someone with more resources can see what we share or post and help in ways that we cannot yet help. 

Instead of merely thinking “I’m glad it’s not me” or “that could have been me…” and just going about our own lives forgetting the pain of someone else, we can still feel gratitude for our own fortunate situations but extend our empathy and compassion and realize it’s just as bad when it happens to someone else. It’s realistic to expect people to be thankful some tragedy or unpleasant circumstance is not happening to them but everyone is someone just as important as ourselves and our own friends and family and they feel suffering and happiness the same way too.  We can shift our focus a bit – instead of just being thankful we, ourselves are ok, we can focus more on compassion for those who are struggling in any way.

~Hug the hurt
Comfort the sick

Kiss the broken
Befriend the lost
Love the lonely~ 

And when something amazing happens to someone, even if we wish it would happen to us, instead of resentment, we can bask in that person’s happiness. 

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Deeper empathy along with compassion can help decrease all kinds of things, bullying, cyber bullying, unjust discrimination, sexual violence, other forms of cruelty(against all sentient beings), apathy, even wars and stuff if enough people around the world including those in various governments would better tune into and develop their own empathy and compassion.

Empathy & compassion are great for practical purposes but they also are just amazing traits to possess. They make us better for them. I’m no better than someone who is less compassionate or with less developed empathy but I believe it’s better to have those abilities than not. I’m not better than a sadist, a murderer, a psycho or sociopath with no empathy, but I believe those people would be better people than they are now, in another way if they develop their empathy and compassion.

Not everything is just for practical purposes or actions. Sometimes it’s intentions or just what we are, our essence that counts for something and is beautiful. 

Empathy & compassion, especially a combination of both, can inspire and motivate us to act, reach out to others in some way whether just a simple act of comforting words or volunteering time or money for a specific cause or even just inspire us to hold our tongues when we feel like lashing out or motivating us to proactively speak out against someone else’s callousness, which can have a positive effect. 

Let us remember when we see someone suffering whether it’s emotional or physical pain that is the root of it, human or not, that it’s a very similar feeling that we would feel if it were us. This can make it more real to us and motivate us to reach out in some way, even in the most simplest way, a warm smile, a gentle touch, a kind word…even if it’s not similar to what we ourselves would feel, it’s still important to be empathetic and compassionate but realizing how similar we are underneath can help deepen our empathy. 

And let us not be overly jealous of those who are experiencing joy, happiness, and success even if we are not. Let their accomplishments and happiness inspire and motivate us, not contribute to us being depressed or jealous. It’s best for all of us when we are happy for and encouraging to one another. Let’s celebrate each other and bask in each other’s happiness and success and fortunes. 

There’s enough happiness to go around. 😀

Here are some links about Metta (universal love/compassion) & Empathy.

This explains what Metta is, the benefits, and the importance of cultivating an attitude or lifestyle which has Metta at its core.

http://www.wildmind.org/metta/introduction/what-is-metta

Another explanation of Metta.

http://www.buddhanet.net/metta_in.htm

Here, the link below this, is fascinating research on the brain and empathy. Research reveals that when we are happy and things are going well, we are less likely to empathize with those not so happy or well. We are likely to perceive their pain or suffering as less than it really is. When we ourselves are not doing well, we better empathize with others. We are more likely to validate or realize the seriousness of someone else’s pain or low feelings. In fact, we’re more likely to evaluate someone else’s happiness as less than it really is when we ourselves are not happy. I suspected this before learning of this research. I saw evidence of this in certain situations including the happy people in warm, pj’s at home, drinking coffee while being thrilled over real murder mysteries and not expressing empathy, sympathy, or compassion for those involved.

There is good news. We don’t have to make ourselves suffer to empathize with others. Empathy & compassion are not fixed. 
Compassionate and empathetic people can become less compassionate and empathetic (so it’s important to regularly maintain our empathy and compassion) and those who are not very empathetic and compassionate can become more empathetic and compassionate. 
Some suggestions to maintain or develop empathy, compassion, and an attitude of kindness are meditation, routine mindfulness activities, volunteering to help others, meditating/imagining ourselves in pain and knowing others feel that too…

It’s also suggested that vigorous physical exercises can help deepen a person’s empathy. These exercises can feel physically uncomfortable and help us realize more what it’s like for others who are hurting in some way.
Let’s not go overboard and exercise so much it’s unhealthy but a reasonable dose of routine aggressive exercise can be quite healthy, both physically and emotionally. 

It’s important to do all we can to care for ourselves, be happy, be healthy, be grateful, but keep in touch with the suffering or pain of others.  

http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-athletes-way/201310/the-neuroscience-empathy

Desktop link to a video for a lovingkindness meditation.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sz7cpV7ERsM&app=desktop

Mobile version of the same video:

http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=sz7cpV7ERsM&app=m&persist_app=1
 
Even if you are already a very loving and kind person in general, you and the world can still benefit by practicing this meditation or ones like it. Meditation is calm and soothing and even if we are already or are naturally very compassionate and loving, we can still experience setbacks and it’s important to maintain whatever attitude or lifestyle we want to generally live. Like working out, we must keep up with it to keep it going strong. 
Even if we are naturally a certain way, we can strengthen it by making it more intentional and consciously applying it or deepening it.
It takes some practice and maintaining but is well worth it! 

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May you be well.
May you be happy. 
May you be peaceful.
May you be loved.
 
Xoxo Kim