Updated: Aug 1
By Sarah Dekker
“Love opens your heart, trumps fear, and paves the way for healing in all aspects of your life.”
― Lissa Rankin
Compassion is frequently spoken of as something that can be grown, cultivated or something that can be taught and acquired.
In many spiritual teachings, we learn the importance of cultivating compassion. Through contemplation, prayer, or meditation practice we might grow our ability to have compassion. In Christianity, compassion is a key virtue and Jesus encourages followers to love their neighbours and their enemies and to give to the poor. To be a good Samaritan is the pathway to heaven. The Buddhist understanding of compassion means offering patience, kindness, and nonjudgmental understanding to others as well as oneself.
But, how would we go about growing or acquiring compassion I wondered? I was taught that this is accomplished by doing good deeds, saying ‘nice things’, performing acts of kindness, or by expressing gratitude.
In this context, compassion may be understood to mean doing things for others. If action is the motivation then it is more like doing compassion rather than being compassion. Doing compassion takes a lot of effort especially if it is driven by the desire to help, save, please, rescue.
Doing things for others because you believe that this is expected of you or because a part of you believes that you are a bad human being if you do not, is not sustainable. Striving to be compassionate can lead to compassion fatigue and resentment. You may even become the selfless martyr who eventually burns out because your own batteries are not getting recharged.
Compassionate being however is all-pervasive and extends in all directions. It is not true compassion unless it includes you. This state of being is effortless.
So how do we become more compassionate without trying so hard?
This might be more effortless than you think. As a child, I wondered whether God, like Santa, was keeping a tally of the number of good deeds I had done in my lifetime. I felt guilty for not trying harder to become more compassionate, a better human. Now, I believe that rather than trying to cultivate compassion that is supposedly lacking, our true Self is already innately compassionate. This natural state of endless compassion, care, kindness, gratitude and openness towards myself and others is always available to me. It has no boundaries and is infinite. How can we grow or cultivate something that is already infinitely there?
Compassion starts as a state of awareness, as a state of being rather than doing. And once I am resting in compassionate presence, it naturally translates into compassionate actions.
Whenever I am trying hard to be compassionate, to please, to be kind, I am acting from a wounded ego, and a false self rather than from my True Self. The point then is not to grow or cultivate compassion, but rather to reveal the compassionate true Self that is already there and lead a Self-led life.
That is easier said than done you may say. How then do I access this ever-present compassion, this True Self? Interestingly, when we can embrace the different parts of our ego and their survival strategies and ask these parts of ourselves to offer us some space, our inherent compassionate presence is revealed. From this effortless state of flow and compassion, we can meet ourselves and others in a way that contributes to deep connection and healing.
“We can learn to return home to our open hearts at any moment.”
― Loch Kelly
Are you curious to try this out and move towards having a more compassionate Self-led life? Learn more about our 12-week Intensive course: “Coming Home to Your-Self."
Alternatively, we offer private coaching sessions in which we introduce you to a process in which you get empowered to live more and more from your true compassionate Self.
And here is a free guided exercise for you to support stepping into this experience: