In Christianity we discuss compassion but usually in the context of acts of mercy and are discrete actions rather than a way of life. (This is a good thing, too, but not what I am focusing on in this blog.) I have found a lot of practical guidance in living the life path of compassion from Buddhist and psychological sources. In particular, I have found one practice that is a good beginning on the contemplative compassion journey. That is Loving-Kindness (L-K) practice and there are many Buddhist authors and teachers who can lead you in this practice. Pema Chodron calls this Bodhicitta Practice.
For our purposes, I thought I’d share my modified L-K practice. For me it is a prayer. The language of the practice that I use is:
May you know happiness (compassion, or whatever their need might be)
And the roots of happiness (compassion);
May you be free of suffering
And the roots of suffering;
May you be peaceful and at ease;
May you know love and joy in your heart.
In Buddhist training, the direction is to start with yourself but many Westerners find expressing Loving-Kindness for yourself to be difficult. So, the best way to begin this practice is by thinking of a person whose suffering you feel strongly and whose happiness is very important to you. This could be someone you know or have known, or someone you’ve seen on the street or read about in the newspaper. If people are too difficult, start with a beloved pet.
To expand your prayer practice to others, a typical progression might be:
- a beloved friend;
- a benefactor or mentor;
- a neutral person, who is someone who we neither like or dislike (like someone you meet while grocery shopping);
- a difficult person, who is someone with whom we have experienced irritation or conflict;
- and for all beings everywhere, without exception or distinction.
This can be part of your daily prayer practice and may arise from or lead you into contemplative practices such as Centering Prayer or Christian mediation. It opens one’s heart to the God of Infinite Love and Compassion.
 Chodron, P. (2013) Living Beautifully: with Uncertainty and Change. Boston, MA: Shambhala Publications and “Noble Heart Study Guide” (1995). Boulder, CO: Sounds True, p. 15.
 “Loving Kindness Practice.” Downloaded from: http://www.mindfulnet.org/Loving%20Kindness%20Practice.pdf on July 25, 2018.
One thought on “Blog 9: Living the Compassionate Life”
I have had good experience in praying for difficult people. One who comes to mind is a reprehensible colleague from my previous career. While he did me no harm, he was awful to those who worked for him. I made the commitment to pray for him every morning for a month as I commuted to work. Did he change? No, but my attitude did, since I had an investment of prayer in him.