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Mindful : February 2016
from others. You’ll never discover this small doorway as long as you’re intent on avoiding the ugly and scary places inside yourself. You have to enter and investigate the dark places of judg- ment and fear to bring love there. It will be like fresh air rushing into musty old rooms. Compassion as a Way of Life Everyone has to cope with loss, fear, sorrow, and self-doubt. Look for these feelings in oth- ers from time to time and allow your heart to respond to them with loving-kindness. They needn’t know what you’re doing but sometimes, surprisingly, they may actually feel your loving attention and turn toward you as if to greet and acknowledge your open heartedness. “Compas- sion” literally means “to suffer with,” to join with suffering with an intention to care for that suffering and wish to alleviate it. We feel more connection to others and are able to transcend our personal desires and fears and extend our heartfelt caring to all that suffer. One of the greatest sources of suffering is the concept that we’re separate from everyone and everything else. Mindfulness and compassion practices can dispel this painful delusion if you cultivate them in formal meditation practice and in the day-to-day circumstances of your life. With time and practice, you’ll grow in your ability to attune to others and learn to empa- thize with their emotions because you’ve learned to respond with kindness to the pain in your own heart. You may see their pain and fear as the same as your pain and fear. In that moment you are united with others and can let go of feeling like a lonely alien. When asked how all the meditation he had done had influenced his personality psycholo- gist Richard Alpert (aka Ram Dass) replied, “Oh, my personality! I don’t take it so seriously anymore—I think of it more as a pet.” Imagine how much less troublesome your personality would seem if you were able to look upon it as a pet wandering around in your house and yard. And what a better world it would be if we saw everyone in that simple way. We might stop taking everything so seriously, especially ourselves, and discover how our own vulnerable heart connects us to everyone else. ● Steve Flowers is director of the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Clinic in Chico, CA. He is the author of The Mindful Path through Shyness: How Mindfulness and Compassion Can Help Free You from Social Anxiety, Fear, and Avoidance. 76 mindful February 2016 insight practices upcoming certification training aug 7-11, 2016 PearlStone retreat center baltimore, md The Center for Koru Mindfulness trains and certifes individuals to teach the Koru Mindfulness curriculum, the only evidence- based mindfulness curriculum designed for college-age adults. apply today! korumindfulness.org Teach Mindfulness to college-age adulTs