“You can search throughout the entire universe for someone who is more deserving of your love and affection than you are yourself, and that person is not to be found anywhere. You yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe deserve your love and affection.” - Buddha
We have the ability to selectively cultivate what we want in our minds and our hearts. The immense external development of human civilization in the last century needs to be met by an internal development which has woefully lagged behind. Intellectual prowess alone is not a sufficient internal development. Certain mental qualities need to be cultivated as well for us to flourish in our development and wellbeing as individuals and as a species, to have the wisdom to know how to best care for ourselves and our world. A lot of suffering in our lives is due to the lack of this internal development necessary to cope with our external demands. By developing compassion and understanding, instead of fear and greed, we cultivate trust in ourselves and inspire it in others. It helps us connect to our deepest values and to each other.
Any mental quality that we want to cultivate, needs to start internally. If we cannot have compassion for ourselves, we cannot hope to have it in a sustainable way for others. The wisdom of what is good for us also comes from a place of self-compassion and not critical self-judgement. At the heart of a mindful practice is the practice of letting go of unhelpful harshness or judgement and the cultivation of openness and compassion. Most people find it much easier to extend compassion to others, but all our conditionings make it harder to extend it to ourselves because we mistake it for narcissism. It is very important to understand the difference between these two if we are to cultivate self-compassion. We think the only path to self-improvement is to identify what is wrong with us and what needs to be fixed. This attitude of something being wrong or broken depletes us from the get-go. It activates the avoidance pathways of the brain and all desires for change are motivated by the fear of avoiding the negative outcomes. This is not the best approach as it limits our capacity for creativity and responding resourcefully. A kind mental attitude can be restorative and creative while a judgemental attitude is depleting and limiting. Self-compassion is the seed that when cultivated gives rise to the possibility of genuine love for others and it resources us to understand and dissolve fear and hatred.
"Hatred never ceases by hatred, but by love alone is healed. This is an ancient and eternal law"
Our sense of separateness is something we sense almost all the time, but there is also a level of unavoidable interconnectedness that goes unnoticed. Just on a physical level we breathe in the same air molecules that has gone through the lungs of a person sitting close to us. We inhabit the same planet in the wide universe and are living out our lives together in this short moment in human history. There is so much that connects us, we cannot separate ourselves from each other even if we locked ourselves in a room for years. The 2020 lockdowns had separated individuals but we were all united in our experience of the pandemic. So many of our joys and sorrows, triumphs and failures are shared experiences. We are less isolated than we believe ourselves to be.
“Shared pain is lessened. Shared joy is increased. Thus we refute entropy.”- Spider Robinson
“A human being is part of the whole, called by 'Universe'; a part limited in time and space. We experience ourselves, our thoughts and feelings, as something separated from the rest, a kind of optical delusion of our consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.”- Albert Einstein
The concept of common humanity is explored in mindfulness, where we remind ourselves that the most difficult sufferings in life, like losing a parent or a loved one are experiences that most humans must go through. Our pains tend to make us feel isolated and alone but common humanity reminds us we are not alone in facing such sufferings. Unbearable, unavoidable pains of life can be endured by remembering that every human being that’s ever lived, experience pain and loss. No matter how rich, beautiful, famous or powerful we are, things like illness, old age, loss of loved ones and death come to us all. The only thing that can make such things bearable is knowing that every human being faces them without escape. There is no escaping any of it, there can only be a wise, dignified path through it all knowing this is what it means to live a human life. A life well lived does not mean the avoidance of all pain and seeking only pleasures because there is no such human life to be had.
"If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other"