I suck at compassion.

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I suck at compassion.

Postby Mawkish1983 » Tue Jan 19, 2010 6:43 pm

My wife's grandfather has just died. She's looking to me to comfort her. I'm doing my best but I really struggle with compassion, yes even for my wife.

Help?
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Re: I suck at compassion.

Postby meindzai » Tue Jan 19, 2010 7:21 pm

But you care about your wife, yes? I wonder how you're defining compassion.

-M
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Re: I suck at compassion.

Postby jcsuperstar » Tue Jan 19, 2010 7:29 pm

i think this is more of an empathy issue than compassion, though i guess you could say they're connected. sometimes i too have problems like this. i think it arises when the issue the other person is dealing with is something i can't control or fix etc. sometimes you just have to be there. to hold her, or whatever. just ask "what can i do for you?" just let her know youre there for her. that may be all you need to do.
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Re: I suck at compassion.

Postby Cittasanto » Tue Jan 19, 2010 9:02 pm

jcsuperstar wrote:i think this is more of an empathy issue than compassion, though i guess you could say they're connected. sometimes i too have problems like this. i think it arises when the issue the other person is dealing with is something i can't control or fix etc. sometimes you just have to be there. to hold her, or whatever. just ask "what can i do for you?" just let her know youre there for her. that may be all you need to do.


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Re: I suck at compassion.

Postby Abyss » Tue Jan 19, 2010 9:42 pm

Mawkish1983 wrote:My wife's grandfather has just died. She's looking to me to comfort her. I'm doing my best but I really struggle with compassion, yes even for my wife.

Maybe the problem is that we think there has to be a feeling or an emotion if something like this happens. And if such a feeling doesn't pop up, we think that we suck at compassion (for example). But I think that's wrong. I think it's enough to understand what's happening, i.e. to understand that the other one is suffering. To become emotional about that is nothing but dukkha itself. I don't think that the attitude of an arahat towards others has anything to do with emotions. It comes from his understanding of dukkha (which has ceased in him). There is no need to cry with others about their suffering, neither inwardly nor outwardly.
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Re: I suck at compassion.

Postby meindzai » Tue Jan 19, 2010 10:35 pm

Abyss wrote:
Mawkish1983 wrote:My wife's grandfather has just died. She's looking to me to comfort her. I'm doing my best but I really struggle with compassion, yes even for my wife.

Maybe the problem is that we think there has to be a feeling or an emotion if something like this happens. And if such a feeling doesn't pop up, we think that we suck at compassion (for example). But I think that's wrong. I think it's enough to understand what's happening, i.e. to understand that the other one is suffering. To become emotional about that is nothing but dukkha itself. I don't think that the attitude of an arahat towards others has anything to do with emotions. It comes from his understanding of dukkha (which has ceased in him). There is no need to cry with others about their suffering, neither inwardly nor outwardly.


That's kind of what I was thinking. We tend to dissect the english word "compassion" - "to suffer with." But the Buddha had compassion without suffering. karuna is something else. If there is love (metta) in the presence of suffering, there will be compassion.

-M
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Re: I suck at compassion.

Postby Luke » Tue Jan 19, 2010 10:57 pm

Well, it's hard to develop compassion only when you need it. Compassion is a skill which can be slowly developed over time.

I suppose a mental trick you could use is to think of a situation which is horrible enough that you'd feel compassion for the person or other sentient beings involved (a little girl thrown overboard who treads water crying until she drowns, a bear cub caught in a bear trap, the earthquake survivors in Haiti, etc.). Then try to maintain that feeling while you think of the people you'd like to have compassion for. This is my own idea which is based on other meditations I've learned, so use it at your own risk.

Good luck with your situation.
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Re: I suck at compassion.

Postby SDC » Wed Jan 20, 2010 3:29 pm

Mawkish1983 wrote:My wife's grandfather has just died. She's looking to me to comfort her. I'm doing my best but I really struggle with compassion, yes even for my wife.

Help?


Is it possible that you are frustrated with how your wife views the death of her grandfather and how she views death in general? In the sense that her view causes her such a deep feeling of loss? A feeling that, to you, seems irrational and you don't think you should support it?

I have had this problem with my wife and other family members in the past. Even before I began to study the Buddha's teachings I had a decent sense of impermanence. So when people would react strongly to death it would frustrate me. But over time I became more comfortable with the fact that other people did not hold the sames views as me so the frustration began to diminish.

With that understanding I was more easily able to give my time and understanding. This is dana. Some people think dana is just giving offerings to monks. But it is any sacrifice. In this case you can sacrifice your own views and sacrifice your time for the person in need.

EDIT - I didn't comment on compassion because I don't see it as being the main issue hear. The main issue is being able to comfort your wife. Compassion is a quality of mind that, as many said, will be developed and cultivated over time. I don't think it is something to concern yourself with when it comes to the situation you presented. In the sense that you don't need it to be developed in order to make sacrifices and be there for a person. But, when you can give others your time and you have that understanding with no confusion or frustration...that is compassion.
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Re: I suck at compassion.

Postby Mawkish1983 » Wed Jan 20, 2010 4:28 pm

I've read the posts here. Thank you all for responding :)

I suspect this is nothing to do with compassion, as a few of you suggest. Maybe in the distant past (maybe even lives before this) I must have developed such a strong sense of indifference towards death (or life) that I'm still working through that vipaka. Yes, it is frustration. Frustration that I'm unable to be empathetic or even sympathetic about death, even with the woman I love. It's frustration because I have the desire (cue 4NT alarm bells) to comfort her.

I just don't understand grieving. I'm obviously going to the attending the funeral. Between now and when that's over I'm sure to be presented with myriad opportunities to address my indifference and try to turn it around.

Maybe I'm conflating the problem with compassion because I've recently decided to really work towards developing the bramhaviharas and this incident shows how many near enemies (like indifference and pity) I fall into. Practice practice practice.

Anyway, thank you all for answering. I need a little time to digest it all and see if I can improve the situation for my wife.
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Re: I suck at compassion.

Postby PeterB » Wed Jan 20, 2010 4:56 pm

Perhaps there is no prescription for how you should feel. When my mother died, and I loved her, I went to work the following day and took no compassionate leave. I felt her loss deeply but for just a couple of weeks, and this worried me. I felt that I should grieve for longer. I talked about this to an Ajahn at Chithurst who had met my mother at a naming ceremony, He said it was clear to him that I felt the impact of her death, and that I had allowed myself to feel it fully, and so worked through the grief swiftly..From time to time I still think of her but with no sadness. Obviously what I am describing is a different set of circumstnces to yours Mawkish, the point though is that at least some of what we feel is what we have learned we should feel, and it doesnt always correspond to reality for a number of reasons. Just be mindful and open.
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Re: I suck at compassion.

Postby baratgab » Thu Jan 28, 2010 10:57 pm

Oh, you don't have to be concerned about how compassionate you are at any moment. :) If you think about it, this is the old western way of measuring, fault-finding and controlling -- on which we won't end up better, but we end up gang-raped by the hindrances. All you have to do is to build up the causes and conditions for the development of compassion, and then let the mind roll in the (b)right direction. If you are measuring where you are or where you get, that is already a lapse from the path of real development. Tathagatas truly show us a path without groaning, and not groaning means not finding faults with ourselves and with others.

By the way, are you really indifferent? Good for you! That is the fourth brahmavihara: you won't get any higher than that. :lol: Indifference means stillness; stillness means energy; energy means happiness and knowledge; happiness and knowledge means unconditioned love and compassion. Here you are, indifference is your best friend: if you don't give a sh*t to anything, you get everything. :)

Of course maybe you are already past this problem; but anyway, I enjoy blabbing. ;)

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Re: I suck at compassion.

Postby Sanghamitta » Fri Jan 29, 2010 8:55 am

Sorry Baratgab, and this might be a language issue...we are told frequently that "indifference is the near enemy of Upekkha". And that clinging is its far enemy. Upekkha is not indifference, it is detachment, a very different concept. Indifference means that we dont care about others and outcomes. Detachment means we do not cling to others or outcomes.
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Re: I suck at compassion.

Postby Dan74 » Fri Jan 29, 2010 12:17 pm

Whatever may be missing, I do agree that the judgmental, self-critical approach is not effective. Whatever guilt or shame arises, all that energy is best focussed on examining: just what is lacking? Just where is a gap, a coldness, numbness or what is it actually? I think this is how insight comes about and with it the deepening of brahma-viharas.

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Re: I suck at compassion.

Postby baratgab » Sat Jan 30, 2010 9:02 am

There is no need to sorry; you write with the same honest intention and reverence to the dhamma as I do. :) It is a quite valid point that the everyday concept of indifference is not Upekkha by any honest definition. Though, I have contemplated on this matter previously, and – maybe due to my limited abilities – I came to the conclusion that "indifference" in its deepest essence is actually Upekkha; it is just usually tainted with dullness, negativity and a peculiar self-centered selectivity. So from my view, there is a good case for saying that "indifference" is valuable; one just needs to polish it to its full potential and consistency. This might be similar to the rather profound concept of "end of desires", which, for many people, means simply depression and dullness, due to their lack of experience with the "real thing".

The other aspect of this matter is that all the tidy definitions in the world won't make any difference in how we feel ourselves and where we get in practice. The only thing what makes difference is our attitude towards what is given in any moment. So I tend to bend definitions to encourage acceptance, peace and gratitude, especially towards ourselves. ;) If one starts to accept his conditions unconditionally, stillness arise, which leads to all of the brahmaviharas if cultivated thoroughly. If one is discontented with the mind, and seeks for other qualities, that is just endless becoming.

But in any case, I am just on the beginning of the path. There is much to learn, develop and straighten out. :embarassed:

:anjali:

Sanghamitta wrote:Sorry Baratgab, and this might be a language issue...we are told frequently that "indifference is the near enemy of Upekkha". And that clinging is its far enemy. Upekkha is not indifference, it is detachment, a very different concept. Indifference means that we dont care about others and outcomes. Detachment means we do not cling to others or outcomes.
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Re: I suck at compassion.

Postby Annapurna » Sat Jan 30, 2010 10:52 am

Sanghamitta wrote:Sorry Baratgab, and this might be a language issue...we are told frequently that "indifference is the near enemy of Upekkha". And that clinging is its far enemy. Upekkha is not indifference, it is detachment, a very different concept. Indifference means that we dont care about others and outcomes. Detachment means we do not cling to others or outcomes.


Equanimity is probably the word he looked for.

It means you keep your inner balance even though tossed around in storms.

You wouldn't panic, lament, or cry out .

You would endure what is there to endure with a calm mind.

That doesn't mean pain is absent.

It means it is mastered.

If that makes sense? :anjali:

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Re: I suck at compassion.

Postby Annapurna » Sat Jan 30, 2010 11:22 am

Mawkish1983 wrote:I've read the posts here. Thank you all for responding :)

I suspect this is nothing to do with compassion, as a few of you suggest. Maybe in the distant past (maybe even lives before this) I must have developed such a strong sense of indifference towards death (or life) that I'm still working through that vipaka. Yes, it is frustration. Frustration that I'm unable to be empathetic or even sympathetic about death, even with the woman I love. It's frustration because I have the desire (cue 4NT alarm bells) to comfort her.

I just don't understand grieving. I'm obviously going to the attending the funeral. Between now and when that's over I'm sure to be presented with myriad opportunities to address my indifference and try to turn it around.

Maybe I'm conflating the problem with compassion because I've recently decided to really work towards developing the bramhaviharas and this incident shows how many near enemies (like indifference and pity) I fall into. Practice practice practice.

Anyway, thank you all for answering. I need a little time to digest it all and see if I can improve the situation for my wife.


Yes, it is frustration. Frustration that I'm unable to be empathetic or even sympathetic about death, even with the woman I love. It's frustration because I have the desire (cue 4NT alarm bells) to comfort her.


Dear Mawkish.

Maybe you think comforting somebody is a hard task, and indeed, the Buddha describes this well when he talks about death in the Dhammapada.

He describes how we have to go through illness and death alone, and no son, no wife can help us to escape.

All we can do is be there for somebody suffering, to accompany.

So all you can do is give her your time and lend your ear. Let her lean on your shoulder while she's weeping and just listen to her.

Maybe you can speak some dhamma to her, about impermanence.

She probably had a close connection to her grandfather and will miss him.

A part of our pain will always deal with the own loss, not only with the suffering of the loved one.

I just don't understand grieving.


Do you think you would grieve your wife's death?

If yes, perhaps work from there, try to put yourself into her situation.

Imagine you lost your grandfather, or somebody you care about very much.
It doesn't mean you have to suffer, but to understand what is going on inside of others.


Best wishes,

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Re: I suck at compassion.

Postby PeterB » Sat Jan 30, 2010 4:27 pm

Bhikkhu Bodhi defines Upekkha as " Freedom from all forms of self reference It is indifference only to the demands of the ego, not to the needs of others".

imo it is a term , like dukkha, Buddha or Nibbana, best left untranslated. Sometimes we have to go to the teachings rather than expect them to come to us.
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