In Christine Feldman's wonderful book called simply Compassion, she tells a little story about a monk who had journeyed to Dharamsala to meet with the Dalai Lama after twenty years of imprisonment. The Dalai Lama asked the monk, "Was there a time when you felt your life was truly in danger?" The old monk answered, "The only times I felt deeply endangered were the moments I felt in danger of losing my compassion for my jailers."
This image comes to me frequently when I am struggling with my attempts to live a simple life of daily compassion. I am so aware that I become my own jailer at the moments that I become unable to let go of even the smallest moments of bitterness, jealousy and anger. I am so apt to hang on to my desire to see things go my own way even though it doesn't make a bit of difference. It is just my attachment to habit and familiarity, and it robs me of compassion for my fellow human.
Especially in moments of my own pain or discomfort will I be most likely to cling to this pathway. I want comfort in my little habits and even when people are coming to comfort me, I will fling them away, fail to answer a phone call or turn away a person eager to visit, because I am unable to greet them with the hospitality needed. In doing so, I may turn away a new opportunity for growth or harmony and accept my own misery for that day. My failure to cultivate compassion for others is also a lack of compassion for myself.
Today, in a moment of brightness and beauty, it came to me that through the cultivation of compassion for all things, I cultivate peace to the very core of my being. Each moment that I am able to let go of my attachment to anger, bitterness and frustration with others and see the non-sense of my attachment of to needing things to turn out in a particular manner, I come closer to feeling that peace. I see that the possibility of harmony and connection with another being is much more important to me than the outcome of the moment.
I soften and loosen my bondage on the outcome on the moment. I breathe into that moment and become more present. Here is my brother or sister, created of the same matter as me. What could I want except to be present with them in this moment. Let all beings be at peace.
We disagree. We at times, in our minds, come from very different places. We are always of the same matter. We are always the same beings. We are always capable of peace. I am always capable of peace.
I see in this moment that regardless of my brother or sister's stance, I needn't lose compassion for who they are at the very core of their being. I see that what is most important to me is to maintain my sense of connection and compassion for them as my brother or sister, as my same self. I am always of love.
In my spiritual life, this is the place I choose to stand. It is the only place I have to stand. It is the place I have been called to.