Compassion might be described as acting in a way that will encourage another, without expectation of return.
In Compassion in Action, Ram Dass wrote:
“Acting with compassion is not doing good because we think we ought to. It is being drawn to action by heart-felt passion. It is giving ourselves into what we are doing, being present in the moment — no matter how difficult, sad or even boring it feels, no matter how much it demands. It is acting from our deepest understanding of what life is, listening intently for the skillful means in each situation, and not compromising the truth. It is working with others in a selfless way, in a spirit of mutual respect.”
The game, in a sense, begins when we move from being the actor to being the action. This is pretty subtle stuff.
Perhaps the greatest flaw in our thinking about being in relationship has to do with being there, ultimately, for what I can get out of it. As we’ve said over the past two articles, there’s a development cycle to this.
One thing we think we’ll get out of being in relationship is a predictable source for sex. There’s some kind of expectation that I’m going to be serviced, and preferably on my schedule. There’s also the expectation that, if we “love” each other, the sex will get “better and better.” Reality, aging and boredom certainly change our minds about this.
Thus, if all we have is a relationship at the physical level, we’re soon in for a rude awakening.
As we noted last week, one way of looking at love is as a tool for self-exploration, or, as Seal puts it, for “learning my name.” This process, as we discussed last week, is “self-centric,” in that what’s happening here is that the person I am in relationship acts, in a sense, as a mirror and a sounding board for my self-knowing.
A friend asked what happens if you discover everything there is to discover about yourself – do you just “wink out?” Here’s the issue with this idea.
The whole reason for having an ego identity is to create enough drama so as to never be able to fully answer the question, “who am I?”
Haven’t you even noticed that there are, really, only two states of existence? They might be thought of as drama and meditation.
It’s one of the reasons we fear getting old and losing our faculties. We are really saying that, if there is no drama, who will I be?
It’s why some people change their relationships as often as their underwear. They cry, “He just doesn’t understand me!” when they really mean, “The last thing I want is to be understood.” “You just don’t understand” is really, “Boy am I ever doing a good job baffling you with my drama!”
So, lets say the the idea of using love to know my name is really about noticing all of the times I create drama in order to avoid seeing myself as I really am.
Being in a loving relationship allows me to hear my partner as she reflects on how I am confusing myself.
And then, if I choose, I can learn compassion.
Compassion turns the mirror away from my ego identity – my “Wayne-ness” – in a sense doing away with the need for a mirror because there is nothing to reflect. Rather than seeing me as “the helper,” I simply help. Rather than being “the actor in my own drama,” I can simply act. I can be there for others, not because then they will be there for me, but only because this moment requires that I be present.
Compassion, then, might be seen as simple and appropriate presence, without desire. Or, put another way, my only desire is to be present, in the moment that is, without wishing “things were different.” Because, of course, wishing things were different is a way to create drama, and things are always “as they are.”
In the end, I think this step, this kind of compassion, is likely somewhat out of reach for most of us. Perhaps it is a drink we can sip at. Perhaps the best I can hope for is the willingness to let go, occasionally, of my ego needs and my need to be special and noticed, and simply act compassionately.