What is compassion? We probably have a general idea of what compassion entails, but there is a whole lot more to it than we think. I had stumbled upon a podcast by Sam Harris which went over the differences between empathy and compassion. For half an hour, a detailed explanation of the differences were brought up. That’s when it hit me; I don’t know what compassion is. What the hell is it? My vague idea was that it was something like giving your attention to someone without expecting anything in return. This idea isn’t wrong or right, but after a while I felt like I should investigate a little bit and flesh out the details. Whenever I feel ignorant, especially if I use a word I don’t understand that well, I feel like it’s similar to navigating through the world without being able to understand the signs.
I woke up extra early for a morning Yoga session. I have never been to a class so early, but my joints were stiff and I was basically shocked after a bad nights sleep. It got somewhat better after the class, but sometimes you can’t help it, you accept the state your in and keep on going. It’s funny because I know there’s so much worse you can go through, from nights sleeping on benches in the middle of winter to light-threatening conditions, the bodies powerful ability to adapt either makes you lazy, or exceptional.
It took me an unusually long amount of time to figure out why observing thoughts during mindfulness meditation practice made sense. Every now and then I would practice long enough to withdraw and feel like a zombie, a witness that just looked at a never ending stream of water going down ending up in a hole that did not seem to have a bottom. Sometimes it would overflow, but sometimes the stream would get so dry it would feel dreadful, “Am I going insane?” was a recurring thought; you realize later that that thought was part of the stream, too. Sometimes I would take the bait and think of having no thoughts. The ego takes on so many different forms, it’s outstanding. Alan Watts once said that traps exist for as long as there is someone to trap.
This post was inspired by two different conversations I had this week. The first conversation happened with my boxer friend at the club. After our training together he said he felt exhausted. Obviously the training was taxing, but he’s not the kind of guy to utter such words so easily. He talked about how he rode his bike to the club in the heavy rain and that it had been harder than he had anticipated. I didn’t give it too much though, after all that was a plausible cause. It had been a very packed day for me, I just hustled along to my next errand, I had to be at three different places back to back and I also felt somewhat heavy, but I pushed through like I usually do, again not giving too much though as to why everything I did felt like a hard-earned touch down on a rainy day.
There are conflicts everywhere. The problem of problems is somehow always present. For example, I can have a good life, but maybe my peers don’t. And if they do, I can always turn to the newspaper for a listing of all the problems of the city… or the world. It makes me rethink of what a problem is. It’s easy to slander out a word without putting in any effort to really understand what it means. Our brain, has the ability to skip over information we already understand, but it makes sense to revisit certain fundamental concepts every now and then. In this case, I’m tempted to think that a problem is an internal disagreement between our idea of a thing, and what the world is providing us with. If there’s a mismatch, then our brain flags that as problem which translates to pain.