When My Life Is In Danger

Christina Feldman

Reading by Liz Helgesen (Download file)

Awakin FeatureA few years ago, an elderly monk arrived in India after fleeing from prison in Tibet. Meeting with the Dalai Lama, he recounted the years he had been imprisoned, the hardship and beatings he had endured, the hunger and loneliness he had lived with, and the torture he had faced.

At one point the Dalai Lama asked him, “Was there ever a time you felt your life was truly in danger?”

The old monk answered, “In truth, the only time I truly felt at risk was when I felt in danger of losing compassion for my jailers.”

Hearing stories like this, we are often left feeling skeptical and bewildered. We may be tempted to idealize both those who are compassionate and the quality of compassion itself. We imagine these people as saints, possessed of powers inaccessible to us. Yet stories of great suffering are often stories of ordinary people who have found greatness of heart. To discover an awakened heart within ourselves, it is crucial not to idealize or romanticize compassion. Our compassion simply grows out of our willingness to meet pain rather than to flee from it.

We may never find ourselves in situations of such peril that our lives are endangered; yet anguish and pain are undeniable aspects of our lives. None of us can build walls around our hearts that are invulnerable to being breached by life. Facing the sorrow we meet in this life, we have a choice: Our hearts can close, our minds recoil, our bodies contract, and we can experience the heart that lives in a state of painful refusal. We can also dive deeply within ourselves to nurture the courage, balance, patience, and wisdom that enable us to care.

If we do so, we will find that compassion is not a state. It is a way of engaging with the fragile and unpredictable world. Its domain is not only the world of those you love and care for, but equally the world of those who threaten us, disturb us, and cause us harm. It is the world of the countless beings we never meet who are facing an unendurable life.

The ultimate journey of a human being is to discover how much our hearts can encompass. Our capacity to cause suffering as well as to heal suffering live side by side within us. If we choose to develop the capacity to heal, which is the challenge of every human life, we will find our hearts can encompass a great deal, and we can learn to heal—rather than increase—the schisms that divide us from one another.

Christina Feldman is a long-time meditation teacher residing in New England, as a mother and grandmother. Excerpted from this article.

Seed questions for reflection: What does compassion mean to you? Can you share a story of a time you were able to develop the capacity to heal suffering? What helps you develop the capacity to heal suffering?

Add Your Reflection:

8 Previous Reflections:

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    On Nov 12, 2019 KG wrote:
    Compassion is when you feel the suffering or pain of others and you are willing to do something to make their situation better. We relate to others pain through ours own experiences or our idea of what it must have felt like, or feels like. Intense suffering can generate compassion or sometimes anger. My own personal experience of pain has definitely made me more compassionate person. There is a pleasure in being compassionate. Even though that's not the sole intention of being compassionate to someone, I feel my life is more meaningful when I can practice being compassionate towards others.

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    On Nov 6, 2019 Raj wrote:
    Instances - In early college years, just sitting near a class mate (who was sobbing after losing his father) while the others kept away as they probably felt uncomfortable.
    Simpler ones - shifting any creature back to its natural habitat after it has strayed and is unable to get back. Stopping my journey to help anyone struggling in some way, as carrying a heavy load.
    Sometimes I see the fact of not being compassionate to and accepting of - myself.
    It helps to step out of little sufferings, with no substantial basis, by considering that ' I ' am the trustee and caretaker of the life energy in me and that it needs to be kept light and clean.

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    On Nov 5, 2019 V wrote:
    Compassion, to me, is opening wide, accepting what is without judgment, being present in love to whatever, whoever, while at the same time feeling the desire to relieve the suffering of another. In my life, compassion is active; I try to be in gratitude for all of my blessings so that I have an abundance of blessings to give to others. Even if it's only a smile or a kind word, I see the responding answer and I am blessed again.

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    On Nov 5, 2019 SmArt deViL wrote:



    Great Article it its really informative and innovative keep us posted with new updates. its was really valuable. thanks a lot.


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    On Nov 4, 2019 Michael Stilinovich wrote:
    "Our compassion simply grows out of our willingness to meet pain rather than to flee from it."

    This is what I will remember from the reading.....

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    On Nov 4, 2019 Kristin Pedemonti wrote:
    Compassion to me means feeling love, care, kindness and empathy for everyone, no exceptions.It means to look below the surface and seek to understand what may be underneath driving the behavior or words of another (and of self). Perhaps because I grew up in a household with a dad who had multiple suicide attempts and died when I was 22, and because I experienced significant bullying from ages 9 to about 14, I have somehow developed a deeper ability to hold compassion for all, because I have lived on the other side of it. The capacity to also heal suffering begins, (for me anyway) with seeking to look underneath it, and to also ask, "what can I learn from this experience?" "How might I grow?" How might I find compassion for self or others in this experience and learning? What helps develop it is to recognize everyone has had times of suffering so matter what their life may look like externally. Since we have all suffered, we are all together. And then we can begin t... [View Full Comment] Compassion to me means feeling love, care, kindness and empathy for everyone, no exceptions.It means to look below the surface and seek to understand what may be underneath driving the behavior or words of another (and of self).
    Perhaps because I grew up in a household with a dad who had multiple suicide attempts and died when I was 22, and because I experienced significant bullying from ages 9 to about 14, I have somehow developed a deeper ability to hold compassion for all, because I have lived on the other side of it.
    The capacity to also heal suffering begins, (for me anyway) with seeking to look underneath it, and to also ask, "what can I learn from this experience?" "How might I grow?" How might I find compassion for self or others in this experience and learning?

    What helps develop it is to recognize everyone has had times of suffering so matter what their life may look like externally. Since we have all suffered, we are all together. And then we can begin to heal. Acknowledging the suffering is key and needs to happen first, before we can heal.

    Hugs from my heart to all of yours,
    Kristin[Hide Full Comment]

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    On Nov 3, 2019 d wrote:
    Compassion is feeling with and for the other, sincerely caring, and helping in some way. To suffer means to carry. Suffering isn't pain -- suffering is how we carry our pain. We each suffer or carry our pain, whatever it is. I can't heal the suffering of another. I can only heal or make more healthy how I suffer or carry my pain. I can help and have helped others heal their suffering by helping them see how they are suffering their pain, and by helping them learn a way that is more healthy and efficient and that doesn't produce unnecessary pain,. I can help them activate their own healing of their suffering. What helps me develop the capacity to help another heal his or her suffering is for me to be clear as to what suffering is and help the other be clear about that, develop my ability to see how the other suffers, and develop my ability to intervene in a way that is compassionate, honest, and accurate.

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    On Nov 1, 2019 Jagdish P Dave wrote:
    Compassion is a caring feeling that arises in us when we see someone going through suffering. Seeing someone suffering evokes compassion in me and an inclination in me to reach out and help the person to heal him. Seeing a person going through emotional pain touches my heart and creates emotional bond with the other person. I have gone though deep suffering in my life. I accepted my suffering and went through the process of healing me. It took time to heal my emotional wounds. I had learned to face my suffering compassionately rather than fleeing away from it, from my own being. I had gone though several days of darkness and pain. Working on myself compassionately helped me understand and relate to suffering of other people. In my everyday life I run into young and old people going through small and big sufferings. Walking in and going though my own suffering taught me how to empathize with them, understand them and hold their hands as they are going through their suffering. Such exper... [View Full Comment] Compassion is a caring feeling that arises in us when we see someone going through suffering. Seeing someone suffering evokes compassion in me and an inclination in me to reach out and help the person to heal him. Seeing a person going through emotional pain touches my heart and creates emotional bond with the other person.
    I have gone though deep suffering in my life. I accepted my suffering and went through the process of healing me. It took time to heal my emotional wounds. I had learned to face my suffering compassionately rather than fleeing away from it, from my own being. I had gone though several days of darkness and pain. Working on myself compassionately helped me understand and relate to suffering of other people. In my everyday life I run into young and old people going through small and big sufferings. Walking in and going though my own suffering taught me how to empathize with them, understand them and hold their hands as they are going through their suffering. Such experiences are spiritual experiences for me. They make me a whole person.

    According to my understanding and experience we all have the potential to cultivate our heart qualities. What helpsus to develop such qualities are people in our life who practice compassion. I always remember the wise saying of MahatmaGandhi, "Be the change you wish to see in the world." I was blessed to have parents, friends and teachers as role models as I was growing up. They provided me nourishment to cultivate the seeds of compassion and kindness in my heart. Remembering my own suffering and Keeping my heart open to suffering of others helps me todevelop and sustain my heart qualities.
    Namsate.
    JagdishP Dave'


















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