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Hardships make us grow in compassion

Hardships make us grow in compassion.

When we experience difficult times, we come out of them with greater compassion for others.

I was raised in a home where we didn’t take our life for granted.

Family in Lebanon were living underground due to war. We would exchange videos via VHS and I would watch in awe at how happy everyone was despite such challenging living conditions.

I would talk to cousins, uncles and aunties whom I had never met before.

But there was a sense of knowing who they were. My parents instilled in me and my siblings the importance of showing love for our family even though all we knew of them were their names.

I never understood it then; why my parents enforced this kinship.

But now as the years pass me, I realise how profound this was.

Building strong connection with family is our lifeline.

Protecting each other was all they had and all they knew.

Living a daily life based on survival instincts made them stronger as a family and relationships were more important than material possessions.

In modern times, we have more than we need or can accommodate for.

We build bigger houses to put more things in.

We hire storage spaces just to store more stuff that we don’t use or need.

We shop, shop and shop to try and satiate the craving within us for connection.

Connection to love.

If all we have is within us, then why do we seek it outside ourselves?

When we look around our home, do we think “wow look at all that I have. I have far too much!”

Or do we have a sense of dissatisfaction with the way things are?

We desire more because we don’t feel satisfied with the present reality. So we think we need something else to fill us up.

We continue to try and fill a void that no material object will ever fulfill.

My parents grew up in Lebanon before migrating to Australia.

They lived each day with unspoken gratitude. Gratitude to be alive.

They were grateful for every meal on their plate, no matter how simple.

My mum shared one bed between her other 4 siblings and the bedroom was the living room and the kitchen. It was one room. That was their life as children. They had few possessions.

But damn did they love each other.

My dad lost his mother at a young age and so early in life he and his older brother assumed responsibility for their younger siblings to help provide food and shelter to them.

Siblings were closer than they ever – seeking to protect, love and look out for the other.

No material possessions can buy this.

Perhaps that’s why my parents are so compassionate. My parents were always the first to give and still are.

If they saw a random person on the street who appeared in need of help, they would help them.

This is the kind of generosity I grew up seeing in my household.

The generosity and compassion my parents have, comes from a heart that has seen and lived difficult times.

They know what it’s like to live on very little. What it’s like to have almost nothing except cling to life itself.

Knowing what my parents went through makes me appreciate my life and all the things that I can so easily take for granted.

Compassion means to “feel with” and it’s so easy to feel with someone else’s hardship when you have experienced hardship yourself.

It is a gift growing older, as we have the privilege and opportunity to grow in compassionate wisdom.

 

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Grace's Blog

We All Share the Same Nature

Last month I talked about the essence of the nature of who we are.  Who are we? We are: Sat Chit Ananda (‘Absolute Bliss Consciousness’).  This is the Self.  We share this nature with all living beings: whether we are human, a cow, a dog or a fish.

We all share this common nature of the Self.  As we start to recognise our shared nature with all sentient beings, we start to realise the importance of Ahimsa (non harming).  As living beings we have two main goals in life: to be happy and to avoid suffering.  We share this goal with the horse, the pig and all living creatures.  Once we realise this, we start to change the way we think, the way we speak and this influences our actions.

The greatest everlasting happiness is achieved by putting the welfare of others before your own.  Patanjali says that we should avoid harmful thoughts, not just actions.  Our thoughts are deeply entwined with the way we act!

As a yogi, we are encouraged to live a life that causes the least amount of suffering to others.  All beings.  This is ahimsa in practice.

An important ingredient of ahimsa is compassion.  The word compassion means to “feel with”: ‘passion’ means to ‘feel’ and com’ means ‘with’.  So when we have compassion towards another being, it means we literally “feel with” them.

If we recognise that we share the same nature as other living beings, we begin to see ourselves through other beings.  Compassion trains the mind to see past our outer differences of form.  Just because a dog has four legs and we have two, it doesn’t change the fact that we share the same inner essence.  Once we see this, we begin not only to desire happiness for ourselves, but we realise that every single creature also desires happiness.

To develop compassion, it is a good practice to examine or reflect on your motives for your actions.  What are your intentions for your actions? Are they honourable? Are they honest?

When I was very young, I was always very sensitive to the suffering of others; humans and animals alike.  When I was a teenager, I started to really become aware of the fact that I was eating the flesh of other sentient beings.  I started to develop a very fine conscience about this and so when I was 17 years old, I became a vegetarian.  My motive was to avoid contributing to any suffering of another being.  I couldn’t come to terms with the fact that an animal had to suffer in order for me to eat, when there was plenty of other food that I could eat that was nourishing for my body and mind. So for the last 18 years I have been a dedicated vegetarian and although my dairy intake was not big, I only decided to become a Vegan about 3 months ago.

I read up on the dairy industry and it suddenly overwhelmed me to realise the suffering that cows and chickens (hens and roosters) endure so that we can have aisles of dairy in our supermarket.  For me, the decision to stop eating meat or dairy came from within me, with no outside pressure.  It was something that came with an acute sense of wanting to avoid suffering.  I strongly believe that if we live our life fuelled with ahimsa (non harming) and compassion, it will vibrantly change our planet.

So I encourage you to examine your thoughts, words and actions this month: how do you contribute to ahimsa in your world?

  • What are your thoughts on your boss at work?
  • How do you view your colleagues?
  • How do you treat the stranger that bumps into you at the shops?
  • How do you speak to your partner and loved ones after a rough day?
  • How do you speak to your colleagues when you’re under pressure?
  • Are your actions at work honourable?

 “The root of happiness is compassion” ~ Dalai Lama