In my opinion Empathy is a core spiritual principle. Empathy is kindness and faith in action. It is the ability to really listen to another person, joining them in their feelings and seeing the world through their eyes. Many times in life we listen with good intentions and then want to fix the problem of another. That can often be codependency. Empathy just listens to another and while it is not unwilling to lend a helping hand it also has an underlying faith that the person can solve their own problems. Empathy keeps responsibility where it belongs.
Plus, I found most people want to be heard and listened too rather than fixed.
I found this on the net and to me it is empathy and kindness in action.
Be gentle with one another—
It is a cry from the lives of people battered
By thoughtless words and brutal deeds…
Who of us can look inside another and know what… is there
Of hope and hurt, or promise and pain?
Who can know from what far places each has come…
Our lives are like fragile eggs.
They crack and the substance escapes.
Handle with care!
Handle with exceedingly tender care.
For there are human being within,
Human beings as vulnerable as we are.
Who feel as we feel.
Who hurt as we hurt.
Life is too transient to be cruel with one another;
It is too short for thoughtlessness,
Too brief for hurting.
Be gentle with one another.
by Rev. Richard Gilbert, Unitarian Universalist minster
This is a quote by Atticus Finch a character in the book To Kill A Mockingbird. I think this is a great definition of Empathy.
“You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view… Until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.”
Now think of God. Does your concept of God include one where he is capable of great Empathy for you and your human condition? I will have more to say on that in a different post.
It is the Christmas season and it is a time where we celebrate the birth of Jesus of Nazareth. He was a man who taught a message that was basically one of Love and Compassion. I am not one to harp on scripture nor am I a Bible thumper by any stretch of the imagination. This post will have some scripture quotes from many sources. I like to quote His Holiness the Dalai Lama: Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible. My religion is very simple. My religion is kindness
I find truth in many faiths for it is my personal belief that wherever Love, Kindness and Compassion are exhibited and taught, God is there.
So here are some quotes on Love, Kindness and Compassion from various Faiths this Christmas Season.
Matthew 9:36 But when He saw the multitudes, He was moved with compassion for them, because they were weary and scattered, like sheep having no shepherd.
Matthew 14:14 And when Jesus went out He saw a great multitude; and He was moved with compassion for them, and healed their sick.
Matthew 15:32 Now Jesus called His disciples to Himself and said, “I have compassion on the multitude, because they have now continued with Me three days and have nothing to eat. And I do not want to send them away hungry, lest they faint on the way.”
1 Peter 3:8-12 Finally, all of you be of one mind, having compassion for one another; love as brothers, be tenderhearted, be courteous; not returning evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary blessing, knowing that you were called to this, that you may inherit a blessing. For “He who would love life and see good days, let him refrain his tongue from evil, and his lips from speaking deceit. Let him turn away from evil and do good; Let him seek peace and pursue it. For the eyes of the LORD are on the righteous, and His ears are open to their prayers; But the face of the LORD is against those who do evil.”
1 Corinthians 13:4-New International Version (NIV)
4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
8 Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away.
Buddhism is also a path of Loving Kindness and Compassion.
“All the peace and happiness of the whole globe,
the peace and happiness of societies,
the peace and happiness of family,
the peace and happiness in the individual persons’ life,
and the peace and happiness of even the animals and so forth,
all depends on having loving kindness toward each other.”
Lama Zopa Rinpoche
A praise of compassion by Lama Zopa Rinpoche:
“Live with compassion
Work with compassion
Die with compassion
Meditate with compassion
Enjoy with compassion
When problems come,
Experience them with compassion.”
Love in Hinduism is sacrament. It preaches that one gives up selfishness in love, not expecting anything in return.
It also believes “God is love”. A sacred text named Kanda Guru Kavasa quotes, ” Oh holy Great flame, Grant me with love.. You said the spreading love is Para Brahma, For the thing which is everywhere is only Love, And Love is the only thing which is like a soul within us, Love is Kumara, Love is Kanda” Simply means Love is God.
My closing thoughts: We live in a multicultural world. We live in a world where people are different from “us.” They look different, the pray different, worship different, they speak differently…we can focus on so many things that separate us yet forget our common humanity that unites us. The world gives us many opportunities to hate one another. Even in my country we live in a world where people divide one another based on politics and the old worn out Liberal vs Conservative separation. On social media where people often have some semblance of anonymity so we judge and name call and show hate towards those with whom we disagree.
Love takes work. Sometimes it can feel like very hard work. It takes looking within ourselves and having both the mindfulness and the willingness to see those dark places within us where we still hold hatred and prejudices in our hearts. Now I don’t mean to sound preachy or holier than thou, for I too am on this path and there is much work to do within me. This message is for myself and not just those who find themselves on this page.
So in this Holiday season where we speak of Peace and good will toward mankind. Let us not make them hallow words but let us make Loving one another and healing our hearts the goal of our life and the path we walk each day.
I have not posted in this Blog for TWO YEARS! I have decided that on Wednesday of each week I will make a blog post on various topics relating to spirituality, Buddhism, 12-step recovery, mental health recovery and religion in general.
Today I leave you with a poem I have written.
No, this is not Spam. This is blog owner Bill Foley here with an important message. Please forgive me for this one indulgence. I would like to take a break for a moment and speak about something important to me. Michael Tomlinson is one of the best singer-songwriters in the business these days. He is in the process of creating a beautiful new album and if his past work is any indication this new CD will fill your soul and make you smile and make life just that much enjoyable. So, let’s all support Michael Tomlinson in any way you feel moved. Financially, emotionally, pass this on to a thousand friends, what ever you can do. In a world that can be difficult Michael’s music shines through and lets us all know how positive and joyous life truly is.
My monkey mind and my ego love to compare. Often I end up on the short end of the stick when it comes to comparisons. Oh, don’t get me wrong I have not achieved saint-hood just yet and I sometimes do compare myself to others in order to feel better about myself and even to feel superior. However, I do experience the low end of comparison more often than not.
There will also be people that appear more handsome, wealthy, smarter and talented than I am. So I cannot rest my self-esteem on the notion of being the best at anything! I am learning that accomplishments are a poor foundation upon which to build self-esteem.
We live in a culture that applauds wealth and outward success. While those things are not bad in and of themselves they are not the key to inner peace and contentment. Many wealthy people are clinically depressed and suffer from addictions or commit suicide.
We also judge on the surface. We may never know the daily struggles the people we compare ourselves with have in every day life.
I think the first step out of this trap of compare and despair is to have compassion for yourself. Unconditional total acceptance and compassion for yourself. That is where the work and the journey begins. I will speak more on that next week.
Patience can be a hard thing to define and even a more difficult thing to obtain. Lets start with a definition: the quality of being patient, as the bearing of provocation, annoyance, misfortune, or pain, without complaint, loss of temper, irritation, or the like. Hmmm…I don’t know if that tells me much.
In my mind patience is synonymous with being at peace with what is. Patience is also a virtue to cultivate because I do not think it is something that comes natural to our minds and spirits. We grasp at what we want and we have an aversion toward we do not want to experience. Either way, it comes down to that we want what we want when we want it it.
So how do we cultivate patience? I think the first step is mindfulness. We cannot start down the path toward patience if we are not mindful of when we are impatient and what the causes of our impatience is.
“Why is patience so important?”
“Because it makes us pay attention.”
~ Paulo Coelho
In Buddhism we are taught to pay attention to everything. The gift in that type of paying attention is that we do so without judgment or condemnation. We can view our impatience with compassionate acceptance. In other words, being compassionate with ourselves and others is patience in action!
“Patience is bitter, but its fruit is sweet.”~ Aristotle
Now in this small blog entry I cannot do the topic justice. But, be patient with me for I will return to it once again.
I will leave you with this….
Galatians 5:22-23New International Version (NIV)
22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.
The word forbearance is another word for patience: patient self-control; restraint and tolerance.
For me this scripture tells me that as I practice spiritual principles in my life the fruits of the spiritual work I have done will result in patience. So patience, to me, is a side-effect of living and working spiritual principles in my life.
Hope. It is a very simple word yet it has had many different definitions according to who you talk to. One of the persons I talk to on a daily basis is a friend I have known for 28 years. She helps inspire hope in me. Every morning at 10:30am I pickup the phone and call Ann. She is 91 years old. We talk about 12-step recovery and mental health issues, we talk about current events and she loves to pick my brain about history and how they relate to the current events in the world. However, we also frequently come back to the topic of hope. It amazes me to hear how a woman near the end of her journey still finds things to hope for and reasons to get out of bed in the morning. Here is a definition of Hope that we could agree on:
Hope is an optimistic attitude of mind based on an expectation of positive outcomes related to events and circumstances in one’s life or the world at large.
We also found some scriptures concerning Hope comforting.
For I know the plans I have for you. declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. — Jeremiah 29:11
Faith is the assurance of things you have hoped for, the absolute conviction that there are realities you’ve never seen. — Hebrews 11:1
Here is a quote concerning Hope by the Buddhist Monk Thich Nhat Hanh “Hope is important because it can make the present moment less difficult to bear. If we believe that tomorrow will be better, we can bear a hardship today.”
What does Thich Nhat Hanh, my friend Ann, and these scriptures teach me about hope?
It teaches me that Hope is just like any other mental state we human beings experience. It is transient and impermanent and therefore Hope needs to be nourished and encouraged and cultivated on a daily basis. For many people like myself and my friend Ann who struggle with depression and anxiety, Hope may not come naturally so it must be something that we plant each day within our mind and cultivate it the best we can. I have found the best way to do that is within the community of other fellow humans walking this same path as I am. I also find that gratitude can be a wonderful way to till the soil of one’s mind in which hope can be planted.
Let me leave you with some further jewels of wisdom by Thich Nhat Hanh that help nurture Hope within me.
Breathing in, I calm body and mind. Breathing out, I smile. Dwelling in the present moment I know this is the only moment. Your breathing should flow gracefully, like a river, like a watersnake crossing the water, and not like a chain of rugged mountains or the gallop of a horse. To master our breath is to be in control of our bodies and minds. Each time we find ourselves dispersed and find it difficult to gain control of ourselves by different means, the method of watching the breath should always be used. In allow ourselves to walk mindfully, touching the earth, our wonderful mother, with each step. We don’t need to wish our friends, ‘Peace be with you.’ Peace is already with them. We only need to help them cultivate the habit of touching peace in each moment.
I feel it is time to resurrect this blog…pun intended. I will post once a week, every Wednesday, and I will share my spiritual practices and beliefs and talk about issues around mental health and 12-step recovery. I hope, dear reader, that you will benefit from this blog but my main purpose is to use this blog to feed my own soul and to encourage its growth.
I also want to have this blog be a light in this dark world. I don’t mean for that to sound grandiose its just that there is always depressing news in the world and we live in a time where 24 hour news networks give us a constant stream of negativity and divisive opinions. I want this blog to be a focus on the positive.
Right now there has been constant fighting between Palestinians and Israeli’s. There is Civil War in Syria and ISIS is spreading hate and terror through the world. Oh, how I long for peace and a time when we no longer want to kill one another over our beliefs and who owns the land.
So today I will leave you with the words from the Peace Poem by John Denver, a great singer song-writer and a voice for Peace in this world.
The Peace Poem
There’s a name for war and killing
there’s a name for giving in
when you know another answer
for me the name is sin
but there’s still time to turn around
and make all hatred cease
and give another name to living
and we could call it peace
And peace would be the road we walk
each step along the way
and peace would be the way we work
and peace the way we play
And in all we see that’s different
and in all the things we know
peace would be the way we look
and peace the way we grow
There’s a name for separation
there’s a name for first and last
when it’s all for us or nothing
for me the name is past
but there’s still time to turn around
and make all hatred cease
and give a name to all the future
and we could call it peace
And if peace is what we pray for
and peace is what we give
then peace will be the way we are
and peace the way we live
Yes there still is the time to turn around
and make all hatred cease
and give another name to living
and we can call it peace
John Denver – The Peace Poem
In AA’s Big Book it says that “Acceptance is the answer to all of my problems.” The older I get the more I discover that is true. Now acceptance doesn’t mean that we cannot take action on a problem, acceptance is, however, the first step. Recognizing and acceptance of problems and life as it is in the present moment is a key concept of recovery. It is also a core concept in Buddhism. Or I were to put Buddhist philosophies in a nutshell I would use the term acceptance to define Buddhism core teaching. Acceptance is to not resist what exists in our present moment.
For after all, the best thing one can do when it is raining is let it rain.”
― Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
I am a bit of a weather junkie and I often hear many people complain about the weather. Now only do we complain, we like to judge the weather. Sunny warm days are called “good weather” and snowy rainy days are called “bad weather.” When we experience bad weather we resist it, complain and suffer. I actually enjoy many types of weather, although I do admit that when weather doesn’t change fast enough to suit my preferences I can struggle with it. But with weather I try to just accept it and enjoy whatever is in the present moment. I like to take the song lyrics to Michael Tomlinson’s song “Seattle Skies”to heart …
“I loved the thrill of the wind, oh, as early as I can recall. I thought of weather as my friend Whether sun or snow or rain, I was born to love it all.”
My mind can have its own weather patterns. Sometimes it is bright and sunny and sometimes stormy and sometimes cloudy and gloomy. I don’t know about you but I want to live in the sunshine of my mind all of the time. However, the changing nature of our monkey mind doesn’t really make that an option. So it is ironic, a paradox, that to constantly chase after serenity can often mean we do no accept our mind as it is in the present moment. Chasing frantically after serenity and contentment will only guarantee that it will remain elusive.
This is where developing mindfulness comes in. Being mindful to means being aware of what it going on within me in the present moment so I am not caught up in the whirlwinds of life and my mind. The practice of mindfulness is the way I can practice acceptance. Like a puddle that has been muddied if I just let it be with compassionate acceptance I can watch as the storms pass, the muddiness and the cloudiness in my mind dissipate.
This is not always easy. I have years of practicing being a storm chaser and storm creator. So I must accept that I am still a student and still learning.
I have not been using this blog lately and I have decided to kick-start it once again.
On Facebook I get posts by people who are motivational speakers. They often talk about positive attitudes and affirmations to achieve success. I have read the book “The Secret” and other things that speak of creating your life the way you want and reaching your goals. I do believe in changing our thoughts and behaviors to one that is positive and not negative. I also practice Cognitive Behavioral techniques and these are compatible with the notion of changing ones attitudes and beliefs.
But one thing I have grown more leery of is chasing after success. Well, success as it is often defined in this culture via the media and other avenues. In my view success is defined as being thin, young, good-looking, wealthy, having a prestigious job, power, expensive house, nice car…oh this list is pretty much endless. Much of what is considered success in this list is based on materialism. Or, to state it another way, much of the goals for success seem outwardly focused as if getting these material possessions or circumstances will make one happy.
Even chasing after things like a better job or more money with the belief that these things may not make you happier but they just may make life easier may not be true either. Your better job may be more stressful and the increased income may also cause problems if you do not have the ability to cope and deal with the increased income. I don’t want to sound negative and I don’t want to imply that getting a better job or money or reaching these other goals will not make you happy or cause your life to be easier. It may work that way. Your dream job may very well make your life better.
I think the important key here is mindfulness and motivation. Sometimes a change in a job or other outward changes are what is needed, sometimes the changes that need to be made are not in our circumstances but in our attitudes. The importance is to mindfully know the difference. Are we chasing things because we feel an inner void or lack, and an emptiness? Are we chasing after these things to feel good about ourselves? In my experience, that is when these things do not work.
I have been gifted with artistic abilities. I can sing, play a musical instrument, I can draw and I can write well. I used to crave recognition for these things because I felt so crappy about myself on the inside. Sometimes I would get the recognition and the applause for my singing or performing. Sometimes people could not care or were not impressed that I was a singer and performer. I wanted to get my Master’s Degree in Mental Health Counseling for two reasons. First reason is that I do have a genuine interest in counseling and psychology. A deeper reasons was I thought that a degree like that would make me feel better about myself. That it would impress people and it would give me acceptance. Life doesn’t work that way.
So I am learning the lesson that no amount of outward manifestation of success can bring a lasting sense of inner peace and happiness. So I am learning to define success differently. I am learning what is self-esteem and inner peace and how do I manifest that inside of myself. I am no longer going to chase after the brass ring of how this culture defines success. As one of the tenets of Buddhism says a”ll of life is impermanen’t and chasing after the things of this world have lost much of their appeal.
Buddhism teaches people that the real source of happiness is inner peace. If our mind is peaceful, we shall be happy all the time, regardless of external conditions, but if it is disturbed or troubled in any way, we shall never be happy, no matter how good our external conditions may be. External conditions can only make us happy if our mind is peaceful. We can understand this through our own experience. For instance, even if we are in the most beautiful surroundings and have everything we need, the moment we get angry any happiness we may have disappears. This is because anger has destroyed our inner peace.
I found this on the web, sorry I cannot find the author. I think what is says is true. I am going to document this journey through this bolg as I walk the road of finding true inner peace.