A brief note on compassion

I am the noobiest of noobs when it comes to practicing compassion.

It’s not that I am mean, per se, although at times in my life I have certainly been mean to plenty of people.

Rather, it’s that I am extremely quick to judge.

Just this morning, I noticed a van parked in the middle of the bike lane. Which frigging idiot driver parks their van IN THE MIDDLE OF THE BIKE LANE?!

It turns out that the “idiot” was servicing some cables that happen to run underneath the bike lane, and he was servicing them from inside a manhole that sits in the middle of the bike lane.

Whoops!

I make these sorts of snap judgments all the time. (“Who would wear jeans with pre-cut holes in them?!”) Perhaps you do too.

The lack of compassion I display in such situations causes me to be angry for no reason. It produces stress. The idiotic behavior I assume or the different values I judge—they sap my energy.

So how can I (and perhaps you) be more compassionate?

Apparently one effective way is to practice loving-kindness meditation. I plan to get started with that someday, but hey—I already practice a different form of meditation daily and I can’t do everything.

There are two little useful tactics I’ve noticed, though. First is simply being aware. I notice myself judging and then I call myself out. “Okay, here I go again with the judging.” That’s one.

Second, I ask myself: What would happen if I assumed that this person were acting in their own best interest? 

We can generally assume that people act in their own best interest, given their current knowledge and ability. Perhaps what they’re doing looks wrong to you—think about the chain smoker who sneaks out for a cigarette—but they might not realize that they are harming themselves. Or we might be making incorrect assumptions; we might be wrong about what’s “best” for this person.

Anyway, that’s about as far as I get. Like I said, I am a noob at this.

How do you practice compassion?

Yours,

— Peter

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