2008.08.08 19:00 - Define Compassion

    Table of contents
    No headers

    Stevenaia Michinaga was Guardian tonight and the comments are Stevenaia's.

    I arrived early since this was my first time as Guardian and I wanted to be sure I was able to sign on without a hitch, Adelene was there working on email, Starseed Xue and Threedee Shepherd arrive shortly after I.

    Adelene Dawner: 'lo :)
    Stevenaia Michinaga: hello
    Stevenaia Michinaga: I can't see you yet
    Stevenaia Michinaga: aww, there you are, I came early to warm my cushion as this is my first meeting I am Guardian
    Adelene Dawner: ^.^
    Adelene Dawner: I often show up early, and it's usually empty here. I'm actually working on an email, right now.
    Stevenaia Michinaga: ok
    Adelene Dawner: I do have a topic for today, though, if one doesn't come up on its own.
    Adelene Dawner: 'lo Three ^.^
    Stevenaia Michinaga: Was hoping there would be one..smile
    Adelene Dawner: ^.^
    Stevenaia Michinaga: hello 3D
    Adelene Dawner: Well, let me get a bit more done on this email, and I'll tell you about it when some more people show up.
    Stevenaia Michinaga: thanks
    Threedee Shepherd: hello all
    Stevenaia Michinaga: hello Star
    Starseed Xue: Hello friends
    Stevenaia Michinaga: not used to seeing you in human form, Three
    Threedee Shepherd: a temporary abberation :)
    Adelene Dawner: ^.^
    Stevenaia Michinaga: evening avastu, always a pleasure

    Avastu Maruti arrives

    Avastu Maruti: hello my friend
    Stevenaia Michinaga: we will being in a moment
    Threedee Shepherd: evening Avastu
    Avastu Maruti: hello my friend
    Stevenaia Michinaga: don;t want to start before the crowds arrive
    Stevenaia Michinaga: aww, the gong
    Adelene Dawner: Give'm a minute.
    Stevenaia Michinaga: minutes are things we have to give you
    Stevenaia Michinaga: Just so you know, this is my first meeting as Guardian.... so if I appear to vibrate you understand why
    Adelene Dawner: ^.^
    Threedee: we will be gentle :)
    Adelene Dawner: Ha!
    Adelene Dawner: I've got a doozy of a topic today, I think.
    Stevenaia Michinaga: oh good, please elaboate
    Adelene Dawner: ^.^
    Stevenaia Michinaga: I can watch you type for quite a while Adelene, your feather hands are captivating
    Stevenaia Michinaga: while they type

    Adelene said before the group assembled that she had a topic for tonight ...

    Adelene Dawner: Okay, so I've been thinking about 'compassion' recently. It's a word that's used a lot, especially in spiritual contexts or when talking about enlightenment, and I've never really felt that I had a good understanding of what the word's supposed to mean. I mean, I get the general gist, but it seems like there's no real pattern to the specifics of it. I've put some thoughts together, but I want to get some other perspectives, too. So: What is compassion?
    Threedee Shepherd: empathetic caring about the wellfare of another and/or others
    Stevenaia Michinaga: Compassion: sympathetic consciousness of others' distress together with a desire to alleviate it
    Stevenaia Michinaga: so says the dictionary
    Adelene Dawner grumbles. "Three, would *you* like to explain why I'm suddenly offended?"
    Threedee Shepherd: it includes a component of acceptance of the other as a human, worthy of the caring all humans deserve
    Stevenaia Michinaga: it;s something that is easier for some than others
    Adelene Dawner: (Not offended at you, Steve. Offended at the implications of that definition.)
    Stevenaia Michinaga: I don;t understand why you are offended
    Threedee Shepherd: "compassion starts if/for yourself" which may be why some find it difficult to then project inclusively
    Stevenaia Michinaga: hello Bertrum
    Adelene Dawner sighs. "Okay, I will explain if Three's not going to. This may not be pretty - I don't like to speak from emotion like this."
    Threedee Shepherd: "desire to alleviate" can be imposing a solution upon
    Threedee Shepherd: Hey, I was busy typing and missed the invitation to explain
    Stevenaia Michinaga: If i may, Pia mentioned a story once where she had compassion for a person even though it put her in a potentially dangerous situation, and felt bad that there was a situation where her compassion my have put her in danger
    Adelene Dawner: As part of my neurology, it is difficult if not impossible for me to 'read' others' emotions. Any definition of compassion that requires that awareness excludes me from being able to be compassionate... and I find that implication deeply offensive.

    Bertrum Quan joins us and the conversation continues examining empathy...

    Bertrum Quan: Adelene, are you able to experience empathy?
    Threedee Shepherd: empathy can be based on situation/behavior and not necessarily on *matching emotions*
    Adelene Dawner: Depends, Bertrum; define empathy.
    Adelene Dawner: (Also, 'able to' and 'do so often' are not the same. The answer to the first may be yes, the answer to the second is no.)
    Stevenaia Michinaga: Empathy is the capacity to recognize or understand another's state of mind or emotion
    Adelene Dawner: (At least, if we're talking about emotions.)
    Stevenaia Michinaga: (another copied definition)
    Adelene Dawner: May I give a relevant recent example of a situation?
    Threedee Shepherd: please
    Stevenaia Michinaga: Please
    Stevenaia Michinaga: Compassion is that which makes the heart of the good move at the pain of others. It crushes and destroys the pain of others. Thus, it is called compassion. It is called compassion because it shelters and embraces the distressed." - Dp.A.193
    Adelene Dawner: Wednesday, I did my grocery shopping. I got several bottles of soda, which are rather heavy. As I was putting my purchases on the conveyor belt for the cashier to scan, I realized that if I left them on the side of the belt closer to me - where I had put them out of convenience to myself - that the cashier woudl have to reach further for them, and would have a harder time than necessary in dealing with them. I moved them to the other side of the belt. At no point in that did I think at all of what the cashier's emotion or mental state might be, whether I moved them or not.
    Stevenaia Michinaga: then why do it?
    Adelene Dawner: I can recognize 'this is easier than that' without having to model another person's mindstate, and that was all I needed to know to make the decision the way that I did.
    Bertrum Quan: Is it possible you actually did empathize with the cashier on some level?
    Adelene Dawner: I think what Threedee said about respecting the person *as* a person is the relevant thing - for a definition of 'empathy' that doesn't involve guessing what they will think or feel, yes, that's empathy.
    Stevenaia Michinaga: is it possible you simply don;t see what you are doing is empathetic, but it is to many of us
    Adelene Dawner: Well, that's why I keep coming back to 'define empathy', too.
    Bertrum Quan: We do internalize sometimes--no consciously do things (almost automatically). Compassion and empathy are not intellectual
    Stevenaia Michinaga: ... recognize or understand another's state of mind or emotion
    Bertrum Quan: not
    Stevenaia Michinaga: like opening a door for another
    Stevenaia Michinaga: it is polite but it also recognizes the act as a potemtial inconvenience or burden that we can help with
    Stevenaia Michinaga: just as your ast at the supermarket
    Adelene Dawner: Steve, by that definition I was doing no such thing. I have no idea what the cashier's mindstate was, or what it would have been if I hadn't moved the sodas. I've cashiered myself, and if I had to guess, I'd say that she probably wouldn't've noticed either way unless someone pointed it out to her. As fas as mindstate, it probably made no difference at all.
    Stevenaia Michinaga: act
    Bertrum Quan: Why did you move your items?
    Adelene Dawner: Because ... because once I'd noticed, it would've been asshatish not to. It was an un-noticably small kindness, but it still *was* one.

    Pia Iger appeared outside the pavillion and then disappears

    Adelene Dawner: Hm.
    Bertrum Quan: I would suggest to you your response may have more automatic...
    Adelene Dawner: I think I see a linguistic problem. Let me see if I can put words to that.
    Stevenaia Michinaga: hello Pia
    Adelene Dawner: When you say "recognize another's state of mind" - to me, that means recognizing their *whole* state of mind - impossible in that kind of situation, and very very hard in any kind of situation. But that's not what you need to do in order to do the kind of thing that I did - you just need to see what *relative changes* an action is likely to make - I don't know what the cashier's mindstate was, but I do know that moving the sodas almost certainly had a more positive impact on that mindstate than leaving them there would have.
    Stevenaia Michinaga: sould like you are asking what impact an "act of kindness" may have?
    Adelene Dawner: Nope.
    Adelene Dawner: Well, I mean, when I'm deciding what to do, I ask that. But I'm not asking it now.
    Bertrum Quan: Again, some of the things we do can stem from a deeper place... Our intuition , for example. Your actions may be reflection of empathy and/or compassion... but not necessarily so.
    Adelene Dawner: How so, Bertrum?
    Stevenaia Michinaga: must compassion be overt and deliberate?
    Stevenaia Michinaga: or can it simply be the natural way you do things
    Bertrum Quan: When we discuss the definition we are looking at Stevenaia Michinagar actions from a precise and intellectual perspective. But, yes, it may be an action that stems from a deeper place...
    Adelene Dawner: In this case, that wasn't a natural thing for me. It was actually the first time I've thought of that. (There are plenty of other examples of me being compassionate, though, for similar definitions of compassionate.)
    Bertrum Quan: This small kindness may be a reflection of something larger. Something radiating from your core. Compassion is that way, you know. If it is true.
    Adelene Dawner: Yup. Not going to argue that one. ^.^
    Threedee Shepherd: Adelene:
    I have mindstates and know you have mindstates.
    I infer from myself and observation of others that some actions/
    situations can have a beneficial/positive effect on mindstate.
    Whether your mindstate at a particular moment is or is not like mine, or even knowable to me, I can recongize actions I can do that generally are likely to be beneficial to your mindstate.
    Are you saying more than that?
    Adelene Dawner: There's more to be said, but that's what I'm saying now, Three... though I had wanted to get some other people talking about this. I *know* I've seen the word used in situations other than that kind.
    Stevenaia Michinaga: so if we see it and you don't... does that not make even this little thing an act of compassion
    Adelene Dawner: Ah, but I did see that that action would be beneficial to the cashier. I just didn't get to that knowledge by way of guessing what her emotion or mindstate would be.
    Stevenaia Michinaga: perhaps you are unaware of what you actually see, and act upon it on , as was said, at a "deeper level"
    Bertrum Quan: Or aware on another level...
    Threedee Shepherd: Compassion is, I think, capturered by Martin Buber's concept of I/Thou versus I/It.

    Pema Pera and Sky Szimmer join us.
    Adelene has a wonderful way of reaching a for a definition through example.

    Pema Pera: good evening!
    Threedee Shepherd: evening
    Bertrum Quan: Hi Pema.
    Stevenaia Michinaga: hello Pema
    Avastu Maruti: hello my friend
    Stevenaia Michinaga: find a better coffee shop?
    Pema Pera: hehe, a *$$
    Adelene Dawner: Hmm.
    Adelene Dawner: Here's another way of putting this...
    Adelene Dawner: If you were at the park, having a picnic... would you clean up your table before you left? Why? Would that be compassionate to whoever came behind you? Would you have to meet or otherwise be aware of the person who came behind you for it to be compassionate?
    Bertrum Quan: That sounds more like good manners. It does not involove another person.
    Pema Pera: you could feel that it would be just the right thing to do, yes
    Threedee Shepherd: oh I think it does involve an implicit other person
    Adelene Dawner: If it doesn't involve another person, why do it?
    Pema Pera: it could involve everything, including persons
    Stevenaia Michinaga: cannot compassion be benificial to all of humankind as much as a single person or the next person eating at the table
    Adelene Dawner: How does cleaning off a table benefit 'humankind'?
    Pema Pera: maybe you can just clean without thought of benefit
    Bertrum Quan: I'm not saying it doesn';t involve people who may follow to the park. But there's a difference her. You experience with the cashier involved anothr person directly. Possibly cleaning up the table could reflect your compassion for sentient beings... But I'm not convinced.
    Bertrum Quan: here
    Threedee Shepherd: does the *other* need to be in pain of any sort, or even inconvienced, for an act related towards them to be compassionate?
    Bertrum Quan: I don't think it is pain that is the key... it the love of your fellow human....
    Pema Pera: Hi Sky!
    Sky Szimmer: hey y'all
    Threedee Shepherd: If I have unconditional love for all humans (sentients?) is that in itself coompassion, even in the absence of any action?
    Threedee Shepherd: Hi Sky
    Bertrum Quan: I think so, yes.
    Pema Pera: Do I dare ask "how's life", Sky :) ?
    Threedee Shepherd: Ade, does that go beyond the limited definition I proposed earlier?
    Stevenaia Michinaga: In a broader definition of the word, I would agree
    Threedee Shepherd: My broader suggestion sounds as I look at it like the "core" mentioned earlier
    Adelene Dawner: Yes, it does, and it's closer to the definition that I settled on.
    Sky Szimmer: life is what it is. Pema. Thanks for asking
    Pema Pera: :)
    Stevenaia Michinaga: is sky remaining a cloud, or is it me?
    Threedee Shepherd: Adelene, it appears that what you have accomplished is to helf focus on conpassion as Love, beyond the concept of or need for empathy.
    Threedee Shepherd: *help
    Adelene Dawner: Sounds about right, I think.
    Threedee Shepherd: Sky, I have thought often of you since the previous session we were at.
    Sky Szimmer: thank you for your thoughts
    Bertrum Quan: I need to be going. See you all soon.
    Stevenaia Michinaga: bye Bertrum
    Pema Pera: bye Bert
    Stevenaia Michinaga: do you thing we have helped sort out the definition, Adelene?
    Adelene Dawner: A bit. I think the conclusion I'd come to was pretty close to correct, anyway... and the word is *definitely* misused a lot.
    Sky Szimmer: bbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbb;jjjjjjcccccccccc
    Sky Szimmer: sorry baby is playing. got to run. now he's crying.
    Pema Pera: bye baby and Sky!
    Stevenaia Michinaga: bye Sky
    Stevenaia Michinaga: Adelene, I know there have been conversations about compassion in earlier blogs, thye may be interesting to read through
    Adelene Dawner: I'll look, thanks. ^.^
    Pema Pera: I have used Stim's definition
    Pema Pera: true compassion means seeing that you no one needs anything, and then helping others to see that too
    Pema Pera: (minus "you")
    Pema Pera: but that's the most radical version
    Pema Pera: on the way it is nice to be just nice :)
    Adelene Dawner: Interesting, Pema. Not very practical, though. Hard to apply. Yes, radical but nice, and definitely still accurate!
    Stevenaia Michinaga: yes, and dififcult to apply
    Pema Pera: I don't think so, Adelene, that is is hard to apply
    Pema Pera: perhaps it is *too* easy to apply
    Pema Pera: so we classify it as hard
    Pema Pera: and then we fight it
    Pema Pera: to conquer its "hardness"
    Pema Pera: and we wind up in circles . . . . .
    Avastu Maruti: good night my friends
    Pema Pera: good night, Avastu!
    Stevenaia Michinaga: night Avastu
    Threedee Shepherd: night Avastu
    Adelene Dawner: I assume you're talking about the 'be nice', now... 'be nice' *is* easy. I don't know why people have such trouble with it. The other one is the hard one. Getting to that level of enlightenment is such a long process, and it's hard to know how to help someone along it.
    Threedee Shepherd: Pema, I understand the deeper sense of *need*, yet I strongly believe everyone needs access to clean water.
    Pema Pera: perhaps, Adelene . . . . the notion of "hard" is interesting though -- perhaps with a different perspective we can find that it is actually not that hard . ..
    Pema Pera: oh yes, sure, Threedee!
    Pema Pera: so we do what we can do on the relative level
    Pema Pera: but we can never "rescue" anyone there
    Pema Pera: we all die
    Pema Pera: the real compassion concerns seeing what is real, that we don't die, don't have ultimate needs . . . .
    Pema Pera: the the language of the absolute should not replace or obscure the language of the relative
    Pema Pera: it should underpin it, strengthen it
    Pema Pera: give us more energy and courage to work in the relative level
    Pema Pera: both
    Pema Pera: seeing that a movie is only a movie doesn't mean you have to walk out of the room
    Threedee Shepherd: umhmm
    Pema Pera: no, then you can REALLY enjoy the movie
    Pema Pera: don't have to look away from terrible scenes
    Pema Pera: AND you can really feel the emotions
    Pema Pera: a moving movie can be allowed to be truly moving
    Threedee Shepherd: Thanks Pema, LoA and LoR just became more clear to me!
    Pema Pera: yw :)
    Stevenaia Michinaga: LoA??
    Pema Pera: language of absolute
    Stevenaia Michinaga: aww, thx
    Pema Pera: LoR = language of relative
    Pema Pera: new chattenese :)
    Pema Pera: nc
    Stevenaia Michinaga: lol
    Pema Pera: Adelene, if I can come back to Stim's definition of compassion
    Pema Pera: interpreted in PaB form
    Pema Pera: Let's say that a friend needs help
    Pema Pera: knocks on your door, phones, whatever
    Pema Pera: one option would be to take a deep breath, and for 9 seconds consider that nothing is really, ultimately needed
    Pema Pera: we will all die, in ways we can't even know
    Pema Pera: and most problems can't be avoided
    Pema Pera: then, after that, you do the best you can on the relative level
    Pema Pera: those 9 sec will hardly take away from the help you can give on the relative level
    Pema Pera: and quite likely will ground you more in the absolute
    Adelene Dawner: That, I get. It's the "helping others see that too" part that I'm tripping over.
    Pema Pera: allowing you to use the absolute as the resource that it is and wants to be for you
    Pema Pera: that part is like giving people a fishing rod instead of a fish
    Pema Pera: if they are really hungry, giving them a fishing rod would be cruel
    Pema Pera: first you give fish
    Pema Pera: but then also a rod
    Pema Pera: to let them learn to fish
    Pema Pera: btw
    Pema Pera: in a previous session I just got this image that PaB is like a fishing rod factory :)
    Adelene Dawner: ^.^
    Pema Pera: so many styles being tried out here :-)
    Threedee Shepherd: I think those are two different situations, that is the help vs. the overt teaching. I like to say that "The time to teach someone to swim is not the moment at which they are drowning."
    Pema Pera: exactly
    Pema Pera: a more dramatic water image :)
    Pema Pera: but if you never teach you have to keep rescuing them
    Pema Pera: can get a bit tedious :-)
    Adelene Dawner: Okay, that makes sense, Pema. I was looking for a definition that fit *all* situations, and that part of that one doesn't, but that's okay. I see the pattern. Kind of.
    Pema Pera: rl -- just a sec
    Threedee Shepherd: timing and readines matter, as you have told me, Ade
    Threedee Shepherd: *rediness
    Threedee Shepherd: *readyness
    Adelene Dawner: Yes... that's pretty much the essence of the definition that I came to.
    Adelene Dawner: "Compassion is the habit of leaving spaces in your own pattern, and allowing others to fill those spaces with their own patterns" - for one of my very nonstandard uses of 'pattern'.
    Adelene Dawner: It basically means that, whatever you're doing... leave room in it, so that when you see someone in need, you have the opportunity to help.
    Threedee Shepherd: mmhmm
    Threedee Shepherd: that is certainly a component
    Adelene Dawner: The definition is a work in progress. I need to say something about awareness, or mindfulness, but there's a balance I need to find a way to express - getting too wrapped up in trying to help people, making that your identity, can be very harmful to yourself *and* to the people you're trying to help, and I need to put words to that before I can include it.
    Threedee Shepherd: agreed
    Pema Pera: sorry, longer phone call than I expected -- and felt driven to be a bit "compassionate" not hanging up rudely :-)
    Adelene Dawner: ^.^
    Pema Pera: Adelene, your definition strikes me as close to Taoism
    Threedee Shepherd: I suspect that is related to the Buddhist no-self teachings
    Pema Pera: not-doing, wu-wei
    Adelene Dawner: Yeah, I seem to do a lot of not-doing.
    Pema Pera: let natural things happen, given them room
    Pema Pera: :)
    Adelene Dawner: ^.^
    Pema Pera: *give

    The session winds down for the evening...

    Adelene Dawner nods.
    Adelene Dawner: Making the space is the important part. Noticing is nice, but I don't think that most people would need to do anything special for that to happen.
    Threedee Shepherd: ,"The Way that can be known is not the Way," but please come back for some more tomorrow :)
    Adelene Dawner: hehe!
    Pema Pera: way can way not true way
    Pema Pera: the way that can be walked is not the true way
    Pema Pera: word can word not true word
    Pema Pera: Chinese is wonderful:
    Pema Pera: same character can be verb or noun
    Pema Pera: depending on context
    Threedee Shepherd: neat
    Threedee Shepherd: It is when it is simultaneously used as noun and verb that it becomes one form of poetry.
    Stevenaia Michinaga: well I need to move on, feel free to add what completes the conversations Pema, when I send it to you
    Threedee Shepherd: thanks, Stevenaia Michinaga
    Stevenaia Michinaga: thank you all;
    Pema Pera: time for me to go to, Steve
    Adelene Dawner: ^.^
    Pema Pera: and Adelene and Threedee
    Threedee Shepherd: goodnight Pema
    Pema Pera: great seeing you all, as always!
    Adelene Dawner: cya Pema, Steve
    Pema Pera wondering whether the sleep that can be slept will be the real sleep . . . . .
    Adelene Dawner: heh
    Threedee Shepherd: hah
    Pema Pera: but he will try anyway!
    Pema Pera: always the experimenter

    The session began early and continued well past the hour...`
    Tag page (Edit tags)
    You must login to post a comment.
    Powered by MindTouch Core