If we claim that compassion is only something we direct at others; an outward movement of the heart and soul, we are likely to throw ourselves headlong into every train wreck we can find. This leads to a person who is weak and ineffectual from strain and stress and is therefore in no state to help anyone. The continuous out pouring of our time and energy leaves us disconnected from the very source of out time and energy.
On the other hand, if we claim that compassion is something that we must give to our selves or receive from others, we soon end up in a narcissistic shell of withdrawn neediness. We feel that we can do no good if we are not perfectly in “alignment” and thus we lavish ourselves with every conceivable kind of consolation to make sure that we are centered and ready to do good that we never get around to doing because we are always preparing for it.
There is a balance that must be sought in the cultivation of Compassion, and the great wisdom traditions tell us that the balance should be weighted towards the service of others. The ideal balance is a practice that maintains yet constantly stretches the self system until it is finally capable of genuine care and concern for all of creation in a steady and stable embrace.
Most of us fall on either one side or the other of that balance, and we could use a little fine tuning to help us grow. It is easy to see that many people could benefit from increased service to others. It is also easy to see that their are many people who would benefit more from taking a break to connect to source. . .
Where you are on that spectrum can be a hard thing to judge honestly because we tend to pat ourselves on the back when we think we are doing well and blame outside forces when we think we are off track. Finding this balance means different things for different people which is why spiritual mentoring is highly advised in all of the worlds traditions. We need people who have been in similar spiritual situations and who have seen many similar situations because these people have the experience needed to show us our blind spots that keep tripping us up.
That said, something you can do at any time on your own is pay attention to your self. Bring genuine awareness into your day and really notice the thoughts you entertain. Get a little pocket notebook and carry it with you throughout the day. Each morning draw a line down the middle of the next clear page and as you go through the day, try to tally the number of times you catch yourself thinking of the well being of others vs the number of times you find yourself concerned with your own well being. Eventually you will begin to see a pattern in the slant of your compassion. From that honest appraisal you can begin to tune your practice to include more service or more self regeneration as needed.
Why would anyone want to do this? What is so great about compassion that we would want to go to such lengths to actively cultivate it?
Compassion is a doorway to the Infinite Love. Genuine compassion breaks down the conceptual and emotional barriers between ourselves and others. When we reach out to another from the heart and touch the heart of another with our own, we realize that our true well being is not separate from the well being of others. As our hearts learn to reside more regularly in the wellbeing of unity, we open more consciously to the ultimate Unity of the Divine. Eventually we are may exist in the constant state of unity that is True Compassion, in which There is no separation between ourselves and others, no separation between ourselves and our environment and no separation between us and God.
True Compassion is the greatest of bliss in the deepest sense of the word. We must continually build a self that is worth letting go of. As we abandon those constructed selves over and over again in the service of others we become more and more selfless. To be completely selfless is to be in complete union with the Divine Source of your very being. The Love from whence you came is both the ground and the goal of the practice of compassion.
Wishing you Liberation!
Wishing you Selfless Bliss!