I ask people to share their written concept of the word compassion in a notebook. As of today, I estimate asking about 20,000 people and receiving approximately 10,000 responses. I do this as a personal endeavor to bring awareness to compassion and to help alleviate unnecessary suffering in the world. I began this endeavor on June 3rd, 2009.
Because of asking so many people and receiving so many entries, one of the most frequently asked questions is What’s YOUR definition of compassion? I figure since people know that I ask about compassion, a curiosity arises as to what my definition is. My concept of compassion has changed over the years because as I continue to ask people, I allow the experience to shape what I believe compassion to be. Here is what it was on June 9th, 2009, soon after I first started:
An instant, reactive, indiscriminate thought or feeling that leads to understanding, accepting, then taking action in accordance with positive life forces inside or outside of your own in order to allow and/or assist that force with its basic needs to exist harmoniously—all done with the intent and energy of loving kindness.
In forming my current definition of compassion, I read through entries logged in the notebooks. I studied scientific research on the subject and read the insights of past and contemporary spiritual leaders. The learning experience was profound and, through this process, my concept evolved. A dear, wise swami friend of mine suggested I keep my own definition simple. I narrowed my definition down to a short, two-word phrase: recognizing essence.
Recognition brings what was once part of the unknown (or unconscious) into our present awareness. To recognize something, is to acknowledge its existence in a way we may not have noticed it before. Essence is the set of core characteristics that defines someone or something. When we open ourselves to recognizing the true essence of someone in need, we are more likely to be led to a compassionate act.
For example, the essence of being human—one of our core characteristics—is the need for food. Recognizing that we all need food is likely to lead to the compassionate act of giving food to someone who needs it. Love is another part of being human. Recognizing that the essence of being human is the need for love is likely to lead to the compassionate act of giving love.
Recently, I came across 1000 Voices Speak for Compassion, a Facebook group of bloggers writing and working for compassion. When I heard about it, I immediately and enthusiastically explored it and invited everyone I know who works with compassion to join the community. I also asked to join the group, feeling like I was in flight with 1000 others flying in formation; let’s all fly south for the winter, together.
Reading what others share in the group about compassion enables the continuous growth of information for what I do in bringing awareness to compassion. As a lifelong learner about compassion, the blog posts help the unending contemplation of compassion. The group also provides a positive media platform and awareness for those who wish to bring more peace, love, and compassion into the mainstream. We all know how important this is during this age in the evolution of the collective consciousness.
I am grateful for 1000 Voices and to contribute of it. Let us continue to be a beacon of light and compassion to all in need of healing.