One of the more spiritual, but also challenging virtues is to practice compassion towards other people. Sometimes when faced with such a challenge Brisa & I say to each other 'what would Buddha do?' 'Or what would Nelson Mandela do in this scenario?' We try to live with compassion for every living thing, but sometimes we just feel angry and compassion seems far away.
From a spiritual perspective we are all brothers & sisters living on this one planet, and the happiness of one person means an increase in happiness for the collective. I believe we have all chosen to be here on earth to be a part of this ‘school of life’. Some of us are teachers and some of us are students, and sometimes the teachers become the students or the other way around.
We also believe in reincarnation, which means that we have the opportunity to be here over the course of many lifetimes. I feel that it’s true that we come to earth with specific life lessons that need to be learned. For some, that is learning to be honest, while for others, it's to be more courageous, modest, or compassionate.
Learning to be more compassionate for every living being is virtue that seems to be all encompassing, and true for every single person alive. There is always room to be better, to be even more compassionate and generous. At the same time, I think every person can be drawn to anger and even rage. If someone hurts my children, for example, I think I could be capable of anything.
In life we are confronted by challenges that we face on a daily basis. In some way, life is a test, and we are continuously experiencing situations that test our resolve to be better. When life throws you a curveball, you can't let it knock you down. Sometimes it's good to do nothing, walk away from a situation, and other times it's good to confront it head on.
Some people, often friends, family or partners, seem to be in our lives because they mirror our own behaviour and confront us with the need to be patient and compassionate. Our parents, children and siblings are often the biggest source of feelings of resentment and anger. How many times have we been angry with close family members? How many times do we need to count to 10 when it comes to our children?
In Buddhism, compassion is cultivated through maitri, or loving kindness, in their meditations, in which practitioners begin to imagine how they feel towards a loved one, then turning it towards themselves, then family and friends, then strangers, then enemies, and finally towards all beings.
One of the perfect places to practice this loving kindness is while driving. I can sometimes be irritated by the recklessness of other drivers, but I now try to see this as an opportunity to practise compassion. The fact that someone else is impatient on the road does not need to mean that I should lose my patience and calmness. When someone does wrong by me on the road, I try to imagine the other person as a son or daughter of someone else, someone that is loved. Sometimes I imagine what someone else must be feeling to make them feel rushed or angry. I try to feel compassion towards the other person, as I have no idea what causes their recklessness to start with. I often make up stories to go with people that annoy me. Who knows, they might be rushing to get to a sick child in hospital? The person who takes my parking spot may be feeling depressed over a horrible divorce. As I imagine what other people may be going through, I instantly I feel more compassion. My energy calms down and I feel better.