The following metaphor may help generate compassion for the difficult [person] in our lives. Imagine walking in the forest and coming across a small dog. You reach out your hand to pet the dog, and the dog responds by snarling and biting you. Your first reaction to the dog may be uncharitable at best. Imagine instead that on coming across the dog you discovered that its leg is caught in a trap buried beneath a pile of leaves. Your reaction to its ill temper is quite different; you are likely to harbor only compassion toward the dog. You understand that it is aggressive because its leg is in a trap. It is helpful to remember that anyone who is hostile to others also has a leg in some trap; a person who is not in pain has no need to strike out. When we recognize that others' harmful actions are a reflection of their own suffering, it becomes easier to extend compassion to them.I also find it helpful to remind myself that everyone wants to be happy and that we do what we do because on some level we believe it will make us happy. We may be very mistaken and unskillful but that's what each of us ultimately wants.
Thursday, March 23, 2006
Metaphor for compassion
Today I want to share with you a passage from the book Mindfulness and Psychotherapy edited by Germer, Siegel and Fulton. When you have trouble feeling compassion for someone, think of the situation this way: