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Our Focus is Out of Focus: A Return to Compassion

We often see children or animals in the news who are struggling and suffering. Instantly, the compassion pours out for them. It seems natural and automatic to do so. And in all actuality, everything on the planet is truly worthy of compassion. However, we are not always willing to freely hand out this beautiful expression of love and connectedness to everyone. In our minds, some are worthy of our compassion and others are not. So, the question is: Why aren’t we compassionate to everyone and everything equally across the board?

The first reason we aren’t compassionate to everyone we meet is because we aren’t compassionate to ourselves. Why is this? Because we haven’t been taught how to do this. As we grew up and learned about the world, who we are and how to act, the concept of self-compassion was bypassed in favor of dog eats dog and separate and unequal mentalities. It’s all training, though, not truth.

The second reason is self-absorption. Because we are caught up in our own little world with a decidedly limited and often judgmental point of view, our focus is misplaced. In effect, our focus is out of focus. Instead of reaching out to others, listening, understanding and providing connecting compassion, we are stuck in our heads trying to solve a string of unsolvable problems as we worry about or regret the past and incessantly fear the future. This causes us to feel disconnected, alone and lonely. It is time to refocus. It is time to uncover what is truly happening and to understand why so we can correct it and live our rightful lives of freedom, truth and love.

Other People are Our Mirrors to Help Us See More Clearly

What we do to others we are often doing to ourselves. If we see others as incapable and stupid, it’s because we feel incapable and stupid. By projecting our issues onto others, we think we can somehow be relieved of such beliefs and the resulting pain. We also project our fears and perceived shortcomings onto others as a way to ignore what is really going on for us. We don’t have to deal with anything that way—we can continue being miserable without truly knowing why. The truth can be fierce indeed.  

The truth is that we can never give our issues away to others. They always belong to us until we resolve them from within. And our issues are not other people’s fault. There is no one to blame—not even ourselves. We have learned about life through a training program that is based on a lie—one that teaches us we are not good enough. This is the basis for all of the unhappiness we experience. Unhappiness translates into some form of No, as in No, I don’t accept you, I don’t accept the situation or I don’t accept myself.  Of course, we might experience sadness when a loved one becomes critically ill or passes, but this is different from unhappiness. Investigate this and see for yourself.

Projection is a gift to all of us as it is a great way to become aware of what we believe about ourselves by noticing what we believe about and react to in others. Being aware of the gift of others as our mirrors allows us to see our own issues more clearly. When we see our own issues more clearly, we have a springboard to begin dealing with and resolving our internal conflicts. That opens up space to become free to give and experience more compassion. Ultimately, we can become more connected as a society. Imagine the multitude of positive impacts of a unified, compassionate population!

The Ties That Bind…

There are a number of things that link us together as humans. One of those is suffering. Most all of us suffer in one way or another. Basically, we suffer from a thinking system that was taught to us that has a foundational message that says we are not good enough. So we spend a majority of our day struggling to overcome that untrue message. Unfortunately, most of us are unaware of this aspect of our lives so we don’t see it in others.

Compassion, as defined by is a “Deep awareness of the suffering of another coupled with the wish to relieve it.” I can’t think of a group of people more in need of compassion than all of us who suffer from this mindset. If you can be open to noticing this suffering in yourself, perhaps you can see it in others each time your eyes meet. Then, a connection can be made and an unspoken understanding can take place. This is the space where compassion is remembered and willingly applied.

The benefits of compassion are numerous. As you practice applying compassion to everyone and everything equally, you will experience more benefits than the short list created here. As is true of all aspects of love, of which compassion is one, it is beneficial and healing in every way to everything. Some of the benefits of compassion are…

  1. Compassion boosts health and longevity. University of Michigan researcher Stephanie Brown, in a study of over 400 elderly people, found that those who helped others more were healthier, happier and lived longer than others. Of course, one reason for these findings may be that people who are healthier have more opportunity to be of help to others.
  2. Compassion for others dissolves our self-focus which in turn helps us feel energized. Research shows that depression and anxiety are linked to a state of self-focus, a preoccupation with “I” and “me”. When you do something for someone else, however, that state of self-focus immediately dissolves. With this we get a boost of energy that we can use to practice self-compassion rather than self-loathing. This enables us to practice more compassion for others on a less selective basis. Remember that what we do to ourselves, we project onto others.
  3. Compassion is natural. We are born with this natural instinct of compassion. It is who we are at our core, along with love, being kind and being peaceful. Michael Tomasello, and other scientists at the Max Planck Institute, have found that infants automatically engage in helpful behavior. However, we are taught the opposite by those around us, and by society at-large, as we grow up. Let’s ditch our training and sync with our natural state of being. This provides a better level of equilibrium to our lives and allows us to return to homeostasis – our body’s internal state of balance – and this supports good health.
  4. Compassion leads to more understanding. More understanding leads to more connectedness and more connectedness leads to more love. Who couldn’t use more love?
  5. Compassion is highly contagious.  Social scientists James Fowler of UC San Diego and Nicolas Christakis of Harvard demonstrated that helping is contagious — acts of generosity and kindness beget more generosity in a chain reaction of goodness. I have seen this in action at my local coffeehouse where a sign was posted at the drive-thru window one day that said, “Today is Random Acts of Kindness Day!” I don’t think anyone paid for their own coffee that morning! Once this gets started, it can last for hours.
  6. Compassion makes us happy.When we are compassionate for altruistic reasons, the benefit for us is off the charts where happiness is concerned. In a revealing experiment published in Science by Harvard Business School professor Michael Norton, participants received a sum of money. Half of the participants were instructed to spend the money on themselves and the other half were told to spend the money on others. At the end of the study, participants that had spent money on others felt significantly happier than those that had spent money on themselves.
  7. Compassion reduces our stress. When we are focused on others, we take the emphasis off of ourselves and get some much needed relief from the stress of our “unsolvable” problems that run tirelessly in our heads. Since stress is one of the top causes of many illnesses and preventable health conditions, being compassionate can help improve your health. You deserve nothing less.

Many studies have been done to support the healing power of compassion, but our own experiences can show us, on a deeper level, the true power of this beautiful aspect of love. Become aware of the power of compassion as you apply it to your own life more often. Then, as you look out into the world, see every person and everything as worthy of equal shares of compassion. The far-reaching effects of compassion help to not only heal our own lives, but allow us to heal everything on the planet. That is true power!

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