Meditation Teacher Sharon Salzberg on What Compassion Really Means and How We Can Train Our Attention Toward It
How a continuing sense of mutual discovery creates the opening to true compassion.
By Maria Popova
“Love,” wrote the psychologist-turned-artist Anne Truitt in her insightful mediation on compassion, humility, and the cure for our chronic self-righteousness, “is the honoring of others in a way that grants them the grace of their own autonomy and allows mutual discovery… Compassion is one of the purest springs of love.” A generation later, Lucinda Williams captured the urgency of this mutuality in her beautiful song based on one of her father’s poems: “Have compassion for everyone you meet… for you do not know what wars are going on down there, where the spirit meets the bone.”
And yet, despite our best intentions, we often misunderstand what compassion really means in an active living sense, just as we misunderstand the true meaning of the Golden Rule, that most abiding of humanity’s guidelines for kindness.
In her book Real Happiness: The Power of Meditation (public library), beloved meditation teacher Sharon Salzberg identifies compassion as one of the three essential skills, along with mindfulness and concentration, which meditation helps us master by training our attention. Its deeper meaning and daily practice is what Salzberg explores in this wonderful short video in collaboration with Happify, animated by Katy Davis, part of the same series that gave us their animated primer on how to meditate.
For an essential counterpart that inverts the direction of that dignifying attention, see The School of Life’s lovely animated primer on the difficult art of self-compassion, then revisit Brené Brown on vulnerability, human connection, and the difference between empathy and sympathy, also animated by Davis.
Published October 19, 2016