Meditations on Compassion

I just wanted to kill her.

Metaphorically-speaking, of course, but I gotta tell you – this woman was driving me CRAZY. So crazy, in fact, that I needed to give myself an attitude adjustment.

That course-correction, and how you can do the same for yourself, is the subject of this article. First, though, let me back up for a minute and set the scene.

Serenity Now

Serenity Now

A few weeks ago I had the good fortune of hearing Russell Simmons, the entrepreneur and meditation advocate, speak to a small audience in San Francisco about his new book, “Success Through Stillness.”

It was a lovely event. The lights were dim, and the organizers requested that the audience members not take photos or post anything on social media. We listened to Russell speak for about an hour, and there was room for Q&A. He also led us – a mixture of people who are meditation practitioners and total newbies – through five minutes of semi-guided meditation. I felt fortunate to be able to attend, and the crowd was rapt.

Everyone, of course, except for the woman sitting directly to my left who never put her iPhone down for a single second. I’m not sure why she chose to join us, but I do know that she sat there for a full hour, her face illuminated by the glow of the screen – cleaning out her inbox, and checking all of her apps over and over again like a lab rat on a coke high.

I write a lot about the scourge of judgment in our culture, and I will freely admit that I felt judgmental in this instance. Her behavior was distracting me, and it made me feel irritated – that itchy, uncomfortable feeling that gnaws at you from the inside out.

My internal dialogue was corrosive at first (“Why are you even here??”) because of the disconnect between the environment and her behavior.

But as the circumstances wore on I also became aware of a different disconnect: The environment and my own internal experience. This dawning realization gave way to an overwhelming amount of compassion.

As the saying goes, “If you don’t have 5 minutes to meditate, you need an hour,” and sister to my left needed to be in that room more than any of us.

Thich Nhat Hanh, the Vietnamese Zen master and meditation teacher, often uses the sound of a bell in various forms of his teaching. At his monastery in France, a bell is often rung as an invitation for everyone to stop what they’re doing and become present for a moment.

Likewise, he suggests that we all use the sounds of bells and alarms in our daily lives in a similar fashion. If you hear the sound of a fire engine go by, for example, and you notice yourself stiffen, that’s a great opportunity to stop what you’re doing and meditate for one minute.

For me, the growing irritation inside of my own body was like an internal alarm.

The irony of that event was that I couldn’t have felt the compassion in that instance without first feeling the judgment; it took me noticing her, and my own reaction to her, to see that she was suffering.

So how can you do the same? By paying attention to your own internal experience. Meditation can help, for sure, because it helps us to become more attuned to the flow of our thoughts and feelings – but one of the most important things for you to take away here is that the goal isn’t really to never feel judgment, because that’s probably an unrealistic aim. Instead, the goal should be to notice it when you do, so that you can check yourself before you wreck yourself.

Namaste, everybody 😉


If you liked this article, you can click here to tweet it.