This week I was interviewed by Claire Balding on Radio 2’s programme Good Morning Sunday. We spoke about mindfulness, retreats and responses to the recent attacks. I was also able to give a brief reflection on compassion.
Sometimes we may feel that we ought to be more positive about things – to cheer up and to look on the bright side of life. And while at times this can be a helpful way to look at things, it’s also important not to obscure or deny the fact that life can be tough. Not getting what we want, getting what we don’t want, the struggles of aging and facing our death are fundamental aspects of being human.
And in Buddhist teachings, reflecting on the difficult side of life is seen as the starting point of a more liberating perspective. Once we realise that loss and pain are an inevitable part of being human we’re much less inclined to blame ourselves or to blame others when things are difficult. Contemplating the struggles we all face becomes a doorway to compassion, to realising what we have in common and to feeling more connected with others.
As we grieve for the people killed in Mali, Paris and Beirut, and in conflicts around the world, compassion helps us to be aware of our immediate feelings of sorrow, fear and anger without simply acting them out. It gives us the space to respond more wisely.