Mar 30, 2015

Let This Be The Day

Love and compassion are necessities, not luxuries. Without them humanity cannot survive.  -The Dalai Lama

February 20th 2015: The day when 1000 voices are coming together to speak words of compassion into a world that desperately needs to hear them. I'm excited to be among those voices.Webster defines compassion as: "Sympathetic consciousness of others' distress together with a desire to alleviate it." Literally compassion means to "suffer together."

True compassion means not only feeling anothers pain but also being moved to help relieve it. -Daniel Goleman 

Mankind has and is making unequaled progress on so many fronts. People are more connected globally than we've ever been before. Communication is instant and we no longer need to wonder about anything as Google is only a tap away. Many of these advancements have contributed greatly to the quality of life we enjoy. I wonder if they're also contributing to the decline of compassion.

We're confronted almost constantly with suffering via news stations, social media sites and printed news. Is this barrage of pain serving not only to inform us but also to dull our senses and heighten our tolerance to it?

If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. 
If you want to be happy, practice compassion. 
-The Dalai Lama

How can we remain caring and have a desire to help alleviate the suffering of others when the sheer magnitude of distress exceeds our ability to completely comprehend it? How can we "save the world?" There's just too much to do and we, with all of our time saving creations, seem to have less time today than ever. Isn't it easier just to block it out - refuse to acknowledge the suffering in hopes that it will either take care of itself or someone else will take care of it? Isn't that why we pay taxes? So something will be done? These are all good questions, with no satisfactory answers.

Let us fill our hearts with our own compassion - towards ourselves and towards all living beings.  -Thich Nhat Hanh

It is easy to become overwhelmed. It's even easier to pretend that suffering isn't real or is self imposed by the poor choices that others make. Sometimes that is the case after all. People do from time to time land on hard times through circumstances they helped to create. Don't we all?

Wisdom, compassion, and courage are the three universally recognized moral qualities of men.  - Confucius 

When we're suffering ourselves, isn't the one thing we want from others compassion? Don't we want to be understood, heard, and directed? Compassion is an easy concept to understand when we're on the needing end of it. Its power to heal is completely evident then.

So, what can we do? Where do we even start with the overwhelming task at hand?


None of us can do everything, but each of us can do something. We can start in our homes to be more present and aware of the needs of those we love with a heart open to responding. We can carry it from there into our relationships with our friends and colleagues. We offer compassion to complete strangers as we encounter them on the roadways - heaven knows that compassion could make our commutes  much less stressful.

We can seek first to understand, then to be understood. We can offer support to a grieving friend - take them a meal, offer to listen and just be with them.


Compassion begins with awareness coupled with concern. It doesn't need to be some huge feat. It's often the small acts of tender kindness that mean the most to others. Just letting them know that they're not invisible and someone is aware of the burden they carry can do so much.

We can begin to make eye contact with those on the streets who are homeless. Show them that we recognize their inherent worth - even if we can't offer financial aid at that moment. We can afford a smile and a hello no matter how down on our luck we may be.

Our human compassion binds us the one to the other - not in pity or patronizingly, but as human beings who have learned how to turn our common suffering into hope for the future. 
 - Nelson Mandela

As transforming as a compassionate act can be for the one who receives it, it is even more transforming for the person offering it. It is impossible to serve another without our own hearts being lifted. We forget - even for just that moment - our own concerns. Our spirits are renewed. 

The joy compassionate service brings is something we want to feel again and again. It reminds of us of something deep inside ourselves that has always been there even when unused. It connects our hearts to others making us feel less isolated and alone. 

The individual is capable of both great compassion and great indifference. He has it within his means to nourish the former and outgrow the latter.
- Norman Cousins

Let this day, February 20, 2015, be the day when we  recommit to our humanity. Let it be a defining moment when we open our eyes and see again. Let's find a way to lift a burden, share a sorrow, offer a helping hand.

Let's remember that we're all more alike than we will ever be different, that our human needs are the same. Let this be the day that your heart begins taking its daily recommended dose of joy born of compassionate concern for another. Let me offer you just this one warning:


This post was originally shared at Life Isn't Broken by
Anita Stout

Mar 29, 2015

The Gift of Compassion


If your compassion does not include yourself, it's incomplete. - Jack Kornfield


 This post was originally posted on by

Last week I gave a presentation at work on self-compassion, which was perfect timing. I had just posted my story about depression a few days before and was still reeling from all the thoughts and feelings that had exploded inside me as a result.

Blogging is truly a pay it forward kind of gift. I blog to help other people, but as I said in that post, it has turned out to be the best gift I have given myself. I’ve never had so many people thank me for talking about me. It was as though I had expressed compassion for their suffering when all I did was tell my story. When people thank me and tell me their own stories, every comment is another gift to me. So I received a lot of gifts last week, and I thank you if you were one of the gift givers.

One reader in particular, Abby Gardiner (AKA Stress Bubbles) said that she was sorry that I had suffered so much. I was taken aback. Until then, I was happy with the post because I thought it was a thorough and honest account of my depression, which I had never shared. And I was happy that I was in a place where I could accept my depression rather than feel ashamed about it. But I had not thought of it as a story of someone who had struggled with depression most of her life and whose shame kept her from seeking help.

I felt like Neo at the end of the Matrix when he broke open the code and everything suddenly made sense. I saw how impossible it was not to get depressed given my genes. My family members who are always in crisis. My tendency to choose people who need help because I had always played the helping role in my family. How little help I was able to receive from my family and my partners because of their own problems. And from anyone else because I never said how badly I was hurting. How I had cared about functioning more than myself. I had to get good grades. Get a Ph.D. Teach classes and see clients and rescue everyone I met.

Because she expressed compassion for me, I was able to have compassion for myself. Now, when I think about my story, it feels as though something is pressing against my heart. Perhaps the way it feels to someone whose heart has been jump started with a defibrillator. A bit painful and disorienting, I imagine, but you’re alive. What a powerful gift it is, compassion.

Since then, I make a point of thanking anyone who has shown me compassion. And I make it a point to have compassion for myself–even for the small things. Like having to spend a thousand dollars on a water heater. Or having a cold. Or having to cancel tennis when I was looking forward to it all week.

Because, if I’m being compassionate, then all the small things really aren’t small at all.


About Christy

I am a clinical psychologist at the counseling center at Washington and Lee University, where I have worked since 2002. I completed my B.A. in Psychology and English from the University of Virginia and my Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology from Kent State University. My areas of expertise include eating disorders, multicultural psychology, positive psychology, and mindfulness.


Mar 26, 2015

Ripples Of Caring

We may never know how far the ripples might extend past our moments of kindness or the lasting impact they could make on the lives of the ones touched by them.
Isn't that exciting? - Anita Stout

I was living alone with my young son, only 18 months old, separated again for the umpteenth  time from my husband and struggling. When I say struggling, I mean eating chicken pot pies for breakfast, lunch, and dinner because they were on sale 7 for a dollar and it was the best way to stretch my limited budget.

I lived and worked at an apartment complex that provided free rent as a perk of employment and drove an old LTD that was held together primarily by rust. In the car's defense, I only paid $125 for it so I always got more than I paid for when it started. It did start from time to time when it wanted to and if I pleaded and promised to fill it up with my next paycheck. On the days it didn't believe me, (with good cause) I'd call my friend Rich who worked at the complex with me. These days became more and more regular and Rich, bless his heart, was happy to pick me up and deliver my son to daycare before driving me to work.

Rich was an eternal optimist with a wicked sense of humor which was a Godsend to me at the time. Laughter is cheap but worth it's weight in gold. Rich was raised by a single mother himself and as a result I think it made him sensitive to my plight. His mother was a nurse who had managed to single handedly raise 8 children on her own of which Rich was the only son. 

Along with the free apartment, I was paid $4.00 an hour. What didn't go to daycare, which wasn't much, also needed to cover utilities and food and the occasional gas I'd promised the car. To say that things were lean would be to laugh. Things were dire. The only thing working to my advantage was that I was still too young to really understand the impact of dire.

It was November, the week before Thanksgiving, and on top of all the other expenses, I'd needed to take my son to the Dr. and pay for a prescription. Mother Hubbard's cupboard would have looked pretty good compared to mine at the time. I was too proud (taught early to be self sufficient) to ask for help so I got by eating can's of green beans and whatever else I could find when the potpies ran out.

One evening at about 7:00 there was a knock at the door. I wasn't expecting anyone so I was surprised when I opened the door to see Rich standing there with his mother, whom I'd never met before. The two of them, with both arms full of grocery bags, asked if they could come in. I was speechless. As they entered the apartment and began unpacking the the bags I was completely overwhelmed. The deep gratitude I felt was tainted only by the shame that I also felt at being in a position to require someone else to put themselves out on my behalf.

Rich's mother must have sensed this as she hugged me knowingly. I imagine, looking back, that perhaps she had been in my situation at one time or another being tasked with the care of so many young ones on her own. Very little was said. I hope I thanked them both graciously enough but I remember how difficult it was to speak and I'd never been that overwhelmed before.

That night changed me. My heart was broken open forever by the overflowing gratitude that wouldn't fit inside it without its bursting. I resolved there and then that I wanted to be like Rich's mother. I wanted to be the one to help someone in need. I wanted to honor her gift to me in every way possible.

That 18 month old son will be turning 40 soon and has 5 siblings as well. The time has flown on wings of lightening but its passage hasn't dulled my gratitude or my resolve to 
honor the compassion that showed up at my door unexpectedly on a bleak November evening.

That simple act of kindness set in motion numberless ripples as I've had opportunities to serve others over the years. I have no idea if my own acts of compassion might have influenced someone else to do the same, but how exciting is the prospect of that? What if we each only cast one stone? How far might the ripples reach? Let's find out shall we?

Mar 10, 2015


  You may say I'm a dreamer, but I'm not the only one. I hope some day you'll join us, and the world live as one. - John Lennon

Love first. Ask questions later. What kind of world could it be if that were the prevailing mindset? What radical changes would take place?

What could happen if complete strangers could meet each other with the understanding that, beneath our various presentations, we all start with the same basic needs and wants? How would it level the playing field to give each other the benefit of the doubt instead of seeing through our acquired filters of suspicion and fear?

Imagine no possessions
I wonder if you can...

What if it were possible to give up the idea of me and mine and see things in terms of us and ours? Would we observe, conserve, preserve? Would it lead us to serve without worrying about what we deserve?

Would we be more generous? More willing? More available. Would there be less prescriptions written for anti-depressants? Would the prison system collapse? How many fewer people would go to bed hungry? Cold? 

Would hopelessness and loneliness become the things people wrote fictitious stories about? Would they be the modern day equivalent of "monsters?"

   ...No need for greed or hunger
A brotherhood of man...

How long would it take to see the end of bullying, abuse, and the need to control? Would greed whither if we felt connected more to each other than to our stuff? Would envy pass away as we realized that we're all supposed to have different talents to make us interdependent - unique pieces of a grand puzzle that when fit together create a matchless masterpiece?

Looking at the world today this may sound like some crazy utopian fantasy. Maybe it is. Maybe however we can make it true - one heart at a time.

Here's the rub. Someone has to start. Someone has to be willing to love first and ask questions later. Someone has to risk - put themselves out there - take the chance of being rebuffed. No one's ever died from rebuffing, but you'd think it was lethal the way we avoid it - even at the cost of ignoring our deepest need to feel connected to each other. 

 Imagine all the people, sharing all the world...

 What if labels, instead of saying MADE IN THE USA or CHINA or INDONESIA, said:

Because that's the truth. The divisions, the separations, the yours and mine, the them and us, - those are the lies. 

It's not the truth that keeps us feeling isolated and alone. It's the lies. It's the illusion of separation and disconnection that keeps us separated and disconnected. 


People who bleed the same color, who love, who hurt, who strive, who win some, lose some and watch as some get rained out. We dream, realize some of those dreams and see others go up in smoke. We hope for better while dealing with the worst. We get sick, get well and most importantly ALL PAY TAXES!

We may not see this in our life time, but how would it be to die knowing that we cast our stone into the pond that sent out these kinds of ripples? Hate is a learned trait. It has to be taught. What if we decided not to teach it? 

What if we chose to teach love and compassion instead? How many generations do you think it would take before people forgot how to hate? Wouldn't it be awesome to find out? 
You may say I'm a dreamer, but I'm not the only one. I hope some day you'll join us, and

the world will live as one.  

Let's be the ones who go first - the ones who extend mercy before it's deserved, because if it has to be deserved it isn't really mercy. Let's take the risk - fly in the face of convention and refuse to be counted among the haters.

Love first. Ask questions later. Do you dare? 

PHOTO CREDIT: Original Artwork Sarah Kopp-Kazantsev
This post originally appeared on Life Isn't Broken