The Mindfulness Blog

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Okay, I admit it-- I am fully geeking out about the brahma-viharas, and corresponding Pali words that are centuries old and rarely used anymore. What can I say? My bad.

But as it turns out, my bad is really good. No, I'm not talking about misspelling the name of the popular Mexican beer that sounds kind of like karuna. I'm talking about a concept that doesn't get a lot of attention these days-- in English, it's known as "compassion". Compassion toward others and compassion toward ourselves.

For those of us living in the year 2022 (about to be 2023), compassion means a lot of different things but basically it means caring, and demonstrating that fact, in word and deed. For something so nuanced and varied, I don't think it's really all that complicated-- as a matter of fact, it's actually pretty simple!

This time of year, karuna is not only simple, but also easy--and very much the thing to do, or express. Come to think of it, karuna (or compassion) is simple and easy any time of the year-- and just as importantly, people almost universally appreciate it.

Being compassionate or kind doesn't mean we won't dispute the ideas or actions of others-- it doesn't mean that we won't continue to fight for things we believe in. It just means we don't hate. We don't demonize others (or ourselves) for expressing a particular point of view or defending a position we don't accept/agree with. And we don't personalize another's words or actions.

The great man, Viktor Frankl, is credited with articulating the observation that between stimulus and response there lies a space, and in that space lies our humanity-- our ability to respond, rather than react. Response versus reaction-- in my mind, that's one way to measure karuna, or compassion.

Idealistic? For many of us, that may be the case, but just because something is aspirational doesn't mean we should stive to realize it  -- even if sporadically or imperfectly. Aspirations are important, because they give us something to reach for-- something to hope for.

You may say that I'm a dreamer, but I'm not the only one (to quote John Lennon). I hope someday you'll join us-- with a healthy dash of karuna, or compassion.


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