Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Compassion happens

“Compassion arises by entering into the subjectivity of others, by sharing their interiority in a deep and total way.” (Bhikkhu Bodhi).

After 30 to 35 minutes of Zazen, a stabbing pain arises between my shoulder blades, slightly to the left. It burns, it stabs, it nags... I can adjust my position and find some relief to it, but I know it's here, ready to strike !

Once upon a time, I was driving on a small road of Provence. It was a rainy stormy night of  1981. The road was slippery. The car skidded, I tried to catch up, it skidded the other way... And I flipped my Dad's convertible into a 25' deep ditch.

My head crushed under the windscreen frame, I knew I was bleeding, and realized I was going to die there if I didn't try do something about it. After quite a struggle, I was able to collect my legs underneath my chest. I lifted the car just enough to release my head from the wreck. (I was practicing Aikido one hour before the accident, and all my muscles and joints were warm and stretched)

I pushed the door open. I got out from under the car and climbed back to the road. Some people stopped and took me to a doctor. And from there to a hospital. Literally covered with blood I walked to the ER - I distinctly remember a cat sitting on the operation table...

They shooed him away. I climbed on the table and within 30 seconds was paralyzed from head to toe.

Not a good feeling...

The doctor had to stitch my scalp back together. Because of the concussion, she could not put me to sleep. This was painful... You can deal with 2 or 3 stitches, but 30 or 40 of them, added to the fear of paralysis... I could not even punch the Doctor in the nose: I was paralyzed !

A nurse gently grabbed my hand. She said nothing, she just held my hand. I could not squeeze hers, but I could feel it. The release was amazing and instantaneous. She did not move, she did not speak, she was just here with me, sharing physically and in person.


I was young, I recovered quickly. Minor damages. One dorsal vertebra slightly crushed. I would feel it when I'd get older said the good looking Doctor...

So now, when I sit and feel the pain, I know where it comes from, and remember Compassion.

Compassion is often confused with benevolence, generosity, altruism or self-sacrifice. But Compassion hardly can be defined with words. I can tell you what it's not, but I can't tell you what it is.

You don't decide to be compassionate, Compassion happens. When it happens, you don't know it, and once you realized it happened, well, it's not happening anymore ...

Don't be excited or fooled by big words, big deeds, big acts. In Compassion two sentient beings become one, and experience together. There is no need or room for words, thinking, or feeling. 

Compassion happens.

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