By Jonathan S. Kaplan, Ph.D.
To UM readers, I hope that you'll excuse my unannounced hiatus from blogging. For the past few months, I have been prioritizing other pursuits: reading (vs. writing), listening (vs. speaking), parenting (vs. working), and being (vs. doing). This has proven to be a very helpful and enriching practice.
The stillness that accompanies mindfulness practice allows for the natural arising of many things: emotions, thoughts, physical sensations, and particular human qualities. In particular, I've taken notice of the ways in which compassion surfaces as a way of considering and treating others. There are some meditations that specifically cultivate compassion (such as metta meditation within Theravada Buddhism) and psychotherapies that promote its expression as well (e.g., naikan therapy and compassion-focused therapy). It also becomes present for us when we allow ourselves to see the inherent sufferings and joys in the world, less mediated by our own psychological baggage. We care genuinely for others, and are more prone to ask "Are you okay?" or "How can I help?" as opposed to "What's wrong with you?!"
Interestingly, I've seen this same kindness being expressed naturally in young children as they play with each other. This observation prompted me to recall an anecdote from Fred Rogers (Mister Roberts to you and me), delivered as part of a commencement address a year before he died. I've saved the New York Times clipping of this story for almost a decade now, and I'm happy to share it with you (it's mid-way down the page): Mr. Rogers on compassion. I hope you like it.
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