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Act Compassionately When You Can

Act Compassionately When You Can

I have a friend who is plagued by panhandlers when he walks to work. For a while he ignored them, but it was impossible. After wrestling with his anger and guilt – for he did want to do the right thing – he collected change in his pockets, and no matter who asked him, he gave something. Immediately his anger vanished. And then his eyes opened, he saw that these people really are lost and alone, and it is an act of cruelty for him to withhold the meager amount they want.

It feels remarkable when petty anger can be transformed to so noble a feeling as compassion. Yet in this case it happened in a moment, thanks to a simple shift in perception. The true self doesn’t goad us into being good. It takes our existing impulses and views them in a new light. Insight opens the gates of the heart.

Many times a day each of us feels the impulse, however, faint, of saintliness. Walk down a city street for ten minutes and you see all around you reasons to give, to help, to offer charity and compassion, to forgive, and perhaps even to love.

In each situation, the need to cut oneself off is present, because that has been a long habit, but a fresher impulse also arises. The true self is sending these new signals.

Notice and feel them. Dwell on them instead of pushing them down. Avoid your habit of turning away or being too afraid to act. Act when you can. Appreciate your own goodness and congratulate yourself whenever you move closer, if by an inch, to your true self. That’s the program, and it is a simple one.

The credo of the true self is joy with detachment. The joy comes from no longer having to cling to a small, defended territory. The detachment comes from having such wide awareness that everything is at once yours and not yours.

Adapted from The Deeper Wound: Recovering the Soul from Fear and Suffering, by Deepak Chopra (Harmony Books, 2001).

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Deepak Chopra

Acknowledged as one of the world's greatest leaders in the field of mind body medicine, Deepak Chopra, M.D. continues to transform our understanding of the meaning of health. Chopra is known as a prolific author of over 49 books with 12 best sellers on mind-body health, quantum mechanics, spirituality, and peace. A global force in the field of human empowerment, Dr. Chopra's books have been published in more than 35 languages with more than 20 million copies in print.

206 comments

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12:35AM PDT on Sep 4, 2012

Pardon me, but I never could understand how nations can ignore the needy and we as people accept poverty and homelessness as we do.

5:45PM PDT on May 30, 2012

loved the article. thanks

9:34PM PST on Mar 7, 2012

Ohhhhh, gosh youre welcome Uma and thanks so much for the compliment.

7:42PM PST on Mar 7, 2012

Summeranie I'm so honored and I love your name.

6:29PM PST on Mar 7, 2012

Uma, Well said in fact excellently articulated. I loved what the Stranger said to you... ''there are two people in this world........Takers and Givers''. I believe I give way more than I take...thats how it is for me and I wouldnt change it for the world..neither would you Uma. Well said... keep going!

9:01AM PST on Mar 7, 2012

as we all desire simply to be happy and experament with all the wrong ways till we learn the right one; meanwhile potentially causing great suffering around us as we struggle towards understandings of happiness. The brutal oppressor who will do anything at any expense to attain happiness is as much worthy of compassionate understanding as the innocent harmless one because he will suffer the results of his actions, the endless repercussions of karma that there is no escape from except by going through. No one can just decide to do right , even if in agreement what that is. Everyone has to be shown, to experience first hand why one way is better than another. Anyone who thinks there is a holiness in suffering is so naive, so innocent, of experience, to have never seen or experienced the brutalization resulting from trauma. Compassion grows from the understanding of the sameness of experience for all mortal beings, the inescapably unavoidable sorrow, suffering, and death that all here experience no matter the wealth and poverty and all the other opposites that being here entails and the universal desire for safety and happiness that isn't available , ever, in the world of change.

8:49AM PST on Mar 7, 2012

Thank you Bob for speaking for me and yes you did get my meaning right. If my heart is moved to action I follow it. Otherwise it will haunt me with "should have's". I'm sorry if I have miss represented my point and yes grateful for the healing kindnesses extended to me. Many years ago after an exceedingly traumatic event I was given mercy by a stranger and when he reached into his pocket for me, being very young, I asked him why he was helping me. His response has remained with me , he said" there are two kinds of people in the world, there are givers and takers and we all must decide which of these we will be". I get high from being useful and of assistance, there's actually something in my astrology for it. What I meant was something quite different. I have seen so much of people with the attitude that pleasure and joy are actually sinful, they express it in such judgmental puritanical terms, to be happy in any other way that isn't "saving the earth", that happiness itself while there is suffering in the world is expressive of depraved selfishness. Compassion means a sharing of feeling, an acknowledgement that the ignorance and suffering of others is an expression of steps on the path to unity that we all go through. Like HH Dalai Lama says it is about an identification with the "other" :enemy or friend , torturer or healer; an expression of understanding the sameness of everyone as we all desire simply to be happy and experament with all the wrong ways till we learn th

9:52PM PST on Feb 29, 2012

giving does a heart good...

5:55PM PST on Feb 27, 2012

The other day someone wrote: "Dear Uma, I sincerely feel sorry for you."

I don't think Uma needs anyone's pity. She has been a loving and generous friend for many years, and she knows how to enjoy life. Uma can speak for herself, but I do not think she was suggesting that we should not be generous or compassionate. She was pointing-out that depriving one's self of joy gives no joy to others (except perhaps to sadistic people who get-off on Schadenfreude). Forgive me Uma if I got that wrong, but that's my take on it.

6:46PM PST on Feb 26, 2012

Camilla you've got it! Its just so easy isnt it? Good on you...I love doing things too and as often as I can and yep it does bring tears to your eyes when the reward returns to you.

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