The events that have occurred this week in the U.S. have been overwhelmingly upsetting. First there were the bombs in Boston, designed to create and send a message of confusion, doubt and fear. Then there was the explosion in Texas. At the time of writing this article I am truly hoping this was nothing more than a horrible accident.
In both events, as I watched the various news broadcasts as well as got updates, photos and videos on Twitter, I noticed something remarkable. In fact, so remarkable was it that I was compelled to search the Internet for previous videos and news footage of similar events.
Literally moments after the bombs went off, or the explosion had occurred, members of the public, police and other emergency services as well as the countless volunteers (at the marathon) were seen turning and going back into the areas where the bombs had gone off, or running into the fertilizer factory. There was a seemingly instinctive disregard for their own safety. There was an apparent vacuum of clear thought about whether there would be another bomb or explosion. It would appear the only thoughts and actions taking place where those to help other human beings. As strangers lay on the ground or trapped in the building, people scrambled to do whatever it took to reach them and provide whatever comfort they could.
The scenes that those people witnessed are usually reserved for the most graphic of R-rated movies. However, that did not stop them. The images will no doubt be in their nightmares and fears for years to come. But they did not think or care about that. These people suddenly had a connection with strangers in a way that only a catastrophe can demonstrate. That connection was at a very basic, primeval level. The connection was not based on politics, trade or desires. The connection was not there because of selfish or material benefit. The basic connection was that of compassion.
In my opinion, compassion is more than a feeling or emotion or mindset. In my opinion, it is the very basis for humanity. If we observe the animal kingdom we will always see, in those species built on social structures, members of the species helping those less able, or those in distress. Human beings are also a social species, yet we do not always show any compassion to strangers on the street if we see someone in distress. The sad state of human society is that if we see a person lying in the street, more people will pass by than stop and offer assistance. More people will be either consumed by their own existence or be in fear that person may hurt them or disrupt their life in some way. Whichever, more people choose to ignore than intervene.
After watching the incredibly brave, selfless people ignore their own safety for the sake of others, I actually found myself getting frustrated. I was already angry because of the bombs and the explosion. I was already angry that people had died or been injured. And I was already angry because it is so pointless. However, the anger I was feeling was quickly replaced by frustration. I was frustrated that we, human beings, don’t display the same compassion on a daily basis towards each other. Worse, is it is becoming seemingly more rare for us to show true compassion to those we confess to love and adore. Those closest to us. Instead, more of us, wrapped in our complex lives with the stresses and pressures that creates, pay lip service to compassion compared to actual physical action.
Again, in my opinion, compassion is demonstrated by about a physical action. That action could be sitting alone contemplating and filling your heart with love and positive thoughts about someone or something. Or it can be running back into a blast zone to help strangers.
Why don’t we go out of our way, disrupt our daily routines, and demonstrate compassion more frequently? What is it that makes it so difficult?
The answer is probably in the mindset of the majority of the world’s population. I conducted a small but telling survey a few years ago about compassion, and the results were surprising. You see, most people believe that to share and show true compassion to another human being, you need to know that person in some way. I’m not saying the general opinion was that you have to be close to that person, but it was that you do need to know them. You need to know something about them to connect with, that would then allow the compassion to flow.
This concept has always been a struggle for me to accept, and certainly in my sessions with every client (athlete, corporation or private individual), I try to realign this belief. By training the mind and heart to establish a relationship without knowing someone is vital. By training the mind and heart that we are all connected — despite whether our paths have crossed or not — allows us to be compassionate. If we have instinctive compassion for one another, then we will automatically “live happy.” If we have instinctive compassion for one another, the anger and fighting will cease.
How do we create this instinctive compassion with those we have not met? How do we create a connection that goes beyond the surface of judgement and prejudice? It’s actually very straightforward but does take work, training, contemplation so that it embeds into your subconscious and becomes instinctive, automatic.
The key to connection and compassion is to understand that we are all actually the same. We have all been born the same way and come into the world the same way, with our mothers. We all need food, shelter and love. We all experience fear. We are all seeking to live happy. We are all the same.
It is at this lowest level that we must focus. We must center our attention, our thoughts, our meditations and contemplations on this point, and in so doing, we will establish a connection with every human being. By intensifying this focus, we will create subconscious compassion with each other. It is through this level of compassion that we can truly live a better life, a happier existence, with less or eventually no suffering.
Don’t let any more time go by without practising instinctive compassion. Do not allow catastrophe to be the catalyst to connect.
My thoughts, prayers and love go out to all those affected by the tragedies this week. For those who have passed away and the loved ones left behind, these are events that will take time to reconcile in hearts and minds for everyone. The immediate time ahead will be extremely tough, but know that there is an entire population that is there to support you.