The Alchemy of Compassion: Healing Those We Love

The Alchemy of Compassion: Healing Those We Love
If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion.
— Dalai Lama

One of life’s most difficult challenges is accepting that the people we love will often cause us the most suffering.

We have all experienced it—our partner, family member or close friend says or does something that hurts our feelings and we cannot let it go. 

Our immediate reaction is to lash back and let them know that we do not appreciate their words or actions. Our emotions boil over because someone we expected to bring us happiness has bruised our ego and hurt our feelings.  And, these emotions are magnified because we associate this new pain with experiences from the past.

However, such a reaction is a mistake. It demonstrates that we do not recognize that the person who has hurt us is suffering.

Choosing Love & Compassion

Thich Nhat Hanh, the great Zen Buddhist teacher states, “the greatest gift we can make to others is our true presence.” 

To sustain a harmonious relationship with our loved ones, it is imperative that we remain mindful of the present moment. This will allow us to shine our light of awareness on their suffering. 

When our loved one does or says something hurtful, we should begin by taking one deep and conscious breath. This gives us the space to make the split-second decision to respond mindfully with love, compassion and positive energy instead of mindlessly with fear, anger and negative energy.

Choosing to respond mindfully with love, compassion, and positive energy has three significant benefits:

1)   Our loved one has the space to heal, as we did not increase their suffering by making them feel worse about themselves.

2)   We allow our own heart to remain open and free of suffering.

3)   Our relationship returns to a harmonious state, where we provide each other support and love.

This is no easy feat.

Oftentimes, our ego’s desire for retribution by pain overpowers our heart’s desire to heal.  However, we must always strive to respond to others’ suffering with love and compassion.

Darling, I Am Here For You

Thich Nhat Hanh also has a very simple, yet powerful mantra to share with our loved ones when we recognize that they are suffering: “Darling, I know you suffer. That is why I am here for you.”

This simple statement has a profound effect on a loved one who is suffering. It affirms to our loved one that we recognize that they are in pain and that we would like to offer them love.

In my own relationship, there have been times when my partner has followed Thich Nhat Hanh’s teachings and shown me this type of love and compassion.  By showing me grace and not responding to my negative energy with her own, she has provided me the love I needed to come back into the present moment and out of my suffering.

There is a powerful alchemist who lives in all of us. This alchemist can transmute suffering into love.