May 10

Until we extend our
circle of compassion
to all living things, we
will not find peace.

Albert Schweitzer


Today's Meditation:

"All living things" sounds like a pretty tall order.  After all, I'm not a saint or someone who's able to rise above all of the little foibles that our humanity seems to thrust upon us.  My circle of compassion, I'm afraid, does not extend to all living things, though I'm pretty sure that Albert is right here, and that it should.  But just how do I accomplish something like this if I want to have peace in my heart?

It seems even more difficult if one considers the "monkeysphere" theory of humanity, the theory that says there are a limited number of people for whom we're able to care, and if someone is outside of that number, we simply care much less about them than we would about someone in our sphere.  To put it very simply, if a loved one dies it affects us much more strongly than would the deaths of 10,000 people who are strangers to us in an earthquake, tsunami, war, or massacre.  We'll say "what a shame" about the far-away 10,000, but we'll mourn for days or weeks for the one loved one.

If Albert is right, the stakes are very high.  Peace is one of the most important elements of our lives if we're going to accomplish the things we wish to accomplish and become the people we're meant to become.  Peace allows us to approach all we do and say with a level of equanimity that doesn't include ego or the desire to impress anyone else.  Peace allows us to deal with setbacks in positive ways, and it allows us to resist reacting in negative ways.  Peace has been an important goal of human beings for many, many years, and here we learn that it's strongly tied to the way we feel for others. . . or not.

I can remind myself with each person that I see, each animal that I see, each plant or tree that I see, that the object of my attention is a creation of the exact same creative source as I.  The thing I see is doing its best to make it through life as well as it can, too.  And when I do that, I can feel the peace that comes from knowing that I'm not alone in this boat, on this planet that's hurtling through space at an amazing speed, and that it will do me good to relax and take this journey as it was meant to be--as part of a whole with others who also are part of that same whole.

(For information on the Monkeysphere theory, just type the word into any search engine.)

Questions to consider:

Why do we limit the number of people for whom we feel deep compassion and connection?

What would it mean to feel truly compassionate for all living things?

What's one step we could take to extend the circle of people or things for which we feel compassion?

For further thought:

Compassion is not religious business, it is human
business; it is not luxury, it is essential for our own peace
and mental stability; it is essential for human survival.

the Dalai Lama


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