Circle of Compassion

A human being is part of the whole called by us, Universe, a part limited in time and space. We experience our self, our thoughts, and feelings as something separated from the rest, a kind of optical delusion of consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison restricting us to our personal desires and affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all sentient beings.

Albert Einstein

Each time I travel to the United States, some 5,300 miles away from my home in France, I return full of gratitude, no more so than after the last trip I made a few weeks ago. While visiting Seattle and Los Angeles, I felt as if I was walking a tightrope above a world spinning out of control.

 

Life flows and takes us in the most unexpected directions. Places I knew by heart have changed. I’ve changed. I never thought I’d own a home on the other side of the world. Likewise, I never thought I’d see so many people without one. Is the idea of home a literal construction of mortar and bricks—is it symbolically built of dreams and hopes or nightmares and horrors? 

 

Every day during my visit I encountered the homeless. Whether they were immigrants, refugees, or asylum-seekers, I had to reflect on my ideas about the meaning of home. My heart breaks for those who have lost their homes and the things they most cherish, or those who have never had a home in the first place. People shouldn’t have to sleep on cardboard boxes or in makeshift tents, brave city shelters and depend on spare change to survive. Being without a home is a devastating experience for anyone.

 

So how do we relate to and feel about these vicissitudes? One of the ways that has helped me is by bearing witness. Buddhism encourages us to see ourselves in the other, to realize that the welfare of people completely unrelated to us matters. Another way is by being equanimous. We cannot change anything unless we are fully aware of it. By seeing the situation clearly, we can be responsive rather than reactive. Instead of feeling cynical or fearful about the current crises in the world, Buddhism suggests focusing on something you’re inspired by, something that’s beautiful, something you’re grateful for, something you love. By fully inhabiting and coming from a place of mindful objectivity, compassion and lovingkindness we can not only change ourselves, but change the world we live in and call home.

 

I feel very grateful and privileged for the life I have here in France. I’m not ashamed of feeling this way, I’m actually humbled. 

 

*To read more about the artist who created the opening drawing please go to – https://bonjourparis.com/art/sempe-celebrated-cartoonist-love-paris/

 

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