With much of the world in a state of chaos and strife, it seems apparent that we could all benefit from a heaping dose of compassion for ourselves and others. Flooded by news that often seems so destructive and depleting to our psyches, we protect ourselves by creating boundaries or turning off all together. While healthy boundaries are fundamental, when they go too far, we can wall ourselves off from the connection and compassion we so utterly need. Ultimately, we are disconnecting from our hearts, our true source of wisdom which connects us to the universal heart. Often our hearts simply know things that the head cannot rationalize, however when we cut ourselves off from this source of wisdom, we lead ourselves further into isolation and disconnection. We no longer feel, well, much of anything and although this may seem safe to those devasted from past trauma or lost, it becomes our hinderance in finding true lasting fulfillment. Without this connection to our heart, we forget to grant ourselves and others the grace of compassion, but could our connection, through compassion, be the answer to healing so much of what is broken within ourselves and each other?
Compassion often gets confused with empathy and while they are close, compassion goes a step further. For clarity, empathy refers to our ability to feel what another is experiencing. Putting ourselves in someone else’s shoes so to speak. While compassion refers to not only feeling another’s emotions but trying to ease it in some way. Webster defines it as follows, “sympathetic consciousness of others’ distress together with a desire to alleviate it.” (“Definition of Compassion,” 2023) Therefore, compassion isn’t solely a feeling but also an impetus for action. Often, the simple act of being witnessed and another’s willingness to engage with us to better our circumstances provide the healing salve that we crave. It is this nurturing that the soul craves in a world that often lacks a warm embrace or approving eye. Although there are unbearable circumstances which call for more significant and involved assistance, often much grace comes from sincere compassion for another.
So, is genuine compassion (not motivated by a selfish outcome) something we are simple born with or can we consciously cultivate it?
I believe that compassion is, like love, a verb. It’s something we practice, often imperfectly.
Perhaps we want to help another and can identify with their struggle, but our own worries override our willingness to act. Our own concerns about money, time, or image take precedents and we compartmentalize another‘s suffering as outside ourselves. Another reason we may lack compassion, is because we are deficient in self-compassion. We often forget that our outside circumstance is simply a mirror for our inner consciousness, the lack of grace or judgment we bestow upon others reflects the same judgement we bestow on ourselves. This lack of compassion can stem from victim consciousness, feeling as though no matter what action we take our suffering will not be alleviated and our circumstances are not of our own creation, or because our standards for ourselves are so high we berate ourselves when we fall short.
Another way our hearts can become closed off and lack compassion is due to past hurt when we don’t take the time to sit with uncomfortable emotion and process our experience. Ruled by some imaginary timeline that has us believing that we are only “allowed” to hurt, dwell, or mourn for some certain passage of time, we often force ourselves to get “on with things”. We berate ourselves for not getting over it already. We focus on what our mind is telling us over the heart. I am certainly not advocating for self-wallowing or getting trapped in a ‘poor me’ perspective but more often than not, we don’t take the time to simply feel and understand the deeper reflections of the pain. How could this pain be re-opening a wound from our past that is ready to be healed? How are these circumstances a pattern we are repeating? Without processing these and many other questions and emotions we stand the chance of walling off this portion of our hearts, moving forward, only to await a circumstance in the future when the pattern repeats.
So, what are the steps we can take to awaken the heart and cultivate more compassion in our lives? One such method, is by asking for divine assistance from the goddess Kuan Yin. You may not be familiar with goddesses or believe you must come from a certain religious or cultural background to call on her, but nothing could be further from the truth. Known as the female buddha, Kuan Yin’s energy has been revered for thousands of years over diverse religions and heritages. She is also known as the goddess with 1,000 names for this reason, as the energetic signature of her essence has been interrupted in a multitude of ways. For me, working with a goddess isn’t religious at all but is a spiritual practice in which I actively work to learn and embody the qualities she exemplifies. Working with a goddess can also be a prayer for protection or assistance when we become overwhelmed or in a state of surrender. There is so much to say and learn about Kuan Yin, but in terms of this offering I want to share with you how her compassionate heart can inspire you to cultivate more in your own.
Known as a bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara, Kuan Yin or Guanyin, is an enlightened being that remains engaged with our world to alleviate our suffering and guide us toward enlightenment. She is the mother of compassion. According to Alana Fairchild, “enlightenment is not meant to be a distant spiritual goal, but something that we can choose to live at any time, by choosing love, kindness, compassion and wisdom over fear, judgement, anger or separation from the Source, the Divine Feminine, that seeks to nourish us so that we blossom into the fullness of our being.” (Wisdom of Kuan Yin, 2014) Like a mother, Kuan Yin is there to wrap you in her embrace, to nurture your broken heart, to be a fierce protector of your soul and yet also a motivator to help you dig deeper into the core of your values and mission. Working with Kuan Yin doesn’t need to be intimidating or complicated, it can be as simple as clearing your mind and saying, “Kuan Yin, divine goddess of the heart whom loves me unconditionally, please help me …..” You will be amazed at the ways she shows up in your life through your intuition, divine course correction, synchronicity, and signs. Remember things usually don’t show up as we expect, so let go of your demands and simply be open and with faith that any situation will evolve to what is for the best and highest good for all beings involved. Remember no situation is too fierce for her and no one shall ever be judged or turned away. I’ve put together just a few ideas below to inspire you to start to form a relationship with the goddess, to invite in more grace and allow the warmth of compassion to soften your heart. When we judge ourselves less, we find less judgement for others. We criticize less, help more and restore faith that we as a collective can choose our future.
Inspiration for Connecting with Kuan Yin to Cultivate Compassion:
- Use a mantra ( a key ) meditation, or times of distress. There are lots to choose from depending on the protection you may be calling in but a good overall mantra for compassion is. “Om Mani Padi Om”
- Listen to Kuan Yin music in the background while doing chores or a creative project.
- Open your heart with a light, sound and vibration therapy focused on the Heart Chakra.
- Journal on one of Kuan Yin’s qualities: purity, love and compassion, devotion, or grace. Or perhaps you are also a healer. Kuan Yin can enhance your own abilities by connecting with her healing abilities. Find a story of Kuan Yin, and journal about what aspects of the story you notice are fundamental and critical to her ability to heal.
- Make space for a guided meditation. We’ve crafted one here for you, that will open you up to divine assistance and connect you to heart healing.
- Create an alter dedicated to the goddess. You might be surprised to learn you already have a statue of the goddess. This was the case for my mom, whom had been holding an heirloom statue of the goddess. Her likeness is replicated almost as much as the buddha and you may find she has unknowingly already entered your field. I love adorning her with bits of nature I find on walks or by placing a flower at her feet.
- Do a visualization practice. I often do this in savasana after a yoga practice. See in your minds eye the goddess pouring her vase of divine nectar, a spiritual elixir, down through your crown chakra and pooling at the heart. As you feel this nectar swirl and pulse at your heart chakra, you feel a warmth as your body and soul relax into a deep knowing and feeling of being held. Continue with this feeling allowing it to melt away stagnation and heartache or you may choose to send that loving embrace to a loved one in need.
- Work with Crystals: Pink crystals help to cultivate compassion. You may choose Rose Quartz, Pink Agate, Mangano Calcite, or Morganite. Hold your crystal in meditation, carry it in your purse, place on your alter or on top of an intention card.
- Work with an oracle deck of the goddess. I love Alana Fairchild’s available here.
Taking a small step towards the goddess will begin the evolution of re-awakening to parts of the heart that may have at one time needed protecting but are now ready to move forward in openness and faith. Consciously choosing to grant yourself and others more compassion reminds us of our shared humanity, and that we are all doing our best with our current skills, knowledge and consciousness. You never know the ripple you make as this divine grace extends out one day knocking at your door to return the favor.
- Wisdom of Kuan Yin (1st Edition). (1955). Blue Angel Publishing.