In the light of the terrible mass shooting in Orlando, I decided to reblog the post on compassion and well-being which I adapted after the attacks in Paris at the end of last year. I am not American or gay and I don’t know enough of the facts or the context to feel qualified to write a separate post, other than as a human being horrified by such actions and the ease with which people can obtain weapons and carry out these targeted, violent acts against people just trying to live their authentic lives. My thoughts are the same as after Paris and they are with all those affected by this and other such tragedies. (And today, June 16th, one of our own has had her life cut short and her family has lost a precious woman who worked to improve the lot of others).
When one hurts, we all hurt.
Some of the most poignant and remarkable acts of compassion are often performed by those to whom Fate has dealt some very unlucky cards: children with terminal cancer raising money and awareness from their hospital beds, severely injured veterans taking part in sporting events to raise funds to provide equipment and support for their colleagues, the bereaved parents of a teenage addict providing education and support for young people. It is well-documented that those with the least resources are often the most generous.
Doing something positive to help others can often provide a way out of our own dark place, it can help raise our spirits, lift our heads and enable us to see a way forward.
Expressing compassion and empathy is not only beneficial for the recipient, but for the giver too: being kind produces oxytocin which reduces anxiety and depression, strengthens the immune system and helps control the effects of stress. It also stimulates the vegas nerve which controls inflammation throughout the body. Inflammation is believed to be a major factor in developing chronic diseases and ageing.
When we help one another, we all benefit.
At this particular time of year, there are many people for whom compassion would be the best gift of all: newly-arrived refugee families being resettled into the community; people rendered homeless through losing a job, their relationship, their home; young people on the street because they are not welcome in their family home; those subject to physical or emotional abuse; elderly or disabled people left isolated, with little support.
Yet recent newspaper headlines, government polemics and negative online comments concerning an ‘influx’ of refugees, fear of potential terrorists based on little else but a person’s cultural or religious background and so on, might lead an alien visitor to Earth to conclude that compassion is currently in short supply. When our circumstances change for the worse, when money is in short supply or illness strikes, when we fear for the safety of our loved ones, it is understandable that our concerns are for our own well-being and that of our families. Life can seem overwhelmingly difficult. There can be little room for considering the lot of others.
But consider recent events in Paris. At an international football match, once fierce national rivals -both teams and fans of all racial and cultural backgrounds – came together, arms around each other and sang La Marseillaise, in a stirring and defiant display of unity reminiscent of the famous scene in the film Casablanca, when French citizens drowned out drunken Nazi singing with a powerful and emotional rendition of their own national anthem.
Ultimately, we are more alike than we are different.
I would like to express my depest condolences to all those affected by these recent events, either directly or indirectly.
I believe that compassion is innate in all of us: when one of us hurts, we all hurt.
Coming together, pooling resources, sharing our time, experience and compassion is how we pull through.
In The Art of Happiness,* HH Dalai Lama says that the purpose of life is the pursuit of happiness and happiness is ultimately achieved through compassion for others. It is a principle by which I have tried to live my life.
Compassion is good for our collective health.
*The Art of Happiness: A Handbook for Living by HH The Dalai Lama and Howard C. Cutler, Easton Press, 1998
Copyright: Chris McGowan
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