is this what a door looks like?




MRI imagery of Buddhist Monk, Matthieu Ricard, impact of meditation on pain regulation

Well then, like some kind of answer from above, came this briefest of articles in my email this morning, Less Empathy, More Kindness, with the teaser, “do you know the difference between Empathy and Compassion?”

Could this be the door I’ve been looking for?  This – learning to gently close the door on this solely empathic part of my being so as to not become so overwhelmed and exhausted? Leave that room of distress and move into the other, warmer hearth of compassion.

What I found most hopeful here was the reminder that such a choice – to move away from over-identified empathy and suffering to a more positive state of warmth  – does not make of me less-than-human, but has the actual function of making me more capable of both caring and connection.

It is also rather interesting to me to note that I had, in these past few weeks, intuitively resumed the kind of lovingkindness meditation referred to in the article, in order to access a quieter, calmer inner voice, because I have found it to almost instantly and viscerally move me into what I have experienced/named as an older, wiser place in me.  Seems perhaps I was subcousciously turning off the light in one room of my brain (an intolerably, distressful one) and turning it on in another (a warmer more compassionate one).

In particular, I had become aware of increasingly negative and stressful feelings I was having in reaction to a specific situation in my life and wanted to move to a place of a more positive regard and response. I knew from experience that simply saying the words

“May I be happy
May I be free from violence (within and without)
May I be whole (with no part of me disconnected)
May I be Love(d)”


“May you be happy
May you be free from violence
May you be whole
May you be Love(d)*
… “

shifts something in me, detaching me from angst and allowing me to gain some loving and long perspective. It may not at all change the weather around me, but it does allow me to ‘be the change’.  My husband and I have also noticed that this prayer shifts our perspective of the ‘other’ from one of forcing (our desires or agenda for instance) to one of allowing (the preferences and values of another, for example). We have learned to realize that what looks like contentment (may you be happy) to one person may look like stagnation to the other.

I guess the problem is that I have tended to use this practice more like a quick fix in my life, rather than committing to it as a long term practice to cultivate, just enough that I can activate the off/on switch (either open or close the door?) when I need it but not enough that it has become my dwelling place.

Oh, all of these years, I have known that Turtle continues to be my constant and patient teacher, forever reminding me

‘You must carry your dwelling place with you’.

An MRI image of the brain rather looks like a turtle shell, don’t you think?


*some other phrases that I have found healing, helpful and hopeful are

May I touch deep, natural peace (be peaceful)

May I know the natural joy of being alive

May I embody Love (be held by Love, be filled with Love)

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