Just another experience
Someone in one of my classes was feeling really bad recently. I noticed he wasn't taking part in the discussion with his group. He told me he just broke up with his girlfriend (AKA 'lover' in China). Been there done that. I kept it light. Tried to joke with him. Said: he was lucky because the guy sitting beside him never had a lover (true). I got him to talking to a student about it, I think. He looked at me and I gave him an honest look. He was a good sport about it. Unfortunately, at the end of class I could tell he was still feeling really bad. I couldn't help but feel sorry for him. I don't know if what I did really helped. I know how much that sucks, but I don't want to go preaching about sitting to him. That would be stupid. Just an experience that I thought I'd post.
Hi, Will. I find that, as my practice deepens, so, too, does my ability to feel the sorrows of the world. That seems in keeping with the Mahayana teachings and training...your heart opens, softens and you can't help but begin to see and feel the suffering all around you.
The threshold it seems to me that you have reached is understanding the difference between compassion and sentimentalism. Our western culture is rife with the "tug on our heartstrings" stuff that is so useless and, in fact, can be harmful because it fosters and perpetuates a society that gets caught up in the drama of ourselves and others and then thinks that we can "fix it" with all manner of distractions.
Joking with others to try to lighten their burden is a very common way to try to get others to move out of their pain/sorrow/suffering. We don't want to see them sad or angry or hurting. Yet, with clear sight, we understand that they are, for the most part, doing it to themselves through their own clinging to that which they want or pushing away that which they do not want.
So, eventually, I guess, I've just learned to be still in the presence of unhappiness, offer a touch on the shoulder, a hug (if appropriate) or an ear if they want to talk a bit. It's a fine line to walk and can sometimes seem unsympathetic but it really is a way of not becoming part of the drama. I consider that to be a truer hallmark of real friendship in my life.
Will & Lynn,
I think you guys are on to something.
I've found that getting caught up in the drama rarely does much to help the situation. It's hard to not jump in whole hog and try to "fix" things, but sometimes things cannot be "fixed". At those times when we can help, and just do what comes naturally we have the best impact.
Perhaps the difference between compassion and sympathy has something do do with just reacting honestly and naturally in such situations.