In writing about meditation and mindfulness, my emphasis has been on experiencing things as they truly are. Meditation provides the space to become aware of the many ways our thoughts and feelings can distort our perceptions. Consciousness creates the opportunity to let go of such distortions.
Yet some truths are painful and difficult. My anger at someone for confronting me might really be a cover to not acknowledge my guilt at having spoken in a hurtful way. Blaming the Other eventually falls away when I finally look at myself and my role in the interaction. But how can I sit with the feeling of being in the wrong?
The best way I know to accept such feelings and thoughts, and release them rather than deny or bury them, is to develop compassion toward self and others. I say develop since it is a process. Yet it is also something that naturally arises from the practice. With compassion for both the Other and myself, facing the truth becomes more doable. Whether it leads to actions toward healing in the world or just remains something I accept within myself, it can be an antidote for the bitterness and shame that follows holding on to such feelings.
Compassion is more than just a feeling. Compassion suggests to me a combination of 1) sympathy–recognizing and feeling for another in their suffering; 2) empathy–identifying with another’s feelings, caring from understanding through either having been there myself or knowing how easily I could be there; and 3) loving-kindness–treating them (and myself) with tenderness and forgiveness.
With compassion, pain and suffering may not disappear, but they can be put into perspective. If someone else does us harm we don’t like it. When we hold onto to the hurt, we further harm ourselves. We have limited power to change others’ attitudes and behaviors but we can do more with ourselves. Holding onto harm creates bitterness, and bitterness blocks us from appreciating what life has to offer. Or to put it another way, lack of compassion keeps us away from God in us and others.
This is my current understanding about compassion. No doubt there is more to it than I express here. I welcome anything useful you can add.