TED Talk: Compassion and the true meaning of empathy

Compassion, the spectrum of compassion is enourmous. From offering someone a seat on the bus to donating an organ to a stranger, any form of compassion is a beautiful and non-self centered act of kindness that would benefit being practiced by all.

A TED Talk by Buddhist roshi Joan Halifax on ‘Compassion and the true meaning of empathy’, provides insightful wisdom based on experiences from working in hospices and inmates on deathrow. Rather than framing the subject in a morbid light, Joan highlights the beauty of compassion in moments when it’s needed the most and how everyone can gain strength in testing times through compassion. This excerpt from talk inspired me to share, I hope it touches anyone else who reads, but I would also recommend reading the full transcript or watching the video to feel the message as well as hear it from Joan.

You know, if compassion is so good for us, I have a question. Why don’t we train our children in compassion? If compassion is so good for us, why don’t we train our health care providers in compassion so that they can do what they’re supposed to do, which is to really transform suffering? And if compassion is so good for us, why don’t we vote on compassion? Why don’t we vote for people in our government based on compassion, so that we can have a more caring world? In Buddhism, we say, “it takes a strong back and a soft front.” It takes tremendous strength of the back to uphold yourself in the midst of conditions. And that is the mental quality of equanimity. But it also takes a soft front – the capacity to really be open to the world as it is, to have an undefended heart.

Joan Halifax, Author, Zen priest
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