Just for the heck of it, I did a Google® search for the keywords "compassion fatigue in nurses" and came up with 110,000 links...110,000! Oh my gosh, you’d think that we’re all suffering from burnout, which can’t be possible…or, is it?!
Excerpt from “Being a Compassionate Presence – The contemplative approach to end-of-life care” in The Arts of Contemplative Care.
“Are you dead yet?” her high-pitch voice hurled across the room. “Are you dead yet . . . you in the corner?” She glared at me, wide-awake ready to engage. I had been sitting quietly in her room assuming she was asleep. The physician had pointed to the chair in the corner across from her bed before he shut the door behind him with a resounding bang. I had a sinking feeling in my body. I was a fresh hospice volunteer and novice meditator. I followed the direction of his finger and sat down on the chair. I did what was expected, straightened my back and sat in silence.
Question: It sometimes seems to me that fear has become an unacceptable emotion on the spiritual path. There are so many teachings that talk about how unhelpful fear is, and how it gets in the way of growth. Yet for me, I am increasingly recognizing how dominated by fear my whole life has been, and the more I practice, the more this fear feels like it is dominating my life. I feel it vibrating through my body, making it difficult to breathe, and I often get very little sleep at night as fear and panic surface just as I am "dropping off". It seems to be too terrifying to let go of control enough to fall asleep. I am trying to welcome this fear as a friend who I can learn from. But I find it very, very difficult when I hear teachings that don't seem to have anything positive to say about working with fear - but just name it as an obstacle on the path. I hope that you can help me with this.
Recently I caught up with Professor Robert Thurman at Tibet House in New York City. We were talking about some of the comments he made at his Occupy Wall Street talk (which I recorded and posted here) and how it is important not to just leave your practice behind as you leave the cushion. We then made this six minute video on What Meditation Really Is. You can watch it after the jump.
This is the last part and our favorite part of a skype video between Erric and Elizabeth. In Mahayana Buddhism it is said that the best way to practice meditation is with the attitude of truly wanting to benefit others—the vast attitude of Bodhicitta.
Elizabeth Namgyel describes compassion as a radical expansion of self.
One can practice compassion both on and off the cushion. Here I offer a simple sitting meditation practice as well as 10 informal exercises for bringing compassion into your daily life. Pretty soon, the distinction between these modes of practice loses meaning. All of life becomes practice.
The Buddhist teachings tell us that wisdom and compassion are like the two wings of a bird that will fly you to enlightenment and that you need both wings in order to fly. What does that mean for us?
First of all we might just reject this as irrelevant to us because we don’t think we want to be enlightened, we’ll settle for happiness. What we don’t realize, however, is that enlightenment is just a fancy name for the highest form of happiness, a state that is not only our birthright but the end point of our evolution. We’re heading there anyway, whether we think we want to or not. Some of us aren’t moving of course, some of us are even going backwards, but our innate desire for happiness will keep pulling us towards it.
This five minute video is the first part of a fascinating skype conversation between Elizabeth Namgyel and Erric. Elizabeth describes compassion as a radical expansion of self. Then she gives some tips about how we can begin to cultivate this expanded sense of self.