There will be a new, tall building going up on a corner across the street from my apartment building and it will block a significant portion of my view of the sky. This is the first time in many years that construction has had an impact on my quality of life and I am making plans to adapt to it in as positive a way as I can.
What I notice, as I walk around New York City, is how much construction is happening, how many tall and large buildings are going up all over the city. And, for the first time, I find myself keenly aware of the people who are losing their views and light as a consequence of all the new construction. My personal experience has opened up a new avenue of compassion, one that wasn’t particularly in my awareness before.
This got me to thinking about how life presents constant invitations to use challenges to increase compassion. For example, I find myself feeling compassion for the change in the value of people’s apartments as their views go away, knowing that for many people the value of even the smallest apartment is an important potential asset for the future. When I lived in an apartment where the owner let the oil run out each winter, I developed a much deeper and vivid compassion for people who chronically live without heat and hot water. And, we know that there are far worse ways in which people suffer that, for many of us, haven’t been our direct experience and yet warrant our enlivened compassion.
For this week’s experiment, I invite you to pay attention to how the challenges that come into your life offer you an opportunity to more deeply understand the experience of others, to deepen and expand your experience and expression of compassion. I know that the examples I’ve given above are fairly mundane and are challenges of privilege, so it’s important to do what we can to cultivate compassion for people whose experiences are so much more chronic, dramatic and/or terrible than our own.
For me, Facebook is one way I can more directly touch into the life experiences, suffering, challenges, and perspectives of people who live lives very different from my own. Having access to videos and articles that express experiences I haven’t had allows the lived sense of my compassion to expand and deepen, and I draw on Facebook and youtube as part of this practice.
As with all these experiments, remember to invite curiosity as a constant companion and to allow any judgments that may arise to move on through without any additional notice or attention. Living consciously helps to underscore how profoundly our internal state of bodymind being, our beliefs, what we allow to enter our experience and how we respond to it combine to generate our internal quality of life. It also allows us to be mindful of how we move through our world and how we contribute to, or detract from, the quality of life of those we encounter along the way.