Monday, August 11, 2008

Wisdom and Compassion

“For the bird of enlightenment to fly, it must have two wings: the wing of wisdom and the wing of compassion,” Zen Buddhist adage.

Mindfulness of breath meditation is a doorway to awareness of all kinds of internal and external phenomena which were previously unknown to us. Thoughts which seemed random or of little consequence, are revealed as repeated impediments to achieving calm, collected states of mind; or even powerful agents of negativity toward self and/or others. We notice how often the mind gets caught up in feelings of fear, aversion, irritation, restlessness, boredom, impatience, intolerance, drama, self-blame, self-criticism, self-loathing. How resistance to unpleasantness increases the strength of negative states of mind.

Increased awareness gives rise to insight. And insight is best met with compassion. Why compassion? Mindfulness polishes the mirror of perception so we can clearly comprehend the internal mechanisms of mental automaticity that create suffering from moment to moment. So when mindfulness is directed toward destructive patterns of thought and behavior the insights that arise can be quite painful.

So we meet these stark realities with a compassionate acceptance of what is: opening the heart to hold distress, while attending to pain as mindfully as possible, without rejection. Together, compassionate presence in the face of suffering and clear comprehension of the sources of suffering support the full flowering of the wisdom that leads to liberation from suffering.

From this perspective, it is easy to see why mindfulness practices work so well to enhance the effect of other psychotherapeutic interventions. When clients can stay with distress, and not give in to or increase negative states of mind, the opportunities for understanding and transformation are greatly increased.

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