Compassion is one of the core Buddhist practices that allows us, at least for a few moments, to step out of our ego-created protective shells and direct our energy towards others, to feel what they feel, and soften our hearts. Very often this is hard to do, for to feel another person’s pain requires not only open-heartedness but also courage.
This is what Pema Chodron, a Buddhist nun of immense wisdom and kindness, sets out to teach us with a simple, on-the-spot practice called “Just Like Me,” included in Comfortable with Uncertainty: 108 Teachings on Cultivating Fearlessness and Compassion.
When we find ourselves in an unwelcome situation, for example, stuck in a waiting room or a traffic jam, we should look around us not to see the obstacles or causes of our frustration but our common humanity.
“Just like me, these people have somewhere to go.”
“Just like me, they feel trapped and frustrated.”
“Just like me, that person doesn’t want to suffer.”
“Just like me, she doesn’t want hatred coming towards her.”
JUST LIKE ME
by Pema Chodron
As a result of compassion practice we start to have a deeper understanding of the roots of suffering. We aspire not only that the outer manifestations of suffering decrease but also that all of us could stop acting and thinking in ways that escalate ignorance and confusion. We aspire to be free of fixation and closed-mindedness. We aspire to dissolve the myth that we are separate.
I do this sort of thing in all kinds of situations—at the breakfast table, in the meditation hall, at the dentist’s office. Standing in the checkout line at the market, I might notice the defiant teenager in front of me and make the aspiration, “May he be free of suffering and its causes.” In the elevator with a stranger, I might notice her shoes, her hands, the expression on her face. I contemplate that just like me she doesn’t want stress in her life. Just like me she has worries. Through our hopes and fears, our pleasures and pains, we are deeply interconnected.