Angie Ball on Compassion in Times of Difficulty

With gusty winds and rain blowing outside, so far this May has proved to be pretty unpredictable! Often May is one of the more benign months of the year in the Scottish Borders, where one can enjoy the arrival of fresh green leaves and spring flowers. Now, as I watch through the window, petals are flying off the trees and some of the flowers hang limp off their stems from the coldness of late frosts.

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Well, April and May have also been unpredictable for me personally, as well as for friends and family. Several close friends have been ill and one close friend recently died, so a deep sadness has been haunting me during this time. Especially, as this is also reflected in the   wider environment with the loss of so many lives in the devastating earthquake that happened in Nepal.

I was teaching with Carmen and Josep in the Spanish centre near Gerona when the news broke about the earthquake. So far away, and we had little access to the world news during the weekend. We only received snippits of what was happening. However, the awareness of the deep suffering and traumatic situation for the Nepalese people touched all of our hearts.

We were in the midst of the weekend 3 of the Compassion module at the time, stepping from self compassion into a wider view of compassion for all others. These teachings had such a resonance with us, as tutors, and the whole of the group of compassionate students. We realized how human suffering can really touch our hearts, which enables the depth of compassion to arise. One can see this in retrospect when hearing of how many people donated money and offered to help in so many ways. Through the depth of this compassionate heart, we can be moved to help alleviate suffering wherever possible.

While teaching and learning about the 4 Limitless Contemplations; that of Loving Kindness, Compassion, Equanimity and Joy, we spent time in the surrounding nature at the Gerona centre, savouring the fleeting moments of preciousness and joy within the simplest things in our environment. We offered these joyous experiences up to others less fortunate in that moment.

Our human existence is so fragile and changeable, and what all of these situations are showing me personally is the shaky ground on which we stand. All seems so solid and real, and yet in a moment, all changes! However, the benefit of this realisation is that we can really connect with the preciousness of each and every moment, and of all those people around that we meet on a day to day basis: friends, family, mindfulness colleagues, acquaintances, passing strangers. It has helped me to appreciate and to be more present in our interactions together, to pay attention, and to listen more attentively with a warmer open heart. On noting a passing judgement arising in the mind, there is a little more ability to remember our common humanity and the realisation that we are truly all dealing with the craziness of what it is to be a human being.

So, spring heralds new growth and fresh promise. Not only externally within the never ending cycle of life, but also the opportunity within one’s internal environment, the seed of a wider understanding and opening heart.

Angie Ball is a Lead Tutor for the Mindfulness Association. She teaches both one year Mindfulness and Compassion courses.

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Joanna McGregor
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Joanna McGregor

Thank you Angie, your message strikes home. I’ve been very driven recently and keep losing things, but when I look outside to my yellow corvette and potato on the balcony it cheers me up. Your message reminds me how little my difficulties are in comparison to others.