From ABC, this is the 10 percent happier podcast. I'm Dan Harris. Danny, if you guys remember that band, The Shins, they had a popular song that appeared on the soundtrack to that Zach Braff movie Garden State, a couple of years ago, actually, kind of a while ago anyway. They also had a song called Caring is Creepy. I always thought that was kind of funny in this episode. However, we're going to establish that not only is caring not creepy, it is also not, as many people fear, a sign of weakness, caring or having compassion or giving a crap about other people or about yourself is a baller move.
It takes courage and it gives you courage, particularly during this dumpster fire of a presidential election.
This is part two of our special Election Sanity series. The series is built around a classic Buddhist list called the Four Ramah Vihara. These are for allegedly heavenly states of mind. Don't worry about the seeming grandiosity here. It is all, as I said last week, very down to earth. I promise you can think of these four mind states as mental skills that are powerful correctives against the vitriol that characterizes the modern political scene. To help you get the most out of the series, we're also launching an email guy.
This email will recap the podcast episodes every week. It will include helpful tidbits such as QI terms and concepts and highlight the immense wisdom of our guests. It will also link to relevant meditations and talks inside the app. Just like the podcast, the guide is free. You can sign up at 10 percent dotcom guide again. You can get this special newsletter for our Election Sanity podcast series at 10 percent Dotcom Guide. I hope it helps. Last week, we talked about Brahma Vihara number one called Metta or lovingkindness, or as I prefer, friendliness.
This week, it's compassion. My guest is the Reverend Angel Kyoto Williams. She is the second black woman to be recognized as a teacher and the Japanese Zen lineage. And she's the author of such books as Radical Dharma and Being Black. One technical note before we dive in, you will occasionally hear a cameo in the form of a mini serenade from her bird.
Here we go. The Reverend Angel, Kyoto Williams. I just be curious to start, because these four qualities are, you know, sort of interlocking and related, they speak to one another and build upon one another in many ways. And and so I know you had a chance to listen to last week's episode with Joanna's on Metta or friendliness or loving kindness. Well, before we dive into compassion.
Well, any any thoughts on on on the first installment of the series? I felt so like the sort of clarity of the importance of starting with metter, you know, that's really what came through for me, is really being able to cultivate this quality. As a starting point felt so clear, and I say that in particular because I feel very much that there is a inclination in the larger Buddhist world in the way that Buddhism is looked at to talk a lot about compassion.
And wisdom. And there we stumble because many people want to jump to compassion, we conflate it somehow with matter with friendliness. And Joetta did such a good job of taking us into the importance of that particular cultivation and and the nuance of it that helps me reconnect to that quality is essential before we can go any place else. You know, it's utterly critical. And in the Zen tradition, we don't actually talk about. Matter specifically, so my relationship to the bottom of the horrors has been through the great gift of having so many different people and traditions in one place so that I have an opportunity to access.
And of course, there's folks like Sharon, you know, Saltzberg, who, you know, has just done an enormous lift in inviting all of us as a as a nation really into Medda and loving kindness as a stance and so much nuance. And so this really feels like it's an opportunity. And the way that Joanna brought it is an opportunity to remind really all of us that it is essential that we cultivate these this fundamental quality first and that we not just bypass it as being nice, you know, as she said.
Right. Like, it's not about being nice. And that is so important for us to understand, especially right now, because I think a lot of what we think about is bypass culture comes from not having cultivated metter. Right. It's sort of this little buzz. We're like, oh, I wish you know, I wish you EE's we just kind of without really understanding where Joanna took us was like the depth of it. Like, this is a deep practice and it requires real medal.
Right. It's really an invitation into an expanding of our just our relationship to understanding ourselves and how it is that we can begin to expand the sense of self beyond this little limited being. I think that that's perhaps the only way that we can really have a rightful relationship with the Earth and not causing harm to the Earth and to other people is through this quality of matter. You use the phrase bypass culture. Hmm. What do you mean by that?
It's like we get these vast teachings there. I mean, they're fast. They're, you know, millennia old. And in our culture, we reduce them to soundbites, I think, both commercially and but also in our minds. Right. And so we have these great phrases. And I've said many times somebody will bring their palms together in the gesture, the prayer gesture that is familiar to everybody. But in the Buddhist tradition, often the word or greeting.
Namaste. I see I see the oneness in you. You know, I'm being with you is in that gesture. But I've seen so many people take it and corrupt it with not having the quality of namaste, not having the quality of loving kindness, but bypassing the work, the effort that is required, really cultivating that quality by making the gesture.
And I don't know if this will get on your show, but I to say, like, you know, I know you even if your palms are together, I can see that it has to be in the show.
That's like 10 percent. Have your hands full right there. It's like I can I see your palms together.
But it's like we can bypass the idea. We can bypass the practice that's necessary. The depth. Right. The rootedness in that practice so that the gestures and the words come from the I always I love I use this word the certitude of our practice. It's like the fervency nature of our expression, of the teachings comes from. Having deepened into the practice, not because we've repeated these words and said, no, stay to people many times, not because we've said, oh, you know, I wish you ease and I wish you peace and there's no.
Connection, you know, between the two that's offering in the ME that is being intended to receive, it's just kind of, you know, it's kind of like gluey and putting something on me to make me go away or to make me, you know, get out of get out of your help. You get out of your own sense of guilt or whatever it is that you are feeling. And so it's just like, well, you know, I just wish you so much ease.
Right. And there's no loving kindness.
And there's no there's no matter in that expression, there's just the sliminess like this Ghostbusters line.
There's a way in which, yes, that's a you put your finger on it like there's a time when I find the syrupy.
Yeah, I don't feel sometimes there are times when I'm dealing with people who are wishing me well and I feels like they're. Doing something to me, it's it's it's I feel that the therapy earnest thing, it doesn't feel real. You can have the beads, you can have the man, but you can have all the accoutrements you want.
But if it doesn't emerge from your practice or from your viscera or whatever, then then that's bypass.
That's bypass. And, you know, I, I think we probably share this. So I really invite people into the fullness of who they are. And to realize that even if you cut away all of these words and so you say these nice words and I think I'm going to get a book and you and you wear the floaty clothing, you know, it's like I see you, you know, I see you and I see what I see most as I see you not seeing yourself.
And and that bypass is the most tragic of all the bypasses is that you're not seeing yourself in that process and instead commodifying it into a tool or a weapon of manipulation. Yeah, well, I've done it personally just to say so what what what is the difference between Metta lovingkindness, friendliness, which we which we discussed with Joanna last week, and compassion. How do you define that difference?
I'm a really big fan of. Understanding of coming into understanding of compassion, because I feel that I have so often been in the path of the bypass. And so I wanted to understand it because I feel so. Think not so much now I just recognize it, but I have felt for a really long time the story I tell myself about the difference is, Metta is this. It's ascending, right? It's an it's an emanating it is a quality that begins with one's self and extends out.
And there's an expansiveness that is cultivated as a result of that of of the willingness which is perhaps the most difficult of the work, the willingness to extend in that way, the willingness to have that. You know, we often say the word wish but wishes and have not quite it you know, it's the impulse. It's an impulse. It's like the like a wanting for your for your wellness and wanting for your ease. Like, I want that.
And I feel that in my own body and out of that feeling of my own body, which the practice begins by first extending it and then I kind of feel it out go that I really mean that. OK, I need a little bit more leaning in, which is totally essential. To relating to the world around us, as I was, you know, alluding to, in really hearing that through Joanna's teachings, compassion asks something even more of us is kind of out there, which is it says get in there with them.
Hmm. Right. So metter still has a quality of the sending. It is panoramic. It is comprehensive. It is embracing.
Compassion is roll up your sleeve and get in the with people, you know, get in there suffering with them, you are not going to stay in your white fluffy robes, face clean because you're choosing to get in with them. You're choosing to be in and in what? In their suffering to be with the suffering of others.
Which is impossible if you're not willing to be with the suffering of your own self. Mm hmm. In fact, the root word, which is both the same and poly and in Sanskrit, depending on the kind of root of your tradition, is either poly or Sanskrit, but it's koruna. The governor could actually be understood as self, what we call self compassion, so it's actually the same both things. The thing that we kind of add the modifier of self compassion is the same as compassion.
But in our culture, we take the word compassion and we immediately think it means compassion for others. But in a classic sense of the teaching, one has to cultivate being with one's own suffering in order to. Even remotely apprehend the concept of going and getting in the suffering of others and getting in there with them, which includes.
A willingness to be touched by people and therefore move transformed by people to be to be shifted in one's own stance like so it's not just that I get to stand here, which I think is profound. So I will say this again, matters profound and it is a sending out. You do get to stay where you are and send out compassion says get up off that spot and go. It's like I've got to go get in there with them. And that's that's a big ask.
And so I think we often mistake compassion as something we can just have. And it doesn't work like that. And just to put a fine point on the difference here, I've I and Joanna did a really great job of this because, you know, love has its own PR problem.
So but you can think of loving kindness or just I like friendliness as like TEQ North of Apathy. It's like just starting and just right in the benevolent zone from mild to to spicy.
But you're you're just wishing well in somewhere in that range.
Compassion is seeing somebody suffering and having the urge to help.
And that seems that's what it's empowering and ennobling because there is that desire to relieve the suffering.
Right. It's that impulse that's everything. Right. Because empathy, you know, we resonate with. Right. We feel it's like we feel with. So this feel with. That's empathy. I feel with you and I feel with your suffering. Plus, she's a math equation plus. I have an impulse to alleviate it. That's compassion. And we often conflate the things and we're kind of in the empathy zone these days talking a lot about empathy, but we're conflating them as if it's the same as compassion.
It's the critical thing is it's not feeling with just anything. So I might resonate with your rage. We often don't talk about empathetic rage, but actually we have a whole lot of empathetic rage going on now. We have empathetic fear going on. We have empathetic all sorts of things that's creating these kinds of stark divisions, whereas people didn't necessarily have that feeling unto themselves. But they're caught up in the resonant field, right? They're caught up in the vibe.
And it's like and now we're, you know, sent to jail or whatever the chances are that people are doing.
Like, I didn't have that feeling a moment ago and now I'm caught. That's empathy, people. That is just as much empathy as any other kind of empathy. And we love the positive empathy, but it is the same. So compassion distinguishes itself by dealing with suffering, specifically the passion. Right. For Christians out there, the suffering of the Christ or the passion that suffering is critical. So compassion is only ever about suffering, and compassion always requires the impulse to alleviate the suffering, even if we can't actually do something about it.
And that's the humbling, most humbling aspect of compassion. And I dare say it's why so many people are afraid of cultivating true compassion. I think there's a couple parts to that fear. One part is that people don't understand the difference between empathy and compassion and empathy is scary. Why would I want to take on your stuff? That just sounds like adding up a ladle full of suffering onto my own suffering. But they must understand that the that when you move into the impulse, the aforementioned impulse to help, whether you can help or not, is what takes it into sort of an empowering, ennobling zone.
And yeah, the fact that you may not be able to help is another component to the fear.
It's not just empowering an ennobling, you know, because the empowering there is empowering and nobly. I don't want to short shrift people and do a fake.
It's also, you know, there's some level of painfulness there to like a heart has to be involved in that. And so there is this cycle of, yeah, I have this impulse and that's great. Like, how great am I? And also and I want to do something. And so how great of my. And then you're struck with and I can't do anything about that and we have to live with that. And that grows us up in a whole different way.
That's profound. Growing up to be confronted with all of the ways in which we are able to feel with suffering and then can do nothing about it. And so there is, in addition to the empowering and ennobling, there is contending with the what that means, the implications of a feeling of responsibility towards the world, towards the suffering of the world, and still being constrained by the fact of time and space and money and resources and so on and so forth.
It's a very profound thing to have to reconcile, to cultivate compassion. Yeah, I think about my wife downstairs in this house right now, she's a doctor, she's doing telemedicine and she's in a compassionate stance all day long. And sometimes people die and she can't do anything about it. So she lives with that. And yet I do think it's a I see her beaming when she's being a doctor, because even when it's sad, it's still like, wow, there's a lot of purpose.
It's not just drowning in empathy. It's really with this impulse to be of service.
Right. I wonder how. We haven't said much about meditation practice, how what's your view about the practice of compassion on the cushion?
How do you teach it? Mostly, I start with don't try this at home.
I think that too many people try to jump to it too quickly.
And so I really do consider compassion a I don't know if I see an elevated you know, it's a deep into teaching and it is I think people should have a stability. As part of and that's the bottom of the horrors, kind of lay it out, right? It's like do this first, get get here first and you can find the beginning of your cultivation, you know, through your lovingkindness practice by being able to relate to the the compassion of the people that are close to you, like that's accessible for you and to you.
And you get to see that, which is fantastic. I love the idea of the challenge being able to present that to people. It's like, oh, OK. So I have your son. Right. That's going to be an easy case for being able to witness your own compassion, which also simultaneously will bring up for you, you know, how much less likely it is that you want to go and get in somebody else's poop. So I'm one of those people that rather than talking to people about cultivating compassionate self, is about cultivating the conditions for compassion, really situating oneself.
One of those conditions is love and kindness. So to situate oneself in the conditions for compassion, compassion is way more like, you know, planting the seed and putting the soil and fertilizing it. We don't really produce fruit. That's not really what happens. It's food is produced as a result of cultivating the conditions. The quality of the environment, the interiority of your own life is the conditions from which compassion arises. And so that is what I encourage people to do, and part of that is to begin with.
Tempering themselves to be able to tolerate their own suffering. And meet the places in which there is tension in their willingness to touch their own suffering. You've got a whole bunch of it yourself. It comes up in forms of fear and anxiety, self-hatred, self judgment, a kind of a constant railing on ourselves about, you know, not enough ness, not enough time, not accomplishing enough, wishing for more, wishing we were different, wanting our bodies to be different, wanting, you know, like getting past the you know, just the sort of buzz of that in getting down into it.
Like, what is that like what is what is that like what's under there. What is that like. That just went by. So one practice that I teach people is to. Look at what I call the turbulence of their direct experience, meaning the thing that gets in the way between them and direct experience, I have I have direct experience and we may be sitting and returning to resting and abiding in our own truth, what matters to us, what's important to us, or resting with our breath.
And then, you know, some little turbulence comes along. So most people will say, oh, it's distraction. We look at it and we let it go. Right. There's that phrase, let it go. And what I encourage is to say actually get to know what it is, what that turbulence is. I don't mean the content of the turbulence. I don't mean like, oh, I have a to do list and, you know, my to do list came up or.
Oh, you know, I'm replaying this argument. I mean, what's the thing that makes going to the to do list into the argument and what is the. What is that. What is that. That makes that shiny object interesting to you at all, and then people find, oh, I'm not I'm afraid I'm not accomplishing enough at this much time on the planet. And I think I might have frittered away a lot of my life. And so the to do list is my way of trying to gain control of that.
And then I'm like, oh, now I'm navigating the fear that I have of my existence. Right. That I have a limited time in life. And then you have to touch that. Now you have way more possibility of being able to hold. The fact of someone else's fear of the perhaps in this instance, the country that they knew and understood it as being a certain way changing. Under this president or that president, America looked like this.
And if these people get positions of power, it will not be the place that was safe and made sense to me. And there's a lot of fear in that there's a lot of fear in what comes with. And I always say to people the change that America already is, it's not the change it's going to be. It already is changed. And what we're battling over is essentially whether we're going to acknowledge the change and codify it into laws and structures, and so rather than whether it's going to actually change or not, it has changed.
We are in a new America. We are in a different America. And that fear and anxiety about that is real. And I feel that. From people that will vote very differently than I will. I feel the existential crisis of of that, and as a result of being in my relationship with my own fears, I get it. I don't agree. But I get the existential quality of fear, and I do wish for something different than that.
I want that to be different. I want to I like I want that suffering to end. It doesn't mean that I want to have the same. President, they may want to have, but I do want their suffering to end. And so I want to have a narrative about what comes on the other side of an election that has my person when I want to have a narrative that's like, you know, you are going to be included. That's my compassion.
That's how my compassion expresses itself, is to say, like, I get it, this looks like it's like all over if it goes that way. But really, there's a place for all of us and we can talk about that. So let me see if I can recapitulate that in my own words, just to make sure I've got it. In the you know, you and I come from different traditions in the room, you're in the Zen tradition, I trained other teachers who are from from a Theravada tradition.
And in that tradition, we use phrases. So I bring to mind somebody who is suffering. I remember images of people from the news who are waiting on line for food or are we in the hospital with covid or doctors dealing with covid or now that may be advanced. And also it may just be that I have so much armor that it takes more of a daisy cutter to cut through it, to get to the compassion. But anyway, I found that to be challenging but also meaningful.
What you what I heard you describe in Zen, these phrases aren't aren't traditionally practiced, to my knowledge. So what I heard you describe was an orientation to what might be considered a traditional mindfulness practice where you're watching your breath and then you get carried away by something. And it may be the to do list, but instead of just OK, yeah, that was my to do list. Let's go back to the breath. You might notice what's behind there and it's it's fear.
And when you start becoming a connoisseur of your own pain that if I heard you correctly, inexorably leads to that comfort with your own suffering, leads to a willingness to see and take on, to a certain extent, the suffering of even people with whom you disagree. And that can put you in a more positive psychological posture vis a vis people with whom you disagree. Any of that, correct?
That is very correct. The only difference is that particular form of practice is actually something I developed because it's a kind of pivot off of the I would say this year in practice is more like just the being with rather than that element of inquiry into that perhaps shows up naturally, actually, and in practice. And I chose for the sake of what I can't call it anything else but urgency, I was like, OK, we don't have time to figure out what questions to ask.
So let me give people the questions that they should be contemplating not doing right. It's actually I have people look at it after the fact so that then next time they're sitting, it's informed by this sense of, oh, this thing that I keep saying is this bit of content, the to do list that did it actually underneath that it read it's an invitation for people, which I think I know from my own practice. And then, you know, over several decades is, wow, it's funny to say that over several decades is that that is actually what ends up happening.
And in my own.
We've got to get on it, people who we've got to get to compassion, we have to get to acceptance, we have to get to love, you know, sooner than what we've got than what, you know, a traditional practice might sort of like lay out for us. We have to at least get to the qualities in the sense of like an inquiry about that. So I developed these these I call them touch points to inquire into it. Right.
To turn around and look at it and say like, oh, what is happening there as an active way to navigate, you know, sort of like helping out our bio psychology. So that we can we can, you know, bring together what's the what's happening in here to what's happening out there. It's like a guidepost. You see it and it's like, oh, there's that thing. That's the signature of fear that I'm so familiar with now with myself.
I feel it with this person. I feel their fear right here in front of me. And it's so familiar because I've sat with it myself and there goes the fruit of compassion. It just it rises right there. In a in a moment of recognition, this recognition is like, oh, and one could say not like there's our fear. All right, it's not even just my fear and your fear. It's like there's our fear because it's the same signature.
As humans, we have this fundamental that's why we can name anxiety, we could name fear and we can name, you know, all of these things that plague us because as human beings, we share these signature. Threat senses of threats to our existence, right? And so those signature existential threats have a quality that is traceable across the human spectrum and compassion. When when we start start to dissolve, it's like, oh, there's my fear. There's your there's our fear.
It becomes just fear. And there, of course, you want it alleviated because you know what it's like to be in it. I mean, it's such a fascinating idea that we when we experience an emotion, we think it's our sadness, our fear or anger or whatever, but no, there just is anger, sadness and fear. There's a great quote from a monk who said something like, when you do that, that's a that's a misappropriation of public property.
That's great. I love that.
So so let me ask you the I guess I'm just imagining there are people listening to this for, whatever, 30, 40, 45 minutes as we chat thinking, OK, well, you you know, hippies, meditation junkies are you know, you've got Reverend Angel who's been doing this for decades. But I'm hearing you talk about I have a low key test for, you know, hearing the cries of the world and having a thousand arms wanting to help.
But like, what do I do when my obnoxious uncle is going on and on about his yard signs for a candidate I despise? What do I do when I'm watching the news and I'm seeing people protesting and I disagree with them or I there are my street and I disagree with them. How do I as a rank and file meditator or aspiring meditator, but a citizen and civilian, how do I operationalize this idea of compassion in this election time?
Mm hmm. I think you listen, you know, that's what you do, right then in there you listen. So when you feel the charge, right, the charge that like I like to translate as the Buddhist term doka, that this sensory experience, one can recognize Tuka arising in our moment of suffering arising it is contraction. So when you feel contraction that like what are they.
I can't. That's contraction. So the sensitivity, the awareness of just the contraction is a cue to listen. Listen to what listen to what is the threat for yourself. And when you listen to what is at threat for you. You will be able to recognize that the same signature and four other people and you have some space, so just listening to your own first, that pause is amazing. Just the strength, just the ability to, you know, to say contraction and put your fist down.
Listen, instead, don't shake your fist, don't go grab them, don't yell. And you know. Don't throw your cell phone at them, listen and turn your attention inward and listen to yourself about what is it that is cooked, how to get hooked. Right into that. Place where you're getting smaller. We breathe right deeply back out into your body to kind of fill your body back up from the place that is gone small and tight. And from there, you can listen to what's up for you.
That's where we find compassion. We find that, oh, yeah, this threat that's happening for me, this moment of feeling like, you know, I'm under siege, something's going to get taken away. I'm not going to be safe. I'm not going to be whole. I'm not going to be seen. Not going to be loved. I can see that out there. And that is where we can have some compassion that every single one of us are fundamentally trying to be safe.
Trying to be seen, trying to be whole, trying to be loved, and we have really, really different ways of getting at it. We have two really different stories about what it is that will get us our safety, our sense of connection, our wholeness and our sense of being loved. When we're in touch with our own places of threat, we will have more room to allow for other people's places of threat. That's how compassion arises for us.
I asked about dealing with difficult people, but there's another way we could perhaps put compassion to use in a time when we're perhaps anxious about the election, the nastiness of the campaign, and, of course, whatever the outcome is going to be, all of those things could provoke anxiety. Another way to put compassionate action is, I would imagine, to try to help out now, like to to get into action mode around helping people who are less fortunate than you voting, volunteering for a candidate, you who you have strong feelings about.
Would you describe all of that as a form of off the cushion compassion?
I mean, I think that perhaps for most of us. Right, given to the thing about the seed in the soil and the that most of our effort is going to be around. Compassion is going to be in self compassion. Right. That's going to be the highest order of compassion. It is. You know, not. And now I'm going to go and feel a kind of way about what that other person is feeling and go and fix it for them or anything like that.
Because I think we talk about the near enemies is pity. And I think a lot of people want to think that compassion means agreeing. They're asking me how do I have compassion for that person? And I'm like, you're asking me how do I agree with them or how do I be OK with their choices? And that's not actually what compassion is about at all. How do I be OK despite their choices? Is self compassion, right? That's how do I be OK?
So the things that you're talking about are those pathways to self compassion, which is. I put in what I could put in, I showed up and now I'm not so, you know, triggered and freaked out looking over my shoulder going, I'm not sure if I did enough, which actually makes us contracted and weirded out. So, you know, to go and vote to make sure that people that are in your life not only are voting, but also have safety and voting.
Right. That they have safe conditions in which to vote. They have unthreatened conditions in which to vote. There's a lot of noise around, you know, the theft of not the election, but just people's sense of it. This process belongs to them and they're part of it. And so the theft of their engagement with the whole process and so giving yourself time, giving time to that in whatever way you can. You know, some years ago at a time that felt like a big possible threat, I went and did election protection in Florida because.
That was how I could wrap my head around being able to quell my own sense of, you know, how things were not going to be taken away. So I think that those absolutely our paths, their path to self compassion. And I think realistically, that's the compassion that most of us are going to be practicing deeply in this time. It's going to be the most efficient, will have the most efficacy as a result of practicing self compassion and being good with ourselves, which will leave us some space for what's up with other people, because we won't be overwhelmed by feelings of uncertainty that are a result of our own inaction.
That is a terrible place to be. I want to say anybody, everybody, the last place you want to be is on the other side of the election and feel like you waited for somebody else to take care of it to do it. You waited for the outcomes to just go your way without putting some skin in the game. That is a recipe for really deep suffering when we show up and and and we put ourselves in fully and it doesn't go out, quote unquote, go our way.
There's enormous amount of compassion that's generated as a result of that for giving of ourselves to things.
Much more of my conversation with Reverend Angel right after this.
I want to pick up on a term you used, which will be, I think for listeners at least of this episode, the first introduction of that term to the near enemy with each of the four Brahma, Zahara's loving kindness, compassion, sympathetic joy and equanimity, there's a far enemy.
So in the case of compassion, the far enemy would be hatred. And then there's the near enemy, the quality of mind that can feel like it is. The goal, it could feel like compassion, but it's actually not compassion, and you said it was pity. Pity. Yeah. Yeah, you know, I think a lot of what we have going on right now is either empathy or pity, right? And that's that we're back to the slime, right.
Of like, oh, I feel a way about that person. Like, I don't want them to suffer, but I imagine myself not in it with them. I'm kind of hovering above them somewhere. Right. So my wanting there there's an impulse for wanting their suffering, but the impulses from on high, if you will. Right. For them, I want their poor black people to not have this terrible situation where the police are doing things to them, you know, which isn't so much compassion as it is pity.
Right. It's like that thing happens to them. And I wish it wasn't like that for them. And I'm so compassionate and that's pity. And even the Dalai Lama is known to have often encouraged people away from pity as a form of or as a mistaken way of understanding, compassion. And they're called near enemies because it's quite easy. So I'm not shaming people about having a sense of pity. It's it is called the near enemy, because not only is it so close that it's almost hard to distinguish, it actually inhibits.
That's why it's an enemy. It actually inhibits true compassion, and so you if you envelop yourself inside of pity and you practice, you make a practice of kitty.
Then you are inhibiting your capacity for true compassion because you're keeping yourself from getting in level with people like you, in leveling with people, like being right there with them, you know, there's a lot of people that go and you don't want to go to Africa and South Africa's problems while there's black African peoples right in there, you know, blocks away from them. And they're not interested because they're going to Africa. Solving things keeps them on high. And then having to turn around with somebody that's blocks away from you is like confrontational with like that's going to affect me and I have to be in there and see those people and they're right there with me.
So I want all the salvation and possibilities for the African continent, you know, that could ever be. But if we're using it as a way to avoid. What's right in front of us? That's the enemy becomes an enemy, it's actually a distraction from true compassion. It's a way you're leaving and distracting yourself from getting in it, from rolling up your sleeves, putting your boots on and getting right in it with people that you are going to be touched by.
Because, you know, when you go to Africa or wherever it is that, you know, you're exercising, pity you don't have to be there. You do it and you go, you do something, you feel good, you know, it's like a transactional relationship that just kind of takes all the spoils. I feel good. I worked hard. I worked hard. I feel good. And now I'm gone. No outcomes, no sense of being moved by what the impact is of whatever you did, good and bad.
It's really important. Then I just want to say that the far enemy, I think of it is something more like cruelty. And so in some ways, I think a lot of times we think it's why bother talking about the foreign armies? Because everybody knows you don't want to be that.
But it's really important to understand. Cruelty and how cruelty is different than hatred. Hatred is a kind of like like Meeta, right? It's like more closer to Metta as a fiery enemy. It's distanced. It can be dist.. Cruelty gets right in there just like compassion. It gets right in there and it twists it twists the hate. You know, the knife of hate is twisted. Cruelty is what we saw on the officer's face. That stood on George Floyds neck.
As the life left his body, that was beyond hate. That's cool. And it's clearly the enemy of compassion, and I want to say the reason most of all is because it means you are robbed of your humanity completely.
Everything that is possible about your humanity, it's not just, you know, you're not going to be able to have compassion for your humanity is at stake when you exercise cruelty. And it's really important for those of us that are in the world that are having a hard time with people, recognize our own impulse towards cruelty when we have to twist the knife. We have to twist the knife, and it's not just enough to be mad at them, it's not just enough to be against their choices.
It's like we have to be cruel with our words. We have to call them horrible names, we have to diminish them as human beings, we have to question their fundamental right to be alive or to exist on the planet or anything. Right. That nothing about them is redeemable. Like, that's cruel. That's cruel, and many of us that understand ourselves as having progressive or liberal values have descended into cruelty. In the way that we effort to defend our liberties and I understand defending our liberties and being cruel is not OK.
It will rob us of whatever it is that we have available to us to generate a better world. You can't be cruel and not diminish that. See, that I spoke of earlier will be the life of the life force of that seed for cultivating compassion will be diminished and it will be dried up. We're just this one organism, you know, and many of us like to think we compartmentalize better than we actually do. I love how, as you're delivering this really this well crafted argument against cruelty, your bird is harmonizing with you in the background.
He's totally harmonizing. He has a really good ear.
I wasn't listening to most of what you said, but you got to the cruelty. I had to sing.
Yeah. Thank you for letting me share that, because I do think there's a way that we also bypass checking in with ourselves about how we're acting out the far enemies ourselves. And it's so important, you know, it is the divine Bode's. It is the place that allows us to be at home with the totality of the universe.
Divine, it is so incredibly important that we not bypass the fact that part of the reason that we're able to see such things out there is because they're still in here in us. And if we don't, it's not enough to go and cultivate the compassion without rooting out the cruelty. It's not enough. We have to root out the cruelty. We have to root out the hatred. We have to root out the indifference in all of the other things that will be shared in this series.
I mean, it's so interesting, you said before that one of the reasons people are maybe worried about practicing compassion, either on the cushion or in real life, is that it involves taking on the suffering of others. But here's another reason to be worried about engaging in these practices. And what another reason why, by the way, this is not we soft stuff, because if you're going to look at compassion and then when you look at it's opposite, you got to see that you have the capacity to be cruel.
And you may be cruel in lots of ways that you haven't examined up until now.
Absolutely. There's such refined ways. I mean, we can be really refined about our cruelty, really refined, and we wouldn't recognize it without these practices. You know, again, like deep when we have a practice, we actually will recognize the signature of cruelty so that then, you know, cruelty doesn't have to be, you know, knee or neck cruelty is those words. Right? Cruelty is the energy that you contort that you know, that comes out in harsh words to your children, sometimes harsh words to your lover, harsh word to your parents that are like saying the same thing for the 18th time and you shoot back cruelty at them.
That you might slough off and say, I was just irritated, no cruelty, it's really important for us to do that right.
We have to practice. And that's why the brunt of the horrors is so amazing in how they're expressed is because it does invite us. And I think in the West, we actually do bypass the far, far, far too many times. We kind of take it for granted, like nobody should be cruel. And how about but we need a practice to make sure that that's part of how we're showing up in the world. Oh, and I want to say, Dan, we have to own that we have it right, that's what you just said.
It's so, such a critical part. So this is not the instruction. Hey, don't be cruel. The instruction is come to see how it is that you are cruel. Not don't be cruel. Come to see right, be willing to practice as an act of self compassion how it is that you express cruelty. As an act of self compassion. How was health, compassion to see your own capacity for cruelty? That's the cultivating, the conditions.
We're coming into a complexity of what it is that makes us who we are, and that's compassionate, right?
Can you be OK with even the ugliest aspects of your nature?
Yeah. Yes, right. Exactly. Can you be in the pope with that? Maybe that's the title for this episode. It's pretty good it's got a ring to it. My son would actually this may be the only episode he would want to listen to. Exactly.
So next week to where he still is coming on to talk about what is often described as sympathetic joy, the ability to take joy and other people's happiness. I describe it as the opposite of schadenfreude.
Just real quickly, what questions should I ask her? What question do you have for her on this very difficult proposition? Yeah, oh, Tourie, oh, my question for you is, how is it that we can cultivate? A sympathetic joy. That we're able to keep despite the conditions that are ever shifting and perhaps if things don't go the way that we hope they will, how can we cultivate a sympathetic joy that persists? Despite the conditions and even if things don't turn out the way that we hope they will.
Thank you for that. Thank you, Reverend Angel, for everything. Really appreciate it. Thank you for having me.
And I just want to invite people to really, you know, hold yourself gently and also firmly, gently and firmly, because we'll need both of those things in order to make it on the other side, which might not be November 4th. Big thanks to Reverend Angel. As I mentioned at the top of the show, we're only now halfway through the special election sanity series for the remaining two Mondays in the month of October. We'll be dropping new episodes as part of this series on Wednesdays.
As mentioned last week will be up to our usual mix of drama and science and maybe a celebrity now and again next week, we're going to speak to Tourie Sala. She's going to build on Joanna's thoughts on love and kindness and Reverend Angel's words on compassion and talk about how we can cultivate sympathetic joy. It's often described as the ability to take joy in other people's happiness, which is a hard thing to do. I call it the opposite of schadenfreude and where going to talk about how we can generate and then operationalize this skill in an election.
So if you want to try incorporating some of this wisdom into your own practice, sign up for our sanity guide, which will provide you with relevant meditations and reflection prompts. You can sign up at 10 percent dotcom guide.
Special thanks this week to the team who worked so incredibly hard to put the show together. Samuel is our senior producer, Marisa Schneiderman, who came up with this whole idea. Big shout out to Marissa. She's our producer. Our sound designers are Matt Boynton and Anya Ashik of Ultraviolet Audio. Maria Wartell is our production coordinator. And we derive a lot of wisdom from colleagues such as Ben Rubin, Jen Matoba and Liz Levin. While I'm on the tip, I want to add some new names in this week, because these are the folks who are helping us put together this special podcast series and then the coming challenge, the meditation challenge, the election sanity meditation challenge in the app.
So some names, Jade West and Jessica Goldberg, Crystal Isaac, Matthew Hepburn, Julia Wu, Neko Johnson, Allison Bryant, Josh Berkowitz Castagnetti, Lizzie HOLC, Zuleika Hasaan, Connor Donahue, Derek Caswell, Eva Breitenbach and many more. Lastly, I would be remiss if I didn't think my comrades from ABC News, Ryan Kessler and Josh Cohen, we'll see you all on Wednesday.