The Tao Te Ching: Verse Sixty-Seven

Everyone in the world calls my Tao great
As if it is beyond compare
It is only because of its greatness
That it seems beyond compare
If it can be compared
It would already be insignificant long ago!

I have three treasures
I hold on to them and protect them
The first is called compassion
The second is called conservation
The third is called not daring to be ahead in the world
Compassionate, thus able to have courage
Conserving, thus able to reach widely
Not daring to be ahead in the world
Thus able to assume leadership
Now if one has courage but discards compassion
Reaches widely but discards conservation
Goes ahead but discards being behind
Then death!
If one fights with compassion, then victory
With defense, then security
Heaven shall save them
And with compassion guard them

                                                                             Lao Tzu

In verse sixty-seven, Lao Tzu shares that to live in harmony with the Tao one needs to practice patience (conservation), humility (not daring) and compassion; with the greatest of these three treasures being compassion. This is oddly reminiscent of Corinthians 13:4-13 “…now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.”

Compassion is the ability to feel empathy for another. But where does the ability to feel empathy come from? That answer is difficult to put into words because it does not emanate from the intellect (the mind). Your ability to feel compassion is directly related to your ability to connect with another on a heart-felt level. True compassion rises from touching that place within yourself, your own frailties, accepting your imperfections and offering yourself the love and support necessary to find the courage to begin to address each shortcoming. Having empathy for another is impossible unless you have learned to not only accept all your own challenges but actually love (forgive) yourself despite those disappointing facts.

Without that vital connection with yourself, you will be able to connect on a knowing level; that is your head will tell you how challenging or heartbreaking something is for another but you never would be able to truly relate to that person’s experience. You would lack authenticity and the interaction would be superficial at best. Having loving kindness toward oneself does let you off the responsibility or accountability hook. It is owning and acknowledging your humanity. In that moment of acceptance, you anchor your citizenship in the community of souls, you find it impossible to be isolated and your heart opens like a lotus of compassion.

Siddhartha Gautama (The Buddha) taught,“You yourself, as much as anybody in the entire Universe, deserve your love and affection.” These simple yet profound words need to be heard and held close by every professional and family caregiver. They serve as ancient instructions for keeping your Compassionate Spirit intact and available to others.

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