The Practice of Compassion

What it means and how to live it.

Simon Fox is executive director of Adventures in Caring, an organization that mobilizes volunteers to visit the sick and lonely in hospitals and nursing homes. He spoke with about the practice of compassion.

What is compassion, and how can it be taught?

Let's start with what compassion is not. It's not just a feeling, a sentimental, touchy-feely thing. At its heart, compassion is the art and practice of being with someone who is suffering. It comes from the Latin root compati. Com means "with, together" and pati means "to feel intensely, to suffer."

There are three aspects of compassion: giving to, doing for, and being with. The first two can be done at a distance. Giving to (those who are poor) can be a check in the mail, and doing for (those who are unable to help themselves) can happen at an emotional distance, such as bandaging a wound without any feeling. But being with requires all of you showing up in body, mind, heart and soul.

Compassion cannot be taught ...

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