Thich Nhat Hanh on Compassion

Thank goodness that meditation and Metta practices are just that, practices. If we had to be perfect at them, we’d all give up crying.

But we do call them practices, not perfects.


It is truly an irony of the human condition that sometimes when we suffer the most, we contract and pull away from our loved ones. The pain can be so awful, especially when loved ones fails us. When we feel that a loved one should have said or done things differently but they instead chose actions which we feel have harmed us. This is the worst pain of all because it carries such loneliness inside of it.

Perhaps a father has not cared for us the way we wished. He is trapped in addiction.

Maybe our mother didn’t cuddle us enough. We longed for more of her touch. Her unconditional love.

A guardian may have failed to protect us from abuse of one kind or another. Someone allowed us out the door and we got hurt. We rage against this later, screaming in our hearts, why didn’t you protect me?

A partner didn’t meet our every need or read our mind to know what we wanted or needed without being told.

When we feel this way, we feel cut off from everything, even from the life force itself. If we get stuck here, we may wither until we die from sadness. Sometimes this looks like depression, very bad depression. It can be so hard to move.


I know this is true from my own experience. If I argue with my husband, and feel cut off from him, I feel a sadness, a loneliness so deep. The worst kind of pain. And I can make this pain worse by further condemning myself for having this reaction. I should do better. I know better. It feels just terrible. Fortunately, this happens less and less frequently because I have practices to lean on.

But we can also forget what we know to be true and so we need loving reminders. It can be so wonderful, such a blessing to hear a healing truth again and again, so that the door to compassion may be opened in our hearts.

Few are some simply beautifully eloquent as Venerable Thich Nhat Hanh in this regard. Please enjoy this lovely interview from Oprah’s Super Soul Sunday with our teacher Brother Thay. I’m especially loving and honestly moved to tears by, his mantras for transforming relationships.

May all find peace, happiness and strength. May all live with ease.


Author: Hillary Johnson

Improvisational documentary and fine art photographer.

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