The Compass of Compassion by Wayne Saalman


THE GOLDEN RULE is a remarkably perfect maxim for prompting the human species to higher levels of behavior. It is a well-documented fact that virtually every religion on the face of the Earth teaches some version of this spiritually conducive bromide and for a reason. Doing to others as we would have them do to us is the smartest thing we humans can do.


To it, one might add what I call the “Silver Corollary”. The Silver Corollary simply states that you should always “follow your inner compass of compassion”.


In other words, if an act seems to be compassionate for oneself or another, it will almost certainly be the right thing, and a good thing, to do.


Helping others and acting in one’s own self-interest in a non-selfish manner can only contribute to spiritual growth all around. After all, actions have a domino effect.


Neuroscientists have discovered that the brain contains what are called “mirror neurons”. These neurons reflect what is perceived by us when we see others in happy circumstances or struggling with stressful or difficult ones. Mirror neurons fire within us in such a way as to trigger empathetic and sympathetic responses.


Empathy and sympathy are emotional responses that are transmitted from person to person in an almost telepathic manner. We see joy or distress in someone’s expression or read their body language and respond to that. At a physical level this response comes about when neurotransmitters set off electrochemical activity in the body. These neurotransmitters are automatically triggered, first and foremost, by the energy field that surrounds the body. Fields are vibratory in nature, so, yes, we pick up a “vibe”. Once triggered, electrochemical streams cascade down through the body suffusing us with a strong emotional reaction to another’s situation.


Obviously, there can be a positive or a negative reaction to events. On the positive front, serotonin, dopamine, oxytocin and endorphins can put us on a high and help to block pain in our body. On the negative front, stress hormones can be released. These are primarily adrenaline and cortisol and they can have a huge effect on the way we feel. In more severe responses, the fight or flight response is triggered and any number of reactions can follow on from that, sometimes even propelling one into an act of violence.


Most people, of course, desire pleasure over pain and make every effort to pursue the former and avoid the latter.


One simply cannot live in today’s world and not experience both ends of the spectrum, however. Not even the exceptionally wealthy can avoid some level of pain, disappointment or agony concerning the events in their lives, for the molecules of emotion ensure that virtually everyone feels empathy, sympathy, happiness, distress or revulsion on occasion in one way or another.


The proof is there for all of us to experience when we watch the news on television, for example, and see people in war-torn countries trying desperately to escape the killing ways of military and paramilitary groups, or when we see people weeping over catastrophic circumstances where loss of life or devastation to property has come about. None of what we see may affect us directly, but we still react.


The Western spiritual tradition tells us that, “As we sow, so shall we reap.” This is known as “karma” in the Eastern tradition and it is, at root, a direct rephrasing of the Golden Rule, telling us that as we do to others, so it is done to us. In street vernacular, this adage translates as, “What goes around, comes around.”


Which is why it is such a good idea to do unto others as we would like others to do to us.


The safest and clearest way to go about doing that is to follow our inner compass of compassion and be unerringly vigilant as to the direction in which we are proceeding. By keeping to the light, we can easily see the path forward. To veer off into the shadowy darkness is to risk taking a very dodgy turn and perhaps even totally losing one’s way.


Losing one’s way is not always a bad thing, however. Some of life’s greatest lessons can come about from taking a risky road down into the dark laneways of the unknown or the chancy back alleys of Sin City in order to satisfy one’s curiosity.


We all learn the hard way from our indiscretions and mistakes, but those lessons become ones that we never forget, nor usually repeat.


So it goes. And so it will continue to go as we bounce like pinballs between the sunny and the dark sides of the serpentine roads that we travel, over the sunny green hills and down into the raven-black ravines on our personal journey of discovery.


Attitude, as always, makes all the difference in how we view events. Seeing the interplay of clashing forms of duality as being what makes life intriguing and so endlessly challenging can keep us in a positive frame of mind even when bad things happen.


As far as events go, the great imperative is simply to understand that actions have consequences and to consider what those consequences are or may be.


The Golden Rule and the Silver Corollary are positive rules of thumb to live by. They make doing the “right” thing easy. Which is a wondrous thing in a dualistic world where good and bad, positive and negative, right and wrong, constantly go round and round, and always will.



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