Submitted by Dee Williams

Many people are studying compassion in order to introduce it into schools and other places. Some say it should be taught. Others have won awards for their programs that teach about compassion. Cities are touted as being the most compassionate. I guess this might be similar to the idea that “a corporation is a person”. Are we really ready to get serious about compassion? Even just saying the word may evoke a spark of “something” for you or me. I know that when I say or see the word it is as if I know it “compassion” intuitively.

My first impression about compassion was during my childhood when my pet hamster died. It was a sad time for me. But my friends and I decided to give the hamster a funeral. It was as if everyone came together to share my grief and help me get through that period of pain. I don’t recall that anyone laughed at the idea. I just remember that ceremony was just what I needed at the time.

I believe it is in us to be compassionate. We have an innate ability for compassion. I think it is linked to the same sense that tells us right from wrong. It is a felt sense of awareness about what is needed in a particular situation such as when a family member or pet dies. We have the instinctive response to feel sad for the person who lost a loved one (empathy) and the desire to perform some action that will help the other person feel better.

Compassion is part of our nature. It might be buried deep under some other emotion such as anger or fear making it difficult to fully express your compassion. If compassion is built into our human nature what does it take to nurture this quality? Can our innate compassion be further developed at all stages of our life? I think this is possible. I have read about great results from the practices of yoga and meditation to help many people open their hearts and allow their nature of compassion to grow. Once your heart opens you may begin to feel somewhat vulnerable to the ebb and flow of life. But it is our ability to connect with our own internal struggle for self-compassion that is the gateway towards directing our compassion towards others.

Instead of giving ourselves over to the struggles (obstacles) of life and feelings of defeat or hopelessness our practice of yoga and meditation guide us gradually to see the struggles of life with clearer vision and bring forth from within the strength and wisdom to overcome our obstacles. In learning the art of yoga and meditation we find the intuitive wisdom that reveals compassion as one of the many qualities built into our human nature. We also find the needed nurturing for opening our hearts.

And one effort to open hearts worldwide there is the Charter for Compassion and Seattle’s Compassionate City Proclamation. Check it out.

Dee is a local author and local instructor

She writes a blog at