Call Me By My True Names

When speaking about compassion, there is one poem by Thich Nhat Hanh (internationally known Vietnamese Buddhist monk, poet, teacher, and founder of Plum Village in France) which encapsulates all there is to be said on the subject. The name of this poem is the title of my post today. You can read the full poem by googling the author's name.

And if you would like to have your heart cracked open, I suggest you read this poem.

Because developing compassion is not easy. On the contrary, compassion comes with pain. If you are to embrace all that is, all that you are, and all that exists in this world, then you are to be filled with both joy AND pain. The essence of compassion is acknowledging your Oneness with all beings. When you realize that there is no separation between us, no separation between you and the cashier at the grocery store who fills your bags so slowly you want to scream, no separation between you and the teenager sitting on your couch growling and rolling her eyes, no separation between you and the homeless man wearing filthy pants full of holes, you will have discovered the essence of compassion.

In my quiz yesterday, I tried to get across this notion that compassion is sometimes difficult. In fact, if you are like most of us, you will have to work very hard to find compassion in your heart for the people who have hurt you. Sometimes on purpose.

Why would you want to be compassionate in these situations? I think there are many reasons, but if you want a selfish reason, because it is better for your health. Harboring anger and hatred creates stress in the mind and the body which can result in disease. Cancer and heart disease are just two potent killers which are known to be fueled by stress, in combination with genetic factors, environment, diet, and other lifestyle choices.

Choosing to be compassionate in every situation will certainly help your relationships with others. With those you love as well as those you meet on a daily basis. But most of all, choosing compassion will help YOU. Choosing to fill your heart with warm, loving feelings will reduce your stress hormones, lower your blood pressure, and ease the strain on your heart.

So choose compassion today. Start with a puppy or a newborn baby, something easy, and work your way up from there. Let me know how it goes.


  1. There's so much truth in this post.

    It's been my experience as well that when you begin to practice compassion and empathy, you see that what we express as anger and pain are misdirected ways of self protection. Softening the heart allows us to move closer to our true, loving nature.

    1. Yes. I completely agree. It's not always easy. In fact, it's rarely easy. But it's always the way to go.


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