Young Hands Compassionately Holding Old HandOne of the greatest virtues to embody while on the path to enlightenment is compassion. Compassion is the ability to empathize with others, act without judgment, and put yourself in another's shoes before making a decision or taking a course of action.

To be compassionate is to apply the golden rule of treating others as you would like to be treated. Though this is easily said, it is not always easily done. Being compassionate requires an awareness of life with the understanding that everything is connected. It is about appreciating everything around you.

"Quan Yin Protects You" - Chi Art Painting by Chi-Jen Liu

"Quan Yin Protects You"

When you are able to view life with compassion, you find there is really no “good” or “bad.” Actions and outcomes are simply an exchange of energy. At any given moment in life you are either receiving or giving. Living with compassion is knowing when and how much to give or receive so that a balance is maintained. Too much or too little given or received at the wrong time can upset the balance and create havoc.

Compassion for the self is just as vital as compassion for others. People with a serious illness who treat their disease as a message to reflect upon and learn from tend to heal more thoroughly, for they work with, rather than against, the disease. The compassion within them often allows the disease to return to a state of ease and balance because negativity is not provided to feed the disease. Often, a person does not heal until the underlying cause of their imbalance is resolved.

Everything happens for a reason. When you’re able to feel compassion, you realize that all people and events, as well as your surroundings, contain guiding messages. It is up to you to decide what kinds of messages you surround yourself with and how you choose to respond.

If your life is filled with people who love and support you, you have created this by accepting love and support and giving it back. If you have a physical body of strength and agility, you have put energy into taking care of it, so your body takes care of you in return. If you harbor resentment or jealousy towards others, you will likely find yourself among people who talk behind your back or create obstacles.

The feelings within your heart and the emotion that the heart garners are true responses that guide the mental decisions you make in your life. I believe that true compassion is the ability to see and act with your heart. Interestingly enough, the word “compassion” contains the word "compass.” Like the magnetic needle in a compass that unwaveringly points north, your body is a compass in which the heart acts like the magnetic needle, pointing your mind toward compassion. It is important to listen and act accordingly. Life on earth is a lesson in compassion and until you have learned it, you will return to take more courses.

The Chi Art accompanying this article is a vision of Quan Yin - the goddess of compassion, mercy, and benevolence. Symbolized by a female form, she represents the unconditional maternal love, patience, and nurturing that fosters human growth and evolution.

Quan Yin's compassion is overflowing, depicted by her large golden aura from which many powerful mantras and blessings radiate. The mantras address the spectrum of human conditions, from releasing suffering, karma debts, conflicts, jealousy, and illness, to enhancing mind focus, promoting career, using good judgment, maintaining reputation, and balancing relationships. Above all, Quan Yin imparts to you the importance and power of compassion.