Contemplation: Compassionate Presence

October 28, 2020 by Mark Power

“Compassion” means “to suffer with”—to be present to the suffering of another person, another living being, or community.

Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche suggests a subtly challenging approach to practicing compassion, “Don’t exclude any individual being.” Sometimes we speak of compassion in broad generalities–compassion for the world; compassion for all of humanity–which are noble intentions for sure. But, what Rinpoche’s guidance shows is where the real effort lies, with the individual. The messy, gritty arena of relationships. It’s humbling.

This is a reflection to help make these messy moments a little kinder. 

Compassionate Presence

First, be comfortable, sitting or standing if possible. Let your attention fill your body – feel what it’s like to be you, right now, completely. Move your attention easily and gradually from head to toes. Don’t hurry, but don’t go to sleep either;) Don’t follow the stories of your thoughts, but don’t push them away either. Be an observer of your experience in body, mind, and emotion and allow yourself to settle. Breathe full breaths.

Bring your attention to the center of your chest, the space around your heart. Observe the sensations there. Can you bring a feeling of openness? 

Imagine a warm radiance around your heart. If images are useful, imagine in front of you someone or something that embodies kindness and compassion. Imagine that they present you with the light of compassion and genuine love. Just very ordinary, no symphonic soundtracks, it feels natural. Their light ignites yours. 

Breathe full breaths and imagine this light becoming richer and warmer, like an ember glowing. And with your breath begin to offer this light of compassion outward. Feel it, radiating out. 

Think of the people you love, and offer it there. Your friends and offer there. The many many people and beings who we have no clear connection with, and offer it there. And then to those you find repulsive and offer it there. This is a gesture of human goodness–a wish that it might ignite the same in them. It’s not turning a blind eye to the wrongs of the world.

Compassionate presence is to “be present” and kind. Our intention will help us develop empathy which may lead to greater understanding about why people can act so horribly. Gradually, we might begin to see them in ourselves, and us in them. We offer compassion to ourselves and to all the ways we are interconnected.

When concluding the reflection, let the image go. It can dissolve or release however you wish. Feel your awareness and the imprint of the practice in your body, mind and emotions. Breathe full breaths.  And, before starting your next activity think about how you want to carry this imprint with you. 


Visit Mark’s website for other resources. Follow me on Facebook and Instagram @markpowercoaching. I offer weekly reflections and short guided practices on FB Live Wednesdays at 12ET –Poetry and Presence–for the remainder of 2020. Join me for a brief respite in the middle of your week!

Return to Additional Resources
Contemplation: Gratitude
Contemplation: Pause-Relax-Reflect