A Zen Whack of True-Compassion

By Paul C Pritchard on Thursday September 5th, 2019

A Divine Intervention in the Locker Room

Compassion for me is an enquiry. A journey of self-discovery. Sometimes a difficult journey down the roads less travelled. When I was naive, my compassion was naive. When I became more and more devoted to resolving my unsettling patterns, the subject of compassion became more and more a great teacher. It became a complex dynamic between me and the world. It had very little to do with my authentic human-response to the world. I had no direct experience of true compassion: just facsimiles I’d assimilated and forged out of contemporary ideologies.

And then this happened in my mid-twenties …

I went to my local gym as I did three times a week to swim laps. I walked into the small locker room and there was only one other man in there. As I was changing I became intrigued by him. He was very short, very large, and very hairy. He continued getting dried and dressed. I then saw his face and ‘perceived’ him to be very unattractive. My heart sank and I genuinely felt uncomfortable ‘for him’. My mind raced to a merging of sympathy and pity. I was confused. And then I began to deal with this uncomfortable feeling by telling myself how blessed I was to have been born relatively tall, healthy and attractive.

I then ‘nobly’ turned my attention to this man and in my head said my standard compassion mantra, “I am sending you love and light.” I imagined white light pouring from above him into his crown-chakra. I immediately began to feel better. I was being kind, loving and compassionate.

Then, what I can only describe as a mystical phenomenon occurred, I felt I had been struck violently. There was a sharp pain on the right side of my head and right eye. I cupped my hand and winced. Then I heard a voice … loud and clear and angry – ranting at me …

“Who the hell are you? This man is busy with his day, his exercising and his life. He asked you for NOTHING. Who the hell are you to give him or offer him anything? Your arrogance and ignorance are astounding.”

I was literally in pain and under attack. I felt frightened. I looked to the man who was oblivious to my experience. In all this time the man had not looked at me. We had had no eye contact or acknowledgment of one another’s presence. He was literally minding his own business.

The voice was relentless yet paradoxically filled with love.

Lightbulb momentThe lightbulb moment. Image: Kyle Wong

“You judged him from the moment you saw him. You know nothing about him. But rather than feel the disgust of your superiority and judgement, you are disguising it in pseudo compassion and calling it ‘love and light’. You are asking the Divine light to shine upon him and through him because you find the idea of him repulsive. You find the idea of living in his body repugnant. You are judgemental and vain and this perverted projection of ‘love and light’ that you call compassion is a spiritually arrogant cloak to protect yourself from your own ugly truths. You are conceited, feel superior and judge without any justification.”

I began to listen and feel those ugly truths inside of myself like a squirming tapeworm. I knew this was a sacred moment, a divine intervention. The voice softened and simply said …

“It is you who needs love and light. It is you who needs compassion. It is you who needs self-compassion to stop your own projections of self-loathing. There is only one true compassion. And that is self-compassion. Most so-called compassion is pity and judgement. If everyone had self-compassion for their projections, judgements and defences – there would never be a need to ‘offer’ anyone compassion. Love thyself and then all you experience will be suffused with love.”

And in a shuddering instant, the voice had gone and the man must have dressed and left the changing room.

In writing this some thirty years later, tiny remnants of shame are still here … but they are now soft gentle reminders of my understanding and experience of what true compassion is. I hope I never forget that sharp Zen-stick. I hope I always remember that self-compassion bears the fruits of Love, Kindness and a humility of shared humanity.

This beautiful poem by Rilke gives me permission to be human, to be in the art of self-enquiry and to remember it’s okay to be continually figuring it all out.

Widening Circles by Rainer Rilke

I live my life in widening circles that reach out across the world.

I may not complete this last one but I give myself to it.

I circle around God, around the primordial tower.

I’ve been circling for thousands of years

and I still don’t know: am I a falcon,

a storm, or a great song?


Please let us know in the comments below how this story and/or poem touches you. Do you have any moments of ‘clarity’ that changed your perceptions for the better?

Much love and ever-widening circles of Self-Compassion,


How do you feel about this article? Join the conversation.




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50 Responses to A Zen Whack of True-Compassion

  1. With all the conditioning of what is beautiful and pleasant. I have initial thoughts when looking on a persons face. I have no such thoughts looking upon the face of any other Animal, never have. So try to bring my thoughts back to this person is who they are. It is up to me to eradicate the ideology and dogma of societies opinions when confronted with another person. I takes me a few minuets to get used to but once I see the person as they are. I see all of them as perfectly as they are meant to be, with the exception of environmental factors and diet that leave an imprint, which I my self have been corrupted by.


    • May all your patients have the eyes to see you with love and you the eyes to see them with love … Many blessings and big smiles to you. Team UPLIFT

  3. Learning self-love and self-compassion is a long but powerful journey – still struggling with the lessons the universe brings – this is such a good article. There’s an amazing book called ‘Self-Compassion’ by Kristin Neff – the second half of it really helps and gives you ways to give yourself compassion. Great love to all.

    • Look !!! Already more and more self-compassion with your ability to humbly recognise yourself in this … May your clarity shine forth.

      Much love Team UPLIFT

  4. The experience is revealing. We often judge others through our glass and misjudge others and misguide ourselves. First, look at oneself dispassionately and then we may realize that what is needed is the passion to understand others. External appearances are deceptive and we must stop judging people by it. Better look inward and your world view will change dramatically.

  5. This article was literally open on my phone when I pulled it out of my pocket. I spend a great deal of time showing ‘compassion’ to others. I realise now that I must primarily show compassion to myself. Rid myself of all my feelings of low self esteem and learn to love. I’ve been on a spiritual journey over the last few months and after years of silence hiding years of sexual abuse and shame it is a tough road. I love the poem as I now feel more worthy and am circling higher and with more grace. Thankyou 🙏🏼

    • We love that … circling higher and higher with more grace … Your generous sharing with us gained you a few more graceful metres upwards. Much love

  6. Wow , how many times have I looked at someone and thought those same thoughts ,this was very deep, God help me to see through your eyes, eyes of love. Amen

  7. So this comes into my inbox after I have not read Uplift for awhile. At a crossroads of spiritual pain and awakening throughout my past weekend and into today, it reminds me of the true meaning of compassion, and I remember to forgive myself and change my thoughts and actions.

  8. Yes I loved this and yes I’ve also been in a place where a clear voice that came from within said, strongly but without judgement “Arlene, look at how you have been leading your life. Every one of your major life’s decisions has been based on your emotions”. Then I hung out being rocked in the cradle of love at the centre of the universe until I fell asleep. I remembered every bit in the morning and consider it my life’s peak experience. This is not meant to put down our emotions – they mast be felt, acknowledged and accepted. But the tail should not really be wagging the dog.

    • I love your analogy… that emotions like a tail, shouldn’t be wagging the dog. But Mind-Body-Spirit felt Gratitude is the most powerful of transformers of energetic change, creating form from the formless, and attracting the greatest magnetic force fields of love, against the forces of nature. ❤️

  9. Thanks for your courage, honesty, and humility in revealing this…..and now let yourself off of the hook by releasing the shame.

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