Two Wings of a Bird

“Understand that, just as a bird needs two wings to fly, you must develop wisdom and compassion simultaneously.  Wisdom is a correct understanding of reality and compassion is the desire for all beings to be liberated from the causes of suffering.”
Mattheiu Richard

    It is said that wisdom and compassion practice are like two wings of a bird. As a meditation practice deepens and becomes more subtle, we attune to the dual qualities of our nature: emptiness and warmth. In mindfulness practice, we recognize the changing nature of experience, we de-identify from conditioned thoughts and beliefs, we have space from habitual action. We develop an insight into emptiness. With compassion practice, we touch our experience with kindness, we recognize the basic goodness and lovability of ourselves and others and we have guidance in how to engage in the world. 

    What is Mindfulness practice: being present with what we are experiencing right now. We might experience the rise and fall of breath as a movement in the belly or chest or as the warm and cool sensations at the nostrils as breath enters and leaves. We may experience sensations in the body and notice how we experience emotions in the body thru temperature or texture. We can rest our awareness in parts of the body or move it thru. We can practice while walking slowly and notice the rhythm of our weight shifting and the places where we contact the earth. 

    What is Compassion practice: a way of cultivating love, compassion, joy, and equanimity. To begin these practices, we often focus on a person who we feel easy and uncomplicated love towards and we fill ourselves up with the experience of the love. As we develop this skill, we expand our love, compassion, joy, and equanimity towards ourselves, towards loved ones, towards strangers, those who we dislike or have been hurt by, and ultimately towards the whole world, all beings, and all realms. 

    When we practice mindfulness, we are able to settle and relax our body and mind. We gain some space from the habitual grasping of our cravings and the habitual reactivity against our aversions. We become present to our lives. However, as we witness our patterns and conditions, we can feel critical. With compassion practice, we can bring love and tenderness towards the parts of ourselves we don’t like or that feel pain. Compassion practice also helps us in our relationships, the moments when we get off the meditation cushion and move through our day. By including some compassion practice in every sitting period, we can enter the world with a soft and tender heart. We learn to open our soft and tender hearts more fully to those we choose to relate intimately with.  Even when creating boundaries and discernment with those who are stuck in patterns that are not healthy for us to be close to, we can feel compassion or equanimity inside. Compassion practice also allows us to have some genuine inquiry into ourselves, to notice the patterns and tendencies of our minds without becoming negative or hopeless because we are able to hold ourself in that space of compassion. 


a basic compassion practice

*Begin by centering and relaxing the body. Sit comfortably, even on a chair or couch. Begin to take full and complete breaths

*Begin to connect with a sense of love and compassion in your heart, maybe as a sensation or feeling of warmth

*Imagine a person in front of you or yourself. Begin to expand that sense of love and compassion outwards 

*Imagine that love and compassion filling the room, the city, the universe

*When you are ready come back into your own body, feel yourself grounded in your body.