When you visit my home, a bronze Quan Yin sits in her meditative pose atop a lotus flower. Her eyes are downcast; her right hand evokes attention or mindfulness, while her left hand rests on her knees and holds a vase of water. This goddess of compassion dominates my living area. A guest room is devoted to this bodhisattva, as is a portion of the garden outside of that room.
Why the multiple effigies of Quan Yin? She is both the “ Goddess of Compassion and Mercy and the Guardian of Mothers and Children”—much like the Blessed Virgin Mary, to whom I prayed often as a child.
I don’t pay overt homage to any effigy, but use them as reminders to grow a weakness into strength. That means I feel I have much to learn in the true practice of compassion—synonymous to commiseration, mercy, tenderness, heart, and clemency.
Why all this? Every February consumerism reminds us to show the love: buy something sweet tasting, sweet-smelling, or sweet looking for the one you love—or want to love. Hearts, flowers, chocolate and diamonds. Of course, I must include buy your man-honey boxers with hearts emblazoned where it counts, or your lady-honey sexy lingerie. But are these goodies what make a relationship real? Will over-priced red roses from South America flower true love? Does chocolate in heart-shaped boxes truly sugar-up a sour relationship? Will a brilliant diamond bring light to love lost in the dark?
According to researchers Susan Sprecher and Beverley Fehr, “Compassionate love may be the type of love that leads to the most social good for those who are their recipients,” which is pretty much what compassion is all about.
It’s easy to preach compassion and less easy to practice it—especially in an intimate relationship. So, when my email’s news feed box read, “Compassionate Love Quiz,” I bit.
I took the 20 questions Compassionate Love Quiz. It wasn’t as easy as I assumed. I didn’t sail through the quiz with a perfect 75 points. Cherubs did not begin playing the Moonlight Sonata above me. My survival instincts trumped my attempts at compassion. In other words, my score suggested that I practice “taking your partner’s perspective, and in moments of distress, look for ways to attune to your partner’s needs.”
Fortunately the quiz indicates, “You care about enriching your partner’s life and consider making sacrifices so that he or she can be happy. These are skills that help you support your partner and negotiate conflicts, which should lead to a stronger, healthier, and longer-lasting relationship.”
Relationships are my personal conundrum. Much of my life-experience required that I not depend on relationships for survival. This grew an independent soul that moves forward when life spins out of control. Foolhardy, yes. Willful, yes.
All reasons why when you visit my home, Quan Yin, sits, stands and strives to remind me to practice compassion.