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One of the benefits of living in this samsaric realm is that there are many, many opportunities to exercise my small compassion. Everywhere around me is an endless Las Vegas casino style buffet of suffering and everyone is piling up their plates with the many various dishes that so delight them. There is grasping after things, there is selfishness, there is blindness and anger and greed and hatred and bad actions. There are all manner of ways to increase our suffering and the suffering of others. 
It is on vivid display everywhere I look.
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So, good for me.
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This means that it is very simple to find opportunities to help. 
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Ah, but it is never as simple as it seems, is it?
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Because I sort of have to put down my own plate first, don’t I? Step out of the buffet line and maybe wake up a little bit to exactly what I am doing in this big old Las Vegas casino buffet line anyway.
What is the effect of all of these plates of prime rib and piles of shrimp and egg rolls and chocolate cakes and bacon-wrapped filet mignon medallions and mashed potatoes and gravy and lime jello and ice cream and brownies?
More happiness?
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Perhaps not.
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So, maybe first get out of line. 
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A good place to start is with compassion for myself. This one is difficult. It really is. Luckily, I have many, many opportunities to get it right. Just today there are boundless chances. 
One thing I can do if I have difficulty generating compassion for myself is to notice when I have a compassionate thought towards another suffering being. When I notice that I am stirred in my heart at the plight of someone else’s suffering, then my heart is open. This condition is beneficial. This is the condition that makes possible the expansion of my compassion. It enables me, if I am patient and look clearly and deeply at the surrounding conditions, to expand the specific feeling of compassion I am experiencing toward one suffering person, out to the general suffering of everyone else, myself included. 
This can work in both directions. Even the shadow side of compassion for self, which could be called self-pity, is capable of opening the door to greater genuine compassion. Feeling sorry for myself is a pretty common experience for me: look how much I am suffering, look how difficult things are for me, look how I don’t have enough of what I want and I have too much of what I don’t want, look at how I keep making these stupid decisions and wrong actions, look how unfair it all is, etc. 
The key is to see that I am not alone. We are all of us suffering. We are all of us deserving of a great compassion, for things really are difficult. 
“There, there.” I should say. “I know, I know.”
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My guess is that by extending the compassion I feel towards others, even if that feeling is infrequent and felt only dimly- extending it to my own self acts as a balm to my suffering. And extending the compassion I feel towards myself, even if dim and infrequent, to others who are not me, also acts as a balm to the suffering that exists like dark matter all around us.
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We are all of us dancing the same dance.
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I am trying to work this out in my own mind and to practice it in my own life. 
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I don’t know if it works or not.
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What I do know is that my compassion is small. It is weak and underfed. Like a wild dog that lives on scraps found in the garbage. It is small, and skittish, and ugly, and will run away or bite you if you come too close.
But maybe I can coax it out from under the porch with a bowl of clean water and something good to eat. 
Maybe if I just sit here and act like it’s no big deal, I can even make friends with it.
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Namaste.
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