May 12, 2011

Compassionate Emptiness

I was reading former President of Starbucks International -  Howard Behar's "It's Not About the Coffee: Leadership Principles from a Life at Starbucks" and I came across this concept he calls compassionate emptiness. Don't worry, this isn't a technical business term. It's more of eastern philosophy - I hope that didn't sound intimidating.

Basically it involves listening with compassion but without preconceived notions. "Compassion is not a stance, but is the simple responsiveness to circumstances from a place of selflessness. The emptier we are of self, the more responsive we are."

To give you a clearer picture, let me use the Catholic Church as an example. A lot of people accuse the Church of being deaf to its pleas because of its inability or slowness to adapt to pressing needs because, for instance, it focuses on other less pressing needs.

The Church always assumes that people need help - from those economically poor to spiritually poor. By forming preconceived notions, because of the structures surrounding it, the Church has a tendency to not listen and absorb the reality around it.

For a simpler example, don't you get fed up whenever your parents try to suggest which course to take or which job to apply in? Aren't you tired of hearing unsolicited advices from friends or other relatives who do not know a thing what's really going on in your life? Sometimes, I just want to shut them up.

If they don't have any preconceived opinion of what's happening with you, it's only then that they can show genuine compassion and if ever, give an effective advice.

If you strip the Church with all its structures and transform its treasure of wise elders and teachings into a body that knows how to meditate and listen, I think it will do the death of Jesus Christ some justice.

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