Special Olympics: Compassion Meditation

Empathy-based competition and the human spirit.

Posted May 17, 2019

Many of my friends and colleagues meditate. The word is out in the mindfulness world that there is no substitute. So atheist or theist, traditional Christian or Jewish-born practicing Buddhist, a lot of us, in varying degrees, have been meditating for years.

Most meditation talk amongst practitioners includes a practice referred to as compassion meditation. To develop more empathy and compassion so that you spread more love into the world, and experience yourself as a kind person. This state of compassionate being is to be applied at all times, even when a bit of road rage name-calling where to take place on the expressway (apparently, being cut off by an aggressive driver is one of the tests for inner calmness even for the advanced).

There is an alternative to compassion meditation. Go to a Special Olympics event (or watch YouTube videos here). Watch these young people with their developmental challenges strive for excellence in a relay or a softball throw. Try to keep your heart in your chest as you take in the poignancy of the human spirit in all of these competitors flinging themselves up against their physical limits of speed or strength to the cheers of family and friends in the stands who know them and love them.

The Special Olympics event that we, grandma and grandma, or Nana and Pops to Stoyan, our adopted grandson, went to last week with my son Jeff and his other daughter, Kyla, who accompanied Stoyan to his prom a few weeks earlier, was worth about 10 years of silent compassion meditation in my book. It was over the top moving, and it happens all around the country and world, many events like this, year round. Apparently, the human spirit wants to express itself through some kind of physical challenge in competitive setting, and do this in surroundings that provide unqualified approval, in the form of loud group cheering. Hooray Eunice Shriver and all the Special Olympics volunteers. All these moments of expression and love by the athletes and their friends and family.

Stoyan was adopted from Bulgaria at age five or so by Jeff and Tammy, and he joined a family of five Schusters (the three kids are Micah, Kyla, and Xan) poised to take care of this little undernourished cute kid, “no matter what”—upon picking him up, he weighed 23 pounds and did not have a normal chewing instinct since he had most likely been eating porridge his whole life. So far the “no matter what” has included lots of epileptic seizures leading to major brain surgery, and the autism scale which puts him into special ed, and all five remain poised and devoted to Stoyan’s well-being and development in a way that any Nana and Pops would be proud of—and this Nana and Pops are.

Stoyan Special Olympics may 2019
Source: Stoyan Special Olympics may 2019

Here is a picture of Stoyan in his 400 yard relay race. He ran the third leg. His sister caught this moment where his oft-attained joyous sense bubbles into the camera and his spirit seems unfettered by any shortcomings in his upbringing that give him his life as he knows it.

Compassion meditators, go catch a local Special Olympics event. It will advance your practice tenfold.