Finding the Nectar of Compassion: Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

There is a tradition on the Mindfulness and Psychotherapy Blog. Every Monday, I cite a quote or a poem that is related to mindfulness and psychotherapy in some way and then explore it a bit and how it is relevant to our lives. For me, quotes and poetry can often sink me into a state of greater understanding. So for today, here is a quote by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow:

“If we could read the secret history of our enemies, we should find in each [person’s] life sorrow and suffering enough to disarm any hostility.”

I thought this was a good one to start the week off with. We enter this week, as we do every week, with the unknowable in front of us. One thing we are likely to come in touch with is difficulty with others. If you’ve ever come in touch with other human beings before you know they can be pushy, demanding, inconsiderate, unapologetic and more. Of course, there are many moments that go the other way too.

However, what would it be like this week to practice seeing the history of sorrow and suffering in the life of someone you are having difficulty with? This isn’t meant to bum you out, but more to cut through your own reactivity that may keep the feud going on and perhaps, cultivate some compassion. Compassion creates healing within and can also help facilitate cutting the habitual interactivity of feuding, creating interpersonal healing.

Mindfulness teacher and author Thich Nhat Hanh writes:

“The nectar of compassion is so wonderful. If you are committed to keeping it alive, then you are protected. What the other person says will not touch off the anger and irritation in you, because compassion is the real antidote for anger.”

This isn’t a new concept, but one that is worthwhile in reflecting and putting into action this week.

Is there an example of someone in your life who you can offer putting intention into this week? Perhaps even writing it below will help set the intention to pave the road to practicing this interpersonal mindfulness.

As always, please share your thoughts, stories and questions below. Your interaction creates a living wisdom for us all to benefit from.

Reposted from Elisha Goldstein’s Mindfulness Blog on

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