My earnest intention is to share discoveries that aided my seeing obstacles as opportunities – to hopefully benefit your life.
‘Compassion’ became oh-so-valuable to me in mega hardship, every day hiccups, and, in living more happily.
Kristin Neff defines Compassion in her book, Self-Compassion, as “simply a way of relating to suffering, either your own or someone else’s.” In Latin, Compassion literally means ‘to suffer with’.
Tolerance of suffering and failing was lacking for me in the past – and occasionally still.
Perfectionism pressed to judge and criticize myself harshly even with minor faults or mistakes. Self-Compassion was rather limited; imperfections didn’t sit so well.
Internal dust storms in reaction to oopsies caused me, especially during darkest times, to feel I was a failure. Comparing to anyone else, I didn’t measure up and felt keenly and deeply … alone.
Thankfully, a wise therapist introduced Compassion for others as a starting point to decrease suffering – both mine and others.
I was dubious, however, with nominal other ideas to assist alleviating woes, Compassion seemed a worthwhile experiment.
Practicing began in low distress, not-much-to-lose situations where Choosing Compassion felt more achievable. It looked like this.
When an issue arose and, I remembered to give Compassion a go, I’d pause – to give my brain a chance to calm & recalibrate – and take a ballpark guess at what the dear other felt ‘behind’ their behavior. Essentially it’s “pictur[ing] ourselves in the same predicament” per Heather S. Lonczak, PhD’s article on Why Compassion is Important.
In doing this, I summoned a memory of an experience I’d had which caused a similar feeling that I guessed that s/he was having. Generally, a stress reducing shift followed, even if itty-bitty, and a softening within.
I keep circling back to and cultivating this practice. If it’s not thought of in the ‘heat of a moment’ and a Break and/or Pause, Pray/Meditate, Wait, and/or Silence is merited before Compassion can be mustered, it’s ok. A plan or intention can be set after the fact for future Compassion. Discussions that go awry can be Compassionately revisited too.
Compassion summoning tends to alter my response to another or causes ‘Acting differently’ – generally more kindly or caringly – towards whomever I was at odds. Sometimes, a more Compassionate response even creates a fruitful shift in the one to whom Compassion’s extended.
With summoning Compassion, the following – among other outcomes – can occur:
• bridges can be built – or even begun being constructed – instead of building walls,
• in lieu of thinking ‘s/he doesn’t get it,’ or ‘grrrrrrr…,’ or something similar – and perhaps less gracious, Thoughts may be more like, ‘oh yeah, I know what that feels like’ hence I act more reasonably in response, and
• there’s “proven benefits [of Compassion that include] increased happiness, improved medical outcomes, reduced stress, reduced psychopathology, and increased social connectedness” per research and Dr. Lonczak. Pretty remarkable, eh?
Even when a Compassionate response is attempted and done in a Process over Perfection manner, generally it’s beneficial and kinder to me and to others. Both.
What one gives, one receives. In Working with the Law, Raymond Holliwell describes this Law of Receiving. “Giving, which is the first fundamental law of life, is the first law of all Creation”.
Compassion practice is bi-directional per Shirzad Chamine. Amazingly – and Divinely I think, in giving Compassion, it may then be received.
Also, I found an invisible link between myself and others grew out of my Compassion for mistakes, vulnerabilities, and shortcomings.
Imperfections, it turns out, didn’t separate me from others. To my surprise, they could be uniting – because they’re universal. The more I realized and mull this, the more it lessened and lessens ‘pain’ from flaws, struggles, and oopsies.
Perspective can shift from ‘I feel separate or distanced from others and alone in my shortcomings and difficulties’ to ‘everyone deals with vulnerabilities or failings.’
A Compassion muscle is one I continue to consciously choose to grow because of its gifts. “Being altruistic, avoiding judgement, [and] being grateful” are Compassion practice ideas per Lonczak. The affection, empathy, and unity in relationships with less self judgment and criticism that results is truly worth it to me.
“If you want others to be happy, practice Compassion. If you want to be happy, practice Compassion.” Thank you, Dalai Lama.
With love to you in whatever you are going through and wherever you are – and my heartfelt belief in your ability to Compassionately rise,