Saturday, August 7, 2010

The Journey to Self-Compassion

"Compassion is the keen awareness of the interdependence of all things."-Thomas Merton

I don't typically venture online on Friday nights because a girl has to disconnect herself every once in awhile and experience "real" life. But last night was the exception. Besides the fact that I'm currently "man-less" and am forcing myself not to hook up with the latest bad boy I feel sparks for, I missed another invitation to spend the evening with a good friend. Sometimes I miss the days when people would actually dial the phone and leave a message instead of sending a text. I never hear those suckers come through while I'm trying to service my market. Not to mention, who knows when a tired, worn out 33 year old will actually glance at her cell phone? Apparently drinking the three margaritas in her fridge was more important. It's all about priorities, you know.

All of a sudden, I'm inspired to write about compassion, so here it goes. Maybe it's because I don't understand why I'm sitting at home on a Friday night, especially after I was just told that I was "very smart," "had my stuff together, a lot to offer," was "a knockout," and had an "exotic look." I suppose that's the real problem, though. Guys are intimidated by that dual combination. Cute looks alone, they can handle. But when you're smart and independent on top of that...uh oh. It's like a big red stop sign to them. You can take care of yourself, so you don't really "need" them. It's like they think you're untouchable, that they have nothing to offer in return and they won't really be a "man" if they get involved with your alluring, yet capable self. Ok, so a Hell's Angel did offer to whisk me away on his bike this week, but that doesn't count. Most of us want something real and lasting, not just an adventurous fling.

Ok, enough digression and back to the subject at hand. Compassion is really just another component of empathy. It involves being able to somehow feel another person's pain, resonate with it and extend a desire to help them overcome or release it. Sensitives are pretty good at that. We don't even really think about it. We just do it automatically, as naturally as we would breathe in the air around us. We're able to sense that everything is connected to each other and that one of humanity's greater purposes is to actually help those around us.

What we often don't do is develop a deep, genuine sense of compassion for ourselves. At the very least we forget to call upon it when we're faced with something troubling in our lives-like the fact that we expect the perfect husband to just show up on our doorstep, we're not living up to our own idea of perfection, or we're faced with some obstacle that is currently causing us so much pain that it overwhelms our sense of what's real.

Forgiving oneself is far from easy. It means realizing that a perfect human experience wouldn't be perfect without all the imperfections. Buddhist philosophy says that "our sorrows and wounds are only healed when we touch them with compassion." So, what does that mean, exactly? Well one can never say that only a single perspective or interpretation holds the absolute answer, but I'd like to think that it means a few things.

One, sorrows and wounds are imperfections connected to somehow making the Universe mysteriously operate perfectly. Those challenges develop us into whom we're supposed to be and give us exactly what we need in order to get there. Two, we can't release our imperfections without realizing that it exists in others as well. Humanity is not air-brushed, although we'd like to fool ourselves into thinking that we are. There's a song on a CD by a very down-to-earth, insightful, inspiring songwriter that states "there's so much good in the worst of us, so much bad in the best of us. It never makes sense for any of us to criticize the rest of us." I think she's really a Buddhist in disguise, but we'll save that topic for her own inward exploration.

The reality is that we're all in this journey together-not a one of us free of imperfect perfection. When we criticize ourselves we miss the opportunity to realize that who we're becoming is a part of what will sustain the higher order of life. It's the way we come to understand and decipher what's within someone else's eyes. It's the way we finally come to understand and accept our own existence.

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