When we feel compassion for others, we open our hearts to bring love to suffering in the desire to alleviate it for them.
Compassion for others is:
* noticing their suffering
* feeling with them in their pain
* responding with kindness no matter what the circumstances
* acknowledging the imperfection of the human condition, and loving anyway
We are a compassionate species. Social neuroscience is confirming that we are wired to automatically feel with another and help. So why don’t we respond this way more often? Some would conjecture that we don’t always fulfill this potential in our Divine capacity because we’re too self-absorbed; we don’t take the time to notice or act. I would agree, not because I think we are heartless with our fellow beings, but because we are not always heart-centered with ourselves.
It can be said that the four components of compassion are awareness, empathy, unconditional kindness, and acceptance. When we meet all of them we can have moving experiences of our Divinity sacredly uniting with our humanity. But it’s not uncommon for us to be unmoved in any of these aspects. When was the last time you noticed the suffering; listened to the little known stories of Ethiopian residents eating from garbage dumps, prayed for the people in Uganda’s displacement camps, or revisited the ecological devastation from the Gulf oil spill? Of course, it’s easy to simply have your focus in another direction. How often have you seen images of emaciated children but stopped yourself from truly feeling their pain and then turned away? When did you ever walk by a stranger on the street begging for money and question their choices in life, instead of accepting them regardless of their journey? How recently did you yell at your partner or child and forget he/she was trying his/her best? If we’re honest, we’ve all responded in these ways at some moments.
We can turn away from compassion for many understandable reasons. When the pain we see around us is overwhelming we turn off our feelings. I can certainly attest to the moments of profound sadness that have burdened my heart as I witness the struggle and despair on our planet over and over again. The suffering that we see in humans and animals, and destruction of plant life is sometimes more than we can bear. On other occasions, understanding is lost to self-preservation when injustice, suppression, or abuse of power makes us exasperated enough to rise up in violent rebellion. And while we need only look into the past and survey the present to acknowledge that humans have a history of carelessness with Mother Earth, and aggression with our neighbours, the learning is lost in our daily priorities as we try to survive in this competitive global paradigm.
However, the cause of our indifference to another’s suffering lies not with external circumstances, impersonal structures, or the massiveness of our problems. I believe it arises from the core of our human condition – shame. We carry shame from an early age. Not long after our birth, our essence is marked by some painful experience with a significant person in our lives, such as a parent. The situation need not be dramatic or traumatic in and of itself, but it can be perceived this way. Being egocentric, we place the responsibility of the negativity on ourselves; recognizing that the parent is wounded is just too difficult for us when we rely on them for survival. We then attempt to correct this situation and our self-worth becomes defined by fixing and rescuing. Given that we are not the source of the problem, our efforts to change the situation are unsuccessful and our feelings of incompetence and failure grow. Eventually our perception that we did something wrong (guilt) turns into believing we are wrong (shame). This leads us to deeper coping strategies to cover up the shame, only to leave us feeling more shame for the self-destructive tendencies. Soon, we find ourselves trapped in a cycle of shame. It is the root of many of our psycho-emotional issues.
If this cycle of shame is left unhealed, and we are still holding onto our own illusion of suffering, even if minimally, we find it difficult to manage the four pillars of compassion. How can we extend genuine compassion to another if we do not have full compassion for ourselves? It is true that we can be self-absorbed – with our wounding. Some people have released little of their shame and are mired in their childish ways. Their subconscious selves still see the world through younger eyes and respond to life in the same adaptive ways, using old coping strategies. I would venture to say that many people on Earth are living this way. Others have been very disciplined in their healing, or have embraced the learning from very trying passages in their lives. So while shame is no longer directing their lives, they may experience it in more subtle ways.
We may share our experience of shame with all other humans, but we do not accept it because we do not fully accept ourselves. Instead, many people expect themselves to be perfect, still striving to fix the root problem. I watch this surface with many clients. Their high expectations are unforgiving and unattainable, and they meet themselves with judgment, criticism, and self blame, perpetuating the shame. It is common to avoid feeling the depth of this original pain, which means we don’t allow ourselves to fully feel, and this disconnects us from our own emotional bodies, and emotional connection with others.
* noticing your own feelings of suffering
* allowing yourself to feel your pain
* responding to yourself with kindness
no matter what the circumstances
* acknowledging yourself as human, imperfect at times,
and loving yourself anyway
All this self-judgment and emotional repression has us reaching for our fullest potential, somewhere “out there” in the future, believing we have to correct ourselves first. We believe that we can always be more, telling ourselves we are not enough now. We cannot give permission to our beautiful expression because we believe others, including God, will judge us in the same way we judge ourselves. Staying under the radar, playing by the rules, and not rocking the boat are common strategies we use to feel safe and hide our wholeness. We deny ourselves our right to exist in our authentic power, and with inner peace.
Self-compassion can heal it all. I have cried in my truth that it wasn’t supposed to be this way here on Earth, but here we are. Yes, sometimes it is messy, painful and overwhelming. However, if we can remember that we are Divine spirits who have agreed to this human experience, then we accept ourselves for being human. We need not repress our human emotions or wallow in them, but we were designed to feel the whole range of human emotions to learn through them; they are vital to our well-being, and feelings of pain can amplify our joy. We need not be ashamed of our imperfect moments, but celebrate our capacity for learning, adapting, and growing. Even when we choose unwisely for ourselves, it is still the best choice we could have made, based upon the culmination of all our experiences, knowledge and consciousness, up to that moment in time. If we can remember that our souls have been on very long journeys having lived countless lives, and been challenged to expand through very demanding learning, persevered and prevailed, surely we can see that we deserve boundless love.
“Your fullest potential is you being the best that you can be,
in the moment.
The more you open your heart to yourself the more God-like you are.
But I do not judge you when you do not.
I stand in awe of your willingness to experience it.”
The Creator’s definition of ‘fullest potential’
as given to me for a client.
Thankfully, new Beings of Compassion and Mercy are interfacing with our increasingly open planetary architecture to broaden the accessibility of these higher frequencies. As we move through massive shifts on Earth toward greater Light, what is hidden, corrupt and controlling will be revealed. There will be times we will know grace, and there will be periods of intensity, chaos and difficulty. Let’s respond with compassion, to ourselves first; it’s only when we fill the well of our own hearts that we may overflow with love to our neighbours. Healing our shame is possible. When we accept who we are, exactly as we are, in each moment, we give ourselves the most love we can possibly give. That’s living our fullest potential for the benefit of all of humanity.
that which is hateful to your fellow, don’t do to yourself
that which is hateful to yourself, don’t do to your fellow
love thy neighbour as yourself
love thyself as you would love thy neighbour
don’t do to others what you wouldn’t like them to do to you
don’t do to yourself what you wouldn’t like to do to others
Have a compassion for yourself and take time to heal.