(image from Pixabay)
We have now finished February. Gone in a snap. And I am now reflecting on how thinking about compassion on a day-to-day basis has affected me. It's been a strange one, I have to be honest.
Strange in the sense that compassion has confused me a little. For all it's strength in word and concept, it is elusive in its enaction - compassion is often thought about and/or felt but is difficult to actualise. So whilst I have been aware of feelings of compassion, in those moments my hands have been tied to ease any suffering, either because there was nothing I could do, someone else was doing more than enough to ease that particular suffering and my helping may not have .... helped, or it's been a case of something awful happening in another country that has affected me and again my hands are tied. I have pondered a lot of potential actions I could take. I have felt the 'feels' intensely. I have been able to take action on my self compassion; but beyond this scope, it's been tough.
How have I tried to be more actively compassionate to others?
I have tried to listen more... and I admit that that in itself has been tough (lot of truths coming out here). I have a tendency to immediately want to compare other people's stories with mine, a case of "oh yeah, I totally get what you're saying because a few years ago this happened to me.....". Instead of just listening and being open to another person's personal (and sometimes tough/tragic/sad) story, I turn the spotlight back onto me. It is through a genuine need to identify with the person... but often, when people are sad, upset, or frustrated, all they want is to be heard. And so I have been trying harder to hear - failed many times - but the trying is there in full force.
I have tried to judge less... I have found this a little easier, and in judging less I am changing my mindset when it comes to things that I don't agree with. I am finding that I am "gossiping" less about people.... okay, I am still talking about people, but it not in a negative way. I am telling people about the good stuff that my friend's and family have done/achieved/doing. It feels so good, and means that I am not making people suffer by negative s%@t at them.
I have tried to understand where people are coming from better. Not as part of this, but something that lines up rather nicely with this action, I meditated using Headspace's "Anxiety" pack. In this pack the aim was to accept (and show compassion) to your own feelings of anxiety, progressing through to recognising that many other people in the world also feel these feelings of anxiety. In this recognition comes understanding, and in the understanding comes compassion. (If you want to work on growing your compassion this Headspace pack is ACE).
How have I tried to be more compassionate to myself?
I have tried to listen more... yes, I have tried to really listen to my body and my mind a lot more. If I am tired I rest, if I am fidgety I do some yoga, if I am feeling gritty/scratchy/icky I have a shower, if I feel hungry I eat, if I don't feel hungry I don't eat... I'm sure you get the picture. By listening in to myself more (and meditation sure helps with this) then you can start to look after yourself better.
I have tried to judge less... as much as I have tried to not judge other people, I have tried not to judge myself. So, if a judgey thought arose about another person, guess what? I haven't judged myself over it, beaten myself up, gotten cranky, etc, I have accepted that that though was there and then just bloody well moved on. It doesn't ease suffering when you cling to negative "stuff."
I have tried to understand my motivations about things, from a compassionate place. It is hard when you see/feel/know your ego has taken over a situation, but instead of getting upset (or too upset), I have tried to step back and take time to think about why my ego reared its ugly head, where has it come from, what does it want, and why does it want that result. This has probably been the toughest part of compassion, self acceptance of the dark side of the self.
To finish of a month of fastness and slowness, I want you to consider how and when you have been compassionate, when you have struggled to be compassionate, and when you have wanted to be but had your hands tied for some reason. Comment below.
"Your Determination is Limitless"
- Elizabeth Wright