I am learning to be compassionate with myself. Compassion for myself is the basis for compassion for others. I am learning to look at myself, all of myself, with gentleness and loving-kindness. I am learning to feel what I am feeling without judging myself or blaming others.
To be compassionate is to be there for myself, not to run away in the face of strong feelings or hard experiences. If I cannot be there for myself, I cannot be there for others. We often run away from feelings and experiences by trying to blame someone or something. We may blame the other person for “making” us angry. We may judge ourselves for not being able to rise above our anger. We try to get away from our anger rather than just feeling it, just being with it and with ourselves.
When I am suffering, I am learning to be compassionate, not blaming myself, others or the Universe. I am learning that I suffer because suffering is a part of the human experience. I am not better than others and therefore immune from suffering, nor am I worse than others and therefore deserving of suffering. With compassion, I can use my suffering to connect with humanity. I am learning that millions of others are feeling what I am feeling. I can say a prayer for myself and for them.
Compassion allows me to see myself as part of humanity. Joy and suffering unite us. When I am feeling joy, so are many, many others. When I am feeling angry, so are many, many others. When I am failing and feeling shame, so are many, many others. What I am experiencing is neither right nor wrong. It is simply what I am experiencing. Pema Chodron the Buddhist teacher says, “Everything in our lives can wake us up or put us to sleep, and basically it’s up to us to let it wake us up.” Wake up and experience what you are experiencing. Be compassionate with yourself. Don’t run away.
I am learning to bear compassionate witness. Will you allow yourself to witness and be touched by your suffering and by the suffering of others? Bearing witness is powerful. To see, hear and acknowledge what has happened or is happening may be more powerful than any action we could take. Bearing witness—staying present to an experience—is hard work. We want to avoid the pain. We want to fix it or we want to run away from it. Unfortunately, most of what we do to avoid feeling pain closes us down, hardens us, takes us away from ourselves, from others and from life.
Compassion makes learning possible. To learn or to change requires an honest assessment of what is. Without compassion, it is painful and scary, even overwhelming, to look at what is. With compassion, tenderness, gentleness and openness, we can bear to look deeply and honestly at what is within us and within our world. With compassion, we can learn from ourselves and our experiences. Judgment and blame block learning. Compassion makes learning possible.
Try this: When you notice yourself criticizing, judging or blaming yourself or another person, stop, take a deep breath, open your heart and bring compassion and tenderness to the situation.