I recently gifted myself a 45 minute retreat, listening to a cd shared with me by a dear friend. I lay still and let my innate human fears melt away as I listened to David Whyte recite The Poetry of Self-Compassion. I came to understand that healing and peace can come through me only as I allow myself the freedom compassion brings. In that space I somehow understood to own what is mine to own and to let go of my illusion of control. I can hold others accountable for their choices but I can still hold them compassionately in my heart… and hopefully therein together we will find wholeness and peace.
My example growing up was to take on the personal pain of others and the heavy responsibility that came with that. Cocooned in that concept, I learned to do what was not mine to do, an action based upon fear of loss or harm. Now, as I watch people of the world struggling to find their way through very troubling times I am learning to reconsider how to hold compassion in my heart. I am learning that compassion is not about feeling sorry for someone but instead is the volume button on my fear that reminds me: “there but by the grace of God go I.” When true compassion is activated, it is a tuning fork that can steady my blurry vision and fearful legs so I go forward to do what is mine to do and leave to others their own responsibilities.
I believe everyone struggles with the concept of compassion when face to face with personal fears and disappointments. At those times, it is understandably hard to muster up compassion. I remember years ago when our oldest son was missing. When he turned up safe I was so overcome with feelings of relief I had no compassion for his absent mindedness and showed anger…even though there was a Niagara Falls of love pouring from me in gratitude and relief. I believe my reaction was “normal” and so compassionately human.
When all is said and done, I understand that compassion is best delivered to my own heart as I waffle between frustration, fear, and sometimes anger for the human condition. I tell myself it is only natural and understandable to have those feelings so I am reminded to nourish my own humanness with compassion, knowing the resolution and peace I long for lies somewhere outside the craziness of fear.
To hear a selection from David Whyte’s poetry please visit http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yG9DmvtZzNs