Compassion Begins With Myself
Today, I am participating in a group writing project brought to us by three awesome monks:
To participate, just follow any of the links. Sticking around their sites and reading the other entries is also definitely worthwhile.
So, what is compassion anyway? The main problem with some definitions I have read is that they are always linking compassion to certain feeling of love towards others, as if it was something reserved only for those high up in the clouds on their spiritual paths, devoting their lives exclusively to the wellbeing of humanity. None of the above monks is actually guilty of that, it’s just a general impression I have, certain connotations that always seem to be floating around the word’s meaning.
So how do I define it? Compassion, for me, is about one simple thing: allowing, instead of trying. It is accepting situations as they are, and just letting things flow naturally. Yes, in such a state a deep empathy for all living beings arises within, but that is just a byproduct of allowing oneself to see the world from a natural and accepting viewpoint. Compassion is also about embracing creativity, expressing the self naturally without any restraints.
But it seems I’m losing myself in the clouds (again). Time to get a little bit more grounded, and tell you something that happened to me recently that made me think a lot about the true meaning behind compassion.
A couple of days ago, I found a couple of old photos in my wallet, which I took a little over a year ago to renew my passport. The photo in and of itself had nothing in particular: just a shot of my head on the mandatory gray background.
When I really started looking at the photo, though, I noticed something that really surprised me. I was seeing a serious and boring face as I expected, but the eyes staring back at me looked incredibly hollow and pale.
I had already been starting to forget where I was in my life just one year ago and how much I’ve seen, learned and done since then, so it was really scary to see my own face with that look of quiet rage and despair I have become so used to seeing in others whenever I take the public transport, but which has not been present on my face for what seems like forever. I was totally baffled and didn’t know how to react to all the memories that suddenly filled my head and vividly reminded me of my life just one incredibly short year ago.
“If you knew what I know now” I told this past self I was staring at, “You wouldn’t have that look on your face.” Really, it’s true. The tiny spark of light that was hidden deep inside back then would have been just a tad more visible, playing around in my head merrily even as I watched my life crumbling to pieces around me.
“It doesn’t really matter, though,” I went on saying, “because things shouldn’t have happened any other way. Right now, I’m exactly where I want to be.”
And with those final words of acceptance, the last bit of resistance I was still carrying around from that time just started melting away, giving way to a feeling of awe, to the pure wonder of even being alive. Letting go of the part of me that wished things had been different, embracing all that happened without bitterness, allowing myself to just stand there, photo still clutched in my trembling hands, a feeling of pure love and gratitude surging from within me, now that is something I can truly call compassion. It is something that naturally flows outwards to everyone I have (and haven’t) met on this journey which continues to amaze me every day.
If all of us could feel what I felt there for just an instant, the world would indeed be a very different place. If you are finding yourself in a tough situation right now, just look forward and ask your future self: “Why the hell is this happening to me?” Just be patient. In that future, I’m sure you will have your answer.