Compassion: a gift for you, a gift for the world!

A friend of mine posted on Facebook “What breeds compassion?”  I love this question.  If we are looking for compassion in our lives one of the most important questions we can ask ourselves is what can I do to offer compassion.  First let’s define what compassion is and isn’t.  Compassion is empathy, listening, support, asking what you can do to help the person through action, words, touch or time.  Compassion is not feeling bad for someone, asking what they are doing wrong, trying to fix it for them or judging them.  When we show someone compassion we create a space for them to be in their truth without judgement and when we are shown compassion we can come to the table without defensiveness and can show compassion in return.

So many of us are feeling a lot of negative emotions right now- fear, loss, confusion and uncertainty.  How can we “breed compassion” in the midst of these emotions?  One step at a time!  Take the time to offer yourself compassion first, then others, then compassion to the thing or person that you are having difficulty with.

When we feel that we are receiving compassion when we feel seen, heard and loved.  So how do you feel those things?  Acknowledge what you are feeling and going through.  See yourself in your dynamic, full paradoxical self.  Ask yourself what you need to feel held and seen.  Do for yourself what will fill your cup and/ or seek out the people who support that for you.  When we are able to show ourselves compassion the compassion we show others becomes more authentic.  It can be hardest to show ourselves compassion because we often judge ourselves harder than anyone else can judge us.  Compassion is not loving someone because they are without fault, it is loving them in the full spectrum of who they are.  The wounded pieces of ourselves that can create our shortcomings are the pieces that need compassion the most.  How can you love your “unlovable” parts?  Compassion.

For many of us, showing others compassion is easier than showing compassion to ourselves.  Being compassionate to others gives them the platform to show up in an authentic and honest way.  Having compassion is not saying that they are perfect or that some unacceptable behaviors are ok. Rather, it is saying “I see you in your complex humanity and you are lovable, you are worthy”.  Imagine how this can transform shame.  When I am in a shame place I am not showing up to express my love or passion.  When I am in shame, I am judging myself so harshly that I fear being seen. When I am shown compassion in this place I become comfortable enough to look at this piece of me and transform it into something that can serve me and others.  I believe we are born love, out of love and into our expression of love.  This love is at the root of our desire for connection and when we show others compassion we are inviting a human connection as opposed to judgements that separate us.  Connection says we are alike; this is compassion.sunSHINE

The hardest things/people to show compassion to can be the things/people that we fear or possibly even hate.  How do we show compassion to the person who so completely lives in disregard to everything around them?  How do we show compassion to the things or people that do things that directly cause us harm?  Now this is a touchy subject.  I by no means believe that people should ever accept abuse or harmful behavior from someone under the guise of forgiveness or compassion.  For my own spirit and mental balance, I may hold compassion for that person.  In my early 20’s I spent 1 ½ years in an abusive relationship. For most of that time I held myself in shame which made excuses for my abuser.  Today I hold compassion for him in my heart.  I have not seen or spoken to him in 12 years but I know he is a wounded soul.  My compassion shows me that because he was raised in an extremely physically and sexually violent home he had no choice to learn these things as a child (which does not excuse him for not learning a different thing as an adult).  I have heard that he is still living the same life he was when I was with him.  He is miserable, self-hating, self-destructive and lost.  I don’t know if he will ever find love for or from others, yet I pray he will because just as you are part of me, he is part of me, we are all connected.  Through seeing the connections of everything we can find compassion for everything.  Through this compassion, I can look at my abuser and know that he acted out of fear and when I am in a place of fear I can also present from a place of anger.  The seeds are within all of us- we are all human.

When we are compassionate to ourselves, our loved ones and our “enemies” we open a healing within us that promotes healing and humanity in our relationships and the world.  I think of the saying “A chain is only as strong as its weakest link” and I think humanity is that chain.  Every link I help make stronger, the chain becomes stronger.  Every link I make weaker, the chain becomes weaker.  What do I want to do with my tools and abilities?  What differences can I make in my family, my relationships, the world, this chain of humanity?  What changes can I make within myself by using compassion?    My hope for the world is that you have compassion for yourself, that is the starting place of a true revolution!

 

Put on your own oxygen mask before helping those around you.

It can be so difficult to remember to take care of yourself when you are a healer or caregiver, yet these are the times when you need to pay close attention to your own needs.  Every time you take a flight the flight attendants are sure to go over all the safety rules, one of which is to be sure to put your own oxygen mask on first.  Why is it that we, so often, forget that idea when we get back to our real lives.

For me the first thing I need to remember is there will never be enough time to complete all the tasks that I need to complete or help all the people that are looking for my help.  Logically I know that I will need to take care of myself so I can show up fully to help the people I love. Yet I repeatedly put my own needs on the back burner and choose giving to others before giving to myself. I have recently adopted a new practice of sitting with myself for 30 minutes every afternoon.  I sit down and ask my body what it wants at that time.  Meditation? Breathing? Writing? Walking? Yoga?  This gives me the time to center and ground.  I get to have this specific period of time to just …BE. oxygen mask

So I have developed tools for myself that help me stay centered and full but that
doesn’t necessarily answer how to keep good boundaries energetically when being with others.  There are a few things I do to be sure that I am now taking care of others to my own detriment.  I have written other blogs about taking care of yourself, like “Saying Yes to Your No”  and 2 about setting boundaries starting with “Doormats and Dictators”   Read those blogs for information there but in addition to the tools I talk about there I stay clear with myself and others by practicing other tools also.

I have come to know that another person’s behavior is not my responsibility.   For as long as I live I will have people in my life that make choices that I would not choose.  That is not my responsibility.  Allowing others to live their lives and knowing that there is nothing I need to do about it is liberating to my energy.  It is not my job to fix or heal anyone.  I have spent a lot of time participating in workshops and programs with the purpose of healing and no matter what the facilitator did or did not do I had to make the choice every time if I was going to participate in  my healing or walk away the same person I was before.  Likewise no matter what I say or do I can not help someone else heal that does not want to heal and I do not know better than any individual what they need for their healing.

The difference between supporting and saving can be tricky.  It can be almost second nature to give advice when someone shares a problem with you.  Sometimes we think it is loving to try to help them solve their problem.  Maybe what the person really needs is just to be heard?  Maybe the person needs to be asked “what would work for you to solve this problem?”  I believe that every individual knows exactly what they need to heal themselves or solve their own problems.  When we have the opportunity to find our own answers we not only find our answer but we are empowered with our ability to heal our lives.  Recently, I was talking with a client about supporting not saving and through our conversation I realized that saving had some degree of controlling where supporting was more about allowing.  When I allow someone to be on their own path their actions do not affect me as much.  With the support and allowing it is not about the value of my suggestion which allows my ego to stay out of the way.

The last thing I need to know when I am “helping” someone is my motivation.  If I am helping someone with the purpose of increasing my sense of self-worth, I am not able to keep myself out of their outcome.  If I am helping someone to make myself look better then I will perceive the results  they achieve as a reflection of myself so my investment in their outcome cannot help but be co-dependent and detrimental to both of us.

So, remember to take care of you.  Set up useful practices that help you show up for others in ways that are meaningful for you.  Don’t forget Put on your oxygen mask first.