The Courage of Self-Compassion – Compassion Training 5

Straddling the line between light and dark
Straddling the line between light and dark

I feel compelled to write some kind of disclaimer here. (I think this will be the end of disclaimers for a while. And maybe my last “Compassion Training” post for a while also.) I’m writing about compassion (see other posts in my Compassion Training series) not because I’m any kind of expert, but because I’m trying to figure out what compassion is and how I can bring more of it into my life. It’s something I feel compelled to learn about, especially as a teacher. I figure that by writing about my experiences I may meet other teachers who feel the same, and together we can discover where compassion fits into the art of teaching.

The following post is about my messy path toward greater compassion.

One of the interesting, and sometimes disconcerting, side effects about my meditation practice so far is that the more I meditate, the more I recall moments in my life where I was far from being compassionate. Moments of selfishness, judgment, and mindless reaction. I recall awful (truly hurtful) things I said or did when I was a teenager, a young adult, and not so long ago. I am comforted by the fact that according to Mark Coleman (and apparently many holy people and mystics) this is normal, and actually maybe something to aim for. Mark shared this quote during one of his webcasts that helped me connect to this concept:

As the light increases, we see ourselves to be worse than we thought. We are amazed at our former blindness as we see issuing forth from the depths of our heart a whole swarm of shameful feelings, like filthy reptiles crawling from a hidden cave. We never could have believed that we had harbored such things, and we stand aghast as we watch them gradually appear. But while our faults diminish, the light by which we see them waxes brighter, and we are filled with horror. Bear in mind, for your comfort, that we only perceive our malady when the cure begins. – Francois Fénelon

And it’s true. I can feel a shift already. Those ugly thoughts don’t visit even half as often as they used to. It’s as if sitting down with them, and giving them the attention and care they needed helped them find relief. They seem to have moved along. This is the power of empathy and compassion. But it’s not easy.

It takes courage to be self-compassionate. – Mark Coleman

Do we usually choose to have dinner with a person who is selfish, judgmental, and reactionary? Maybe we do, but do we sit with that person with an open heart? It’s not easy, and most often, we probably want to avoid this scenario. It’s the same thing. Why would anyone want to take a hard look at all those messy moments from your past? The only answer I can come up with is: because I don’t want them to happen again. I don’t want to be that person. I also don’t want to encourage that behaviour in others. This is what I risk doing as a teacher. So for now, and probably for a long time to come, I’ll sit with the mess. I’ll muster up the courage to do so because I’d rather see the light than be kept away in a cave. If you connect to this topic, and would like to continue getting weekly inspirations, join the Facebook group Self Compassion for Teachers #redthumbforlove.

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6 thoughts on “The Courage of Self-Compassion – Compassion Training 5

  1. Oh Josette,

    How you’re energy and self reflection fuels me, and many more I’m sure!

    One note, something I have learned from the wonderful book you sent me, and something I am trying to remind myself of daily…is that making positive statements is more effective in achieving change than in making negative statements. ;)

    That’s one concrete way to be more self- compassionate. But my question is, what more? how do we start. I’m groping, feeling my way through a room that has ever so gradually lightened. But I still feel lost, grasping at straws.

    Thank you for opening up this whole new world of self to me. It is only the beginning, but I can already tell it will irreparably change my life for the better. That is, once I bring this darkened room of my inner self to full light.

    May you be well and at ease.

    John

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    1. Dear John,

      I truly appreciate you letting me know how this post connected to you, and also for sharing through your blog your journey into self-discovery via emotions and needs. It brings me great joy and hope to know we are on this path together.

      As for what more? I think we all find our own way, but for myself, I couldn’t have gotten this far (not sure how far that is), without meditation and journaling. I also have to give a large amount of credit to the monthly NVC meetings we had for about 3 years in Daegu. This space really helped me see that it was ok to feel: essentially that it was ok to be me. I regret that we no longer meet, but the practice I cultivated, and the friends still remains. For now, solitude, meditation and journaling are meeting larger needs.

      And thanks for making the point about positive statements! Ha! How easy “negative” language slips in. :)

      May you also be at ease, John. May you love and accept yourself just as you are. :)

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  2. When I think of how much I shame and blame myself for who I was in the past, and for the imperfect human I am and the one I am becoming, I can relate to what you are saying. I’ve hurt people, thoughtlessly. Or sometimes knowingly, but caring more about myself. Some of the damage I have done I can’t even apologize for anymore. Except to myself. And sometimes even *I* don’t want to hear it. When I dig into the past, I can’t think of a better reason to live on in darkness, in fear of light.

    Then again, this sort of thing also happens every day in the classroom. I make snap decisions and react to rather than respond to things that happen. And it is helpful to know that I can give myself compassion for these moments where I’m not proud of my choices.

    I applaud and support and love your courageous choice to shine that light on yourself. It is a beautiful thing to have the chance to acknowledge and hold and love yourself and the beautiful needs you were trying to meet, whatever the strategies.

    Shine on, sister. <3

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    1. My dear Anne,

      Did you know that your words are like compassion fuel? You always seem to speak to me in ways and at times I really need it. Hearing your experience shines a light on mine and the energy seems to keep going.

      “Some of the damage I have done I can’t even apologize for anymore. Except to myself. And sometimes even *I* don’t want to hear it.”

      Yes. I so resonate with this. I have been feeling a lot of that. What do we do in these times? There isn’t much we can do. I don’t want to sugar coat anything when I feel this way. Self-forgiveness can be a very long and winding road. A long process.

      Thank you for giving me the courage to shine my dear friend. We shine together. <3

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  3. OK, Hon, you have struck the bedrock obstacle to progress: the self. You are the most qualified to teach this, because you are willing to learn it at any price. So you will be teaching it to others. “Love, costing not less than everything.” Don’t be at all surprised if in 2 years or 5, you are homeless, jobless, with nothing, in another part of the world and your family wishes you would just shut up. It happened to me. As a friend says, “We use the tools until we break them, or ourselves, or both.” Then the real work begins, turning toward the world. I recently met a new friend who has something very deep in common. Again and again she RIPPED IN TO ME, saying that I was not the good, caring person I said I was. It was a nightmare. She never wants to speak with me again. Mirror. But, she is the only one who can see it, and she is completely correct. The world will fight back… And those who truly love you will do whatever it takes to help. For your sake, I hope that I am wrong about all that I have predicted. For the sake of the world, I pray that I am right. “Lo, I am with you always.” Namaste

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    1. There was a lot for me to digest in your comment, Zulaikha. Thank you for sharing your personal experience. It couldn’t have been easy to feel that sense of being ripped into. Painful.

      The more I read about the process of self-inquiry via the heart, the more I realize that huge, uncomfortable paradigm shifts are part of the territory. I have already been through a few already and I am grateful for the outcome no matter how hard it was.

      Knowing I have the support of my blogging community and friends helps me go along. :)

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