[02/05/24] Mind-Body Monday: Compassion and Rightness

Welcome back my loves! Today I am going to be continuing the conversation from last week about compassion as well as sharing later how to hold space for others when we feel they are not "right".


Let’s begin by imagining one of the hardest experiences we might find ourselves in.  This is when someone we know and care for has lost someone they love. Empathy and Compassion sit quietly beside them, without seeking to end their pain with platitudes like, “they are in a better place,” or “at least they are not suffering.” We do not know that to be true, even as we might wish & believe it to be so. Even more importantly, we do not know that this is going to ease the person who needs our compassion. Perhaps they do not believe there is a “better place” or they would prefer that their loved one was still by their side, even if there was pain involved. When we make their suffering about what we can do about it, we are diminishing their right to suffer in their own way. 


Understand of course that we all have said things like this in our attempt to ease the pain of another person. But true compassion does not require that we seek to solve their sorrow or soothe their pain. As a line from the poem The Invitation, by Oriah Mountain Dreamer, so beautifully speaks to: 

 “I want to know if you can sit with pain mine or you own without moving to hide it 

or fade it or fix it.”

Compassion requires that we simply be and let them simply be in whatever state that they choose. It does not place timelines on their pain. It does not try to instruct them that “it will get easier” or that “time heals all wounds.” Compassion most certainly does not tell them that they “should be over it by now,” or “that it’s surprising they are still so upset.” Compassion does the most uncomfortable thing imaginable when faced with the pain of a loved one. It simply shares space. It provides comfort by presence, by reminding them that they are not alone in this life. It actively listens if the person needs to talk, or talks about whatever the person wants to listen to. Compassion can even be a distraction, if by a joint understanding of talking of anything “but” what is bothering the individual. Compassion asks: “would you like to be held?” and responds accordingly. Compassion doesn’t assume. If words of comfort are desired by the person that is hurting, then compassion can say things like, “I’m here for you, and I’m not going anywhere. It’s okay to be sad. It’s okay to be mad. It’s okay to cry and it’s okay not to cry.” It simply is the effort of being completely present for another individual without expectation of our own needs being met, even our own comfortability. It is simultaneously the hardest thing we'll ever do, and the most beautiful and loving. Compassion can be given to our loved ones, and it can be given to strangers. Compassion is caring for another person for no other reason than our shared humanity and the deservedness therein, of love and kindness.


The Hindu word Namaste’, which literally means “I bow to you,” in Sanskrit, has also been translated to: “the divine light in me, honors the divine light in you and together we are one,”. In my opinion, it is a good synonym for compassion. We are all one. One race, the human race, and we must be careful to not let the blind programming of “Belief in a Just World” affect our thoughts and behaviors like I spoke about last week.

If we consider all human beings mutually deserving of love and compassion, then we strive to be as compassionate as possible to all that enter our sphere of influence. Understanding as we do, that we all come from the same material, the cells of stars, meaning that ultimately we are one matter, just differentiated by form.  Whatever we do to one, affects us all. 


So, how do we apply these principles to ourselves?  Well, we begin by remembering what I talked about last week. We are imperfect beings. We are all struggling along doing the best we can with our awareness of our own impending demise. We are all trying to flourish and find freedom in this individual life of ours. It is okay that we are imperfect, it’s expected. There is no perfection in a human form. None of us came into this life carrying the book on all deeds good and proper for the world. We are all affected and influenced by our genes, our upbringing, and our social environment. In fact our very personalities themselves are a combination of what is called a bio-psycho-social model. This means that our personalities are formed by our biology or genes, the psychology of how we were raised, and the cultural, and socioeconomic structure including teachers, friends, media, and entertainment in our environment. All of this has combined to teach and affect how we perceive the world and how we act within it. It creates a reality tunnel within which we experience our lives.


If you haven’t watched my live on Reality Tunnels, I recommend you do so, and I will link it in the comments. In brief, this space of our personalized reality is a combination of everything we are, everything we believe, and everything we have been shown by our personal life experiences to be true about ourselves and the world around us. It helps to provide the incredible diversity between individuals. It is more than just nature and nurture. This biopsychosocial model is why we can look at two individuals born by the same parents and raised with the same ethnicity, gender, home environment, teachers etc., and still find dramatic personality differences. Even identical twins are individuals as my nieces can attest to. 


This diversity provides the glorious color of the world. It also provides heavy conflict when two (or more) people find that they vehemently disagree with each other on points of politics or religion. While this conflict can be infuriating, it helps to understand that this person’s reality tunnel is quite different from ours, and from their view, their choices, decisions, and preferences are just as valid and “right” as our own. Understanding this is compassion!  Or as the legendary Buddhist teacher Thich Nhat Hanh has said,  “Understanding is Love’s other name.”    

Now if you are someone who has difficulty standing up for your own beliefs then it would serve to know and believe that your thoughts and opinions are just as valid as anyone else’s and even more so, “right” for yourself. You have every right to trust in our own beliefs even if they contradict what another person may think. They simply need to be right for you. This doesn't mean it would serve us to stand stubbornly defiant to logic or reason or scientific fact. Instead, it means, to be compassionate to ourselves, by having faith in our own ideas, while being open to expanding them and even writing them anew should information change. The more knowledge we gain on a subject and the more we are willing we are to listen to the ideas of others, the stronger our own beliefs can grow. Knowledge is always power. 


Never hesitate to listen to someone with whom you disagree for fear that they might make you feel inadequate or uneducated. Instead, be like a sleuth and gain as much knowledge as you can on any subject in order to grow in the confidence with which you hold your own thoughts and feelings.


One of the greatest gifts I was ever given was while I was experiencing the painful end of a relationship with someone I loved, many years ago. He was an amazing, loving, incredible, funny, witty alcoholic. Eventually, the last trait overcame the ones before and I knew that I needed to end it for my own emotional health. However, before I did I spent a large amount of time deeply in meditation and communion with my higher self and guides seeking affirmation that my painful choice was the right one. 

What I received in the attempt, however, was far different than I was expecting. During one intense session, my guides told me that my need to believe my partner should stop drinking was my own belief in what was right for someone. Well, of course, I argued that I was right and that everyone who knew him would agree. That it was unhealthy and would lead to his early demise. Still, they responded that I wasn't right. Who was I, they said, to decide for someone else what their life was to be about? What they were here to learn or experience. What their connection or contract or karma was. They showed me what strength it took to choose a life wherein one would co-create their own destruction. To descend down as deeply as they could go into their own suffering, and it wasn’t up to me to decide their life choices, or that the choices I would have made for them were righter than their own. 


This was devastating and powerful. To be told that I was not right about someone else’s life, despite how obvious it seemed that I must be. They went on further to tell me that in fact, I had never been right. OW!? How was that possible I thought? How could that be? How could I never have been right? After all I was educated, I was a spiritualist and a healer and thought that I had done an incredible amount of work, and thus knew at least in some instances, the right and wrong things of the world. After I mused on their words for quite some time they soothed my mental and emotional distress by telling me that although I had never been right, I never needed to be. There was not even a finite “right”, and I was not incarnated to be right, or to hold the standard of rightness for others. I was here to discover what was right for me. And to let others discover what is right for them. The only judgment I needed (if any) was the ability to discern how to best explore my own beingness and to continue to manifest myself as the greatest vision of my own imagination.


A teacher of mine once said that everything you think, speak, and do is like writing a letter to the Creator saying, in essence, This is Who I Am. So each day at its end, I ask myself if I was a “good me” today. If I spoke and acted in a way that represented myself and the letter I am writing about who I wish to be. If I wasn’t, which I often am not, ;)  then I try to do the thought work to discover why I acted in a way that didn’t make me feel proud of myself, so I won’t repeat it. If I can’t figure out why, then I just try to forgive myself and do better tomorrow. If I was a good me, then I give myself the grace and gratitude to appreciate my success.


This is how I try to live my life every day. I try to let people be wrong, without needing to be upset by it, control it, or seek to change them for my own comfort and need to be right. I seek to be compassionate at all times to all beings, including myself. I wish the same for you. The knowledge that you have never been right, and never needed to be. That you can refocus on just what you are here to become and that you learn to love yourself despite all the reasons you have made up in your mind, that you don’t deserve it. Whether or not it is clear to you, you are enough. You are love, you are loving and you are loved. 


“Understanding is Love’s other name.”- Thich Nhat Hanh

At the heart of Nhat Hanh's teachings is the idea that “understanding is love's other name” — that to love another means to fully understand his or her suffering.