Compassion: 10 Things
May 25, 2020
(reading time: 5 min.)
  1. TWIL (This Week I Learned.)

This  week I learned about compassion.  Oh, who am I kidding? The truth is that quite a few years ago I set out to contemplate compassion, thinking it would be an easy, relaxing exercise in “spirituality”.
Compassion is not for the weak. Or at least that’s my take on it. My twenty-something self romanticized compassion; it was something I felt could be understood through an art exhibit (Wisdom and Compassion, the Sacred Art of Tibet) and through high-minded volunteer work.

I have come to believe, and this week pounded that home for me, that compassion is at its purest when we look in the mirror: Can we see the Other in ourselves and still love what we see?

Yeah, me neither. But I am trying.

Compassion is empathy with a twist of altrusitic feelings — I think, and this is where it gets tricky, that we can be hit hard with compassion and then not know what to do. It’s just a hunch, but I believe that’s where wisdom is supposed to step in. I know that times when I feel punched in the gut by one of my kids “hitting my buttons” that sometimes I feel like I am in an anime. Time stops and wind rushes past me as I slow-mo scream in my head.

With the six of us living in close quarters for the past forever weeks, and with five of us technically adults, there have been many moments where I am emotionally gut-punched before breakfast.

A lot of the time, it’s (I believe) compassion hitting me. Compassion without self-compassion for whatever thing that child is going through that, yes, I went through as well — and never gave myself the hug so desperately needed. Never said that kind word to myself that I needed so badly. Compassion without wisdom.

So: I am learning, slowly, over this lifetime, to have self-compassion for every single thing. To move really slowly when compassion hits me hard and fast and blindsides me with feelings I am not ready for. And then to dollop on an extra helping of self-compassion when those feelings look less like Disney princess and more like, well, real human — warts and all.

2. Quote

“Perhaps now more than ever, compassion is needed. People around us are desperate for work, for companionship, for support in their lives; just as we are. Consider this when you find yourself irritated by people...:

People you live or work with;

People who aren’t quick to adapt to technology;

People who are answering phone calls in government offices and businesses that are serving thousands, even millions just like you;

People whose acts of desperation may look similar or very different from yours;

People whose mental health is being compromised by isolation and stress;

People just like you and me.

For each of us is in need of compassion right now as we muddle through this, doing our own best. In recognizing that nobody chose this, everyone hates it, and everyone is reacting to it; let’s give each person in this the benefit of the doubt.

We’re all in this together.” — Dr. Stacee Reicherzer

3. Prompt

Let’s start with self-compassion. As a Christian, I feel strongly that it’s essential to love ourselves as much as we want to be able to love our neighbours. I think every spiritual practice worth its salt says the same thing in this regard. It’s essential to being human. Love yourself. Have compassion for yourself. Love yourself well — not with bath bombs and manicures (though there’s nothing wrong with those) but as you would love your most cherished friend. If your most cherished friend showed up at your door a mess, would you insist they get a mani/pedi? Would you throw them a bath bomb and hide in your room until she calmed down?
I hope not.

Bath bombs later — first, a hug.

I originally got this idea from Gentle Christian Mothers (a Facebook group/ blog that I love — and why I chose to out my spiritual orientation here…) but it’s also one of the practices on Dr. Kristen Neff’s Self-Compassion website. She is the Cat’s Meow of Compassion — her focus is self-compassion and I believe she actually coined the term…

Anyway, do this: Picture that friend at your door as a complete mess. What would you (your very best self, on your very best day) say to her?
Okay, now doppelganger-style, it’s you at the door. What would you say to yourself in a similar situation?
What are the differences?
How would things change if you treated yourself as you do your most cherished friend?

4. Quest

Try a Loving-Kindness meditation this week. I can’t decide if this suggestion is eye-roll common. I know I haven’t actually sat down and done this in ages. Perhaps there is someone else in a similar situation?
Here is a link to a description including audio meditation for this on Greater Good.

Try once this week to sit for a full loving-kindness/compassion meditation. Click that link above from Greater Good for the full audio/explanation. It’ll be worth it.

You first say these words while thinking of someone you love dearly:

May you have happiness.

May you be free from suffering.

May you experience joy and ease.

May you have happiness.

May you be free from suffering.

May you experience joy and ease.

You then move to compassion:

May you be free from this suffering.

May you have joy and happiness.

May you be free from this suffering.

May you have joy and happiness.

You move through to a loved one who is suffering, then your self, a neutral person, and, finally, an enemy.

5. Level-UP / Go Deeper

Try this:
For this week, when you encounter someone who is “Other” to you — not a part of your group, perhaps someone who disagrees with you about social issues, or someone who is messy when you are neat, or late when you are on time, or someone who drinks too much when you feel that is a weakness, or someone who is on time when you enjoy being less tied to your watch — whatever the trigger might be, embrace this encounter :)
Next, (post encounter, most likely) try to think of a list of things you have in common. Meditate on these qualities. Have a sense of humor about it, if you can, to lighten things up. Yes, you know where this is going…you’re going to realize that you do in fact have things in common and, well, that can bring more compassion and feelings of altruism for this person.

Try this as often as you can for the week and reflect on whether it helped bring more compassion into your life or not.

6. POD Poem of the day   (Naomi Shihab Nye: Gate A-4)

Here’s a snippet from the ending:

And I looked around that gate of late and weary ones and I thought, This
is the world I want to live in. The shared world. Not a single person in that
gate—once the crying of confusion stopped—seemed apprehensive about
any other person. They took the cookies. I wanted to hug all those other women, too.

This can still happen anywhere. Not everything is lost.

7. Podcast     (Finding Fred)

8. Video  (The Space Between Self Esteem and Self Compassion: Kristen Neff)

9. Hero: Mr. Rogers
Why?          I can remember hanging on his every word when I was small. He achieved hero status for me recently when a documentary was made called “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?” and, contrary to seemingly every other time a documentary is made of a well-loved person…it turns out that he actually was as lovely, idealistic, caring, and human as we all hoped he was. Hero.

10. Take Care of Yourself This Week and Share if you know someone who might like this.

Wild and Precious Podcast, the audio partner to 10 Things, is available everywhere you download podcasts. Compassion  episode Thursday. I am blessed to have a conversation with a mentor of mine, Dr. Stacee Reicherzer.

Just Start —

Let's Do This!