Week 2: Inward Compassion, a work in progress

This is a re-post of something I wrote a short while ago, but it speaks very well to Tristan’s idea of Inward Compassion: We are who we are because of what we have done/not done in the ‘past’. Whatever mistakes we made, or wrongs we did, are part of that past, but holding onto them — blaming & shaming ourselves because of them — does no one any good. Seeing them for what they are, & truly forgiving ourselves (with the resolution to ‘be better’) turns all of the blunders of our lives into powerful lessons. The mightiest teaching of all is this: Through seeing our own crap, we can be much gentler with other people. This is the essence of compassion, for in seeing my failures & screw ups, how can I be so harsh with yours?

Me, now ……. Me, then …….

I have learned, through the years & because of numerous struggles, to not compare myself to others – there is ALways someone smarter, funnier, prettier, richer, kinder, more powerful, more together, more enlightened, more <<whatever>> ………….. And next to most others, the comparison is so often unfavorable to me, haha. But I do find it useful sometimes to compare Me, Now to Me, Then & most of the time, this reveals something I like to call “progress.”

Though never a raging beauty, I used to be decidedly prettier – thinner, no gray hair, no droopy eyelids.  But since I smile more easily, laugh more & am much kinder now, I am decidedly more beautiful than my young-woman-self.

I used to greatly admire the bold ones, those who took a risk & made some mighty achievement. Now, having taken many risks of my own, & sometimes flaming out spectacularly, I am not so judgmental about those who are seen as “under achievers”, or those who live modestly.

Strength & the ability to ‘bounce back’ — I used to be contemptuous of someone who did not have these qualities.  Since those long ago days though, I’ve endured deep depression a few times, finding my way out of it finally — not through being strong, but from being able to surrender to the transformation it demanded.  Having sustained several grievous wounds — physical, emotional, interpersonal — I now feel that the ability to keep going on, without hurting or destroying others, is a far more worthy quality than mere ‘strength’.

Long ago, I looked up to those who Stood For Their Values, uncompromisingly, never giving in. Having a tendency toward such stridency myself, & also the tendency to dig in my heels when challenged, I could identify. Being sensitive & intelligent though, & really looking at the world & myself in relation to it for decades now, I see that changing one’s mind is sometimes quite necessary, & the mature choice. The evolution of one’s intellect, views, mindset is a mark of growth, & I understand now that rigidity & staunchness are detrimental to that growth. Someone (not sure who) put it this way:

If you are the same person at age 50 as you were at age 20, then you’ve wasted 30 years.

What this refers to, I think, is one’s awareness, one’s consciousness. By that measure then, I haven’t wasted ANY time!! Definitely a form of impermanence I can embrace. Hahaha, as I grow more mindful, it becomes more of a blessing to look at my “failures”, & at the things I’ve squandered — knowing that my life has not followed the untainted, mythically perfect path tells me that this is most likely the truth of everyone else’s life too. We’ve all been broken, or wrong, or betrayed — it’s one way we are the same. Along with our inevitable death, our weaknesses, mistakes & missteps make us One with each other. Within this oneness, this same-ness lie the seeds of compassion — — for who has not been lost in some way, & who will not die? No, no, your pain, my failure — our lives, our deaths — are shared experiences. Yes, we go through each on our own, but the having of them we share.

Looking at Me, Then & Me, Now, I see what I can think of as “progress” in my consciousness. It is my success that I am much more capable of feeling compassion for others, than way back in the day. And around the world more & more people are working toward that too. Increasingly, I see compassion as being the only proper response to the myriad troubles of we wee humans. When I, when we, feel compassion instead of judgment, hate, bigotry & all other forms of division ……… well, then, there’s a work in progress.

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