"Let's have a merry journey, and shout about how light is good and dark is not. What we should do is not future ourselves so much. We should now ourselves. "NOW thyself" is more important than "Know thyself." Reason is what tells us to ignore the present and live in the future. So all we do is make plans. We think that somewhere there are going to be green pastures. It's crazy. Heaven is nothing but a grand, monumental instance of future. Listen, now is good. Now is wonderful." ~ Mel Brooks

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Our own heart is our temple

"There is only one place to practice compassion: the one you're in." ~ Karen Maezen Miller

Compassion is a virtue. It is living in presence with those around us: loving them, honoring them, suffering with them, being joyful with them........unconditionally. Being in compassion is giving the wholeness of your heart, with nothing to gain.......only to give. Do we do that? Do we give without the hope of receiving? In these times of material wealth and living to only get more, more, more, is it possible to be compassionate anymore? Truly?
It's taken me a few days to think long and hard about this. I've be thorough in my own feelings and actions and I've found the answer:: yes......sometimes. Of course, if it was yes all the time than we'd be Saints! I'm allowing myself the space for forgiveness to see that it is possible to be compassionate while it is also possible to not be. Given the situation, I'm sure you will all understand.
Realizing that I'm admitting to times when my ability to be compassionate is limited I thought how I might change that. Here is an example of when I was lacked in compassion. We had been living in this wonderful old farm house. An 8 room farm house, it was a dream and even existed in one of my husband's favorite Francis Dunnery songs. We had found this house as a last ditch effort before the house we were living in went on the market. You see, we rent our homes, so we're always at the mercy of the owners!!! That's one of the downsides.......at any rate, this farm house was old, 1800's old, but, everyone had their own room, the land was beautiful, a stream ran behind the house, it was close to town, the children had many places to play. It seemed just perfect. The man who owned the house was old, too! He was a wonderful man, kind, generous, and well loved in our area. It was a pleasure to be his neighbor.......even if he was a bit stern with the length he would allow the grass to get! As our time went on there, our landlord passed away. This led us to have to deal with his children, who I knew as a member of our community. It was a nice meeting. They led us to believe that a rent to own option for us was in the plans for down the road, but, nothing would happen soon. Time went on and the new landlord's mother passed on, leaving more to deal with 'the estate'. Sadly, her husband also passed, but during this time, there was no communication about what the plans were for the place until the day we put up a removable fence to keep our littlest from the temptation to run to the front of the house where a main road was. I received a curt phone call from our landlord requesting that the 'very ugly' fence come down as they wouldn't be able to show the property with such an eyesore! So......this was how we learned the house was for sale, but, not to us! It was at this moment that I lost my ability to be compassionate as I was faced with the grim reality of having to uproot my family again, on account of someone elses 'misfortune. I didn't care that she had lost her father several months prior, or that her mother had just passed, or even that her husband was also facing death. We had been kind, understanding, and had taken many jabs and unexpected punches from them, all with a kind and understanding heart. I just couldn't be compassionate anymore. I became quite upset with her and told her that I understand all that she is going thorough but I'm done worrying now about you.......I need to worry about where my family will go now. It seemed to me that our compassion was being taken advantage of and I wouldn't allow that anymore. How could I suffer anymore with her, constantly sending cards with prayers for strength and courage, baking for her and her family, offering assistance at every turn, and then to not be given the same compassion in our new uncertainty, but to be shown that their material wealth was more important than their words spoken. They had no intention of selling us the house, or renting to own. It was lip service given to keep things peaceful. We allowed ourselves to trust, because, well, that's who we are. As you can see, I still struggle with this. Yes, it's in the past and we have moved on (sort of, resentment will be the next item up for discussion!) and have landed in a wonderfully peaceful, loving environment where the children are the happiest they have been and quite frankly, so am I. I am a firm believer that everything happens for a reason, but, I still regret losing my ability to be compassionate. I never want to act that way again.
Acting out of compassion lead to many things: resentment, anger, frustration, sadness, regret. There is no good that comes from it. Only when you can act in complete compassion can you truly understand what it means to be human. We all falter. That is how we learn. We act out of alignment with our spirits and we then remember who it is we're meant to be and how to do better next time. Life is all about learning so that we can embrace enlightenment, if only for a moment.
I've thought up a daily exercise to focus on living in compassion. It's a simple request of oneself to remain open to love and to allow it to flow freely between you and those you encounter. Sharing love is the greatest of all things and it absolutely promises the return of good things, for giver and receiver. How could you not want to assure yourself good return? Especially when all it requires from you is to give and be love?!

Greet each morning with this message by the Dalai Lama: “Today I am fortunate to have woken up, I am alive, I have a precious human life, I am not going to waste it. I am going to use all my energies to develop myself, to expand my heart out to others, to achieve enlightenment for the benefit of all beings, I am going to have kind thoughts towards others, I am not going to get angry or think badly about others, I am going to benefit others as much as I can.”
Upon rising, look at yourself in the mirror and realize that today is a good day. You have the power to be love and create love in your life. You have the gift of compassion so that when you encounter someone who is miserable and has nothing to offer but toxic venom you can look at them and remember that he has known sadness just as you have or she has known heartbreak just as you have or he as known worry just as you have or she has known loneliness just as you have. We are all alike. We've all know what it feels like to live in fear, shouldn't we acknowledge that and allow those similarities to bring us closer? When that someone comes into your life practice compassion by giving them a smile, acknowledge them and thank them for being here. If it's the barista at the coffee place you frequent, tell her she makes the best latte around and give her an extra tip. If it's the man behind the counter at the gas station, simply let him know you're glad he's here. If it's the checkout person at the grocery store, bag your own groceries, give them a smile and tell them you wish for them a wonderful day, sincerely. While you are looking at your beautiful face in the mirror, make a plan for how you will spread kindness. You will only be excited to share your joy with someone else.
While your driving, turn off the news and put on some good tunes that make you feel good. Raise that vibration. Imagine all of these positive thoughts to be shooting out of your car radiating to all of those around you and beyond. Be a beam of light that is sending out love and compassion. It might seem a little cheesy, but, how could it hurt? You pass a lot of people on your way to work, why not try to reach as many as you can?!
When you're out in the world, smile! Smile and when you meet someone stop, look them in the eye, and listen......really listen to what they are saying. If it's somewhat confrontational, stay focused and realize that you have the power to keep your emotions at bay and pay attention to the details that are only meant for you. Most confrontations are not just about that one thing.......most people struggle with so much that every little thing that is bothering them comes out in all encounters. Maybe your boss is having relationship difficulties and that is why he's so upset that your assignment is late. Maybe your secretary's mother is ill and that's why she is snappy with your request to get her a phone number. Maybe the the mail person is suffering from depression so that's why isn't able to stay focused and keeps misplacing your mail. Compassion. Act with compassion. Ask your boss if everything is OK because you too have known what it's like to be in a rocky relationship. Offer to take your secretary out for coffee, let her know that you're here for her if she needs anything while her mother is ill. Walk down the hall with the mail person, share a joke, let him know that you're glad he works here. It's these little things that can really turn some one's day around. Act with compassion. You know what it's like to be in these spot's shared by your co-workers, friends, family, and strangers who you encounter. Offer them you heart.
"Compassion is a hard-won state of being. Much more than a feeling, compassion is a choice to view suffering is a universal experience. This means viewing illness, loss, and even death as human experiences that are bearable with support. This helps us remain calm and keep our hearts open, and we become able to sit with someone in great physical or emotional pain. Compassion bridges the distance between people often created by suffering. This is not comfortable to do, as we must acknowledge their problems might reflect our own future."

The differences between Sympathy and Compassion::

exhausts both giver and receiver.
defines suffering as helplessness.
wears a fixed mask, tries to mind-read.
counts the minutes, wants to escape.
asks yes/no and rhetorical questions.
holds breath, afraid of being inadequate.
Fills the quiet spaces with the “right” words. Compels others to hug, and stops crying by touch Creates a boundary to separate from their pain.
Compassionnourishes and soothes.
recognizes suffering as a passage.
is authentic and open-minded.
is timeless, refuses to be hurried.
asks open-ended, genuine questions.
breathes and ignores critical self-talk.
knows silence is valid communication.
touches with permission, only to connect.
develops heart connection to share the pain.
Here are some other suggestions on how to work compassion into your daily lives:

  • Breath. Focus on your breath. Keep it calm and full. This will allow you to remain calm, clear and focused during your encounters today.

  • Expect nothing. Try not to focus on how you can be helpful or how you will feel important by being a support to someone else. Try not to focus on your thoughts of what you think they need and be open to receive whatever they have to give.

  • Avoid thinking of others as helpless. When in a situation, reverse it and think of how you would like to be perceived. Treat others the way you would hope to be treated.

  • Be calm and try not to rush. Each meeting you have is a chance for a wonderful heart connection. Use it!!! Connect with people, smile, laugh, offer up your love. Be that light you wish to be.......if you're at the store running from aisle to aisle and meet up with a neighbor, stop! Be present. Experience that moment because it will never happen again. Make a positive impression because they will remember, and , so will you.

  • Just listen. Try to listen without offering any solutions. Most folks just need some time to sort things out, let feelings go. They don't necessarily need to have someone tell them what to do. Listen. If they ask, offer an idea or two, don't be attached to whether they take you up on it or not, just listen.

  • Let them cry. There is no need to stop the tears........in fact tears are what keep us from drowning on the inside (dm). If you feel your tears well up, let them roll! There is no need to quiet the soul when it's trying to remain free.

  • Acceptance. Sometimes things are really hard, sad, unfathomable. "Compassion means accepting the reality of what is happening in the moment. " Try not to focus on how you can change a situation, accept that it is what it is and allow the healing to begin.
Reaching out is your gift, allow your compassionate heart to show you how to give love.

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