This week we continue with the theme of compassion. Since leaving the monastery and being open to romantic relationships I’ve realised just how much the longing to be held and loved comes from the unheard parts of my being looking for comfort. The less I hold these parts of myself the more they look out for another to provide that comfort. But then I have the dilemma that any love I am offering is not unconditional, it is based very much on the condition “if I am kind to you you will love and hold me”. It is the attitude of a child who is trying to fix its pain, not realising how controlling or manipulative this attitude might become. If I want truly to be able to love another, I am starting to learn that first I have to love myself. I have heard this said so many times, but to start to feel it is something new and makes me realise that if I want to meet another as an adult rather than as a child and be held in a mutual and mature relationship, whether that be with friends or a partner, then I need to learn to hold and embrace all that is here in me, including the fear that comes up when I start to enter into a closer relationship!
After last week’s class I was given a delayed Christmas present, Pema Chodron’s ‘A Guide to Compassionate Living’. It was one of those synchronistic moments as I started to read the opening pages as she spoke with such eloquence about themes I had been thinking about recently and wanted to bring to the group. The opening couple of pages are so beautiful I’ll share them here in a slightly abridged form:
“We already have everything we need. There is no need for self-improvement. All these trips that we lay on ourselves – the heavy duty fearing that we’re bad and hoping that we’re good, the identities that we so dearly cling to, the rage, the jealousy and the addictions of all kinds – never touch our basic wealth. They are like clouds that temporarily block the sun. But all the time the warmth and brilliance is right here. This is who we really are. We are one blink of an eye away from being fully awake.
When we hear about compassion, it naturally brings up working with others. The reason we’re often not there for others – whether our child or our mother or someone who is insulting us or who frightens us – is that we’re not there for ourselves. There are whole parts of ourselves that are so unwanted that whenever they begin to come up we run away.
Because we escape, we keep missing being right here, being right on the dot. We keep missing the moment we are in. Yet if we can experience the moment we’re in, we discover that it is unique, precious, and completely fresh. It never happens twice.
Only to the degree that we’ve gotten to know our personal pain, only to the degree that we’ve related to our pain at all, will we be fearless enough, and enough of a warrior to be willing to feel the pain of others. To that degree we will be able to take on the pain of others because we will have discovered that their pain and our pain are not different.
However, to do this, we need all the help we can get…..”
The rest of her book is then a discussion of how we can learn to be with our own pain and hold that of others.
In this week’s class we’ll explore both how to hold our own experience with love and compassion and how to extend this out to others who may be suffering. In this way compassion reminds us that we are not alone, that thorough our suffering we can