Compassion in Times of Suffering
The enormity of suffering on our planet right now feels like it is at an all-time high. Having the privilege and opportunity to be a psychotherapist for almost 30 years, I have partnered with those who are suffering on an individual basis. I am deeply touched by their honesty. In my heart, I can relate. During times of my own suffering, it is common for me to experience feelings of isolation and loneliness. I have discovered our personal suffering radiates out to all those we care about. Now we have the energy of collective suffering on our planet, and it does impact us individually every day, whether we want to acknowledge it or not. We are bombarded with images, sounds, and stories of global suffering.
After being so overwhelmed by everything we have experienced over the last several years, I have found myself at times withdrawing. I go through periods of listening to the news only to discover my own suffering increasing. How can one not have compassion for those who are suffering? As a result, parts of me become angry, other parts feel helpless and powerless. Despair increases. A protective part of me believes the answer is to not feel so much and to shrink back from the world.
Who wants to suffer more?
Then there is the polarity of something different within me desperately wanting to make things better, but how?
Very recently during my morning quiet time, I felt a gentle shift which honestly has been slowly building over time. As I listen to the parts of myself that are in pain, I sense self-compassion rising within me and around me. I deeply begin to connect to the parts of me that are suffering, listening and holding them tenderly. Something bigger than myself begins to cradle all of me with so much love. Compassion surrounds my whole body. I feel it. I sense it. Every part of who I am is welcomed. Even parts that are ugly and shameful to the world. These precious moments teach me that self-compassion starts within and radiates out to others as Love.
The biblical phrase “love your neighbor as yourself” has a new perspective for me when I include the practice of self-compassion for myself and compassion towards others. The meaning of compassion is “to suffer together". This suffering together supports being kind and connected to one another. It is a part of our common humanity that links us all. This is not wallowing in pain. We feel uplifted because we are in it together. Compassion increases because “we get it”. Our hearts break open towards one another.
Self-compassion is a path to love ourselves so that we may love others. Even those who are so different from ourselves. The practice of self-compassion and compassion towards others creates a more loving and understanding world.
This is the power to change our world. Collective suffering is a wake-up call for us all. A call to do our own deep healing work. This provides us with the bandwidth to hold compassion for those around us, ultimately spreading across the globe for loving positive change for all.
“Most people are afraid of suffering. But suffering is a kind of mud to help the lotus flower of happiness grow. There can be no lotus flower without the mud” -Thick Nhat Hanh
This is a heart centered journey. Will you join me?
With Peace, Hope, Joy, and Love,