When talking with a friend recently the discussion turned to compassion, her gaze drew down and her feet shifted bashfully. After a moment of silence she admitted that she had little to know idea what the full meaning of this abstract concept is, and without even knowing she did not believe that it could offer any relevance to her practical life. Yet the truth is that for many of us who may be contending with the myriad of issues pertaining to basic cognizant living we could reap exquisite benefit from exercising compassion. While it may be initially trying to redirect thinking and acting towards this more illuminated stance especially when the nifty old synaptic wiring recalls pain, trauma, anguish or even simply waking up 20 minutes too late for your morning cup of coffee. Still however, when we share compassionate responses with the world we are not only benefiting others, we too are exhilarated by the positivity which we is then set coursing through our inner sanctum. Why bother interrupting a cycle of careless or hostile mode of being with something a bit more Buddha like? We are all ultimately weighted with the handsome burden of free choice pertaining our reaction to self and others. If you sometimes wonder why you notice a bewildering pattern of melancholia or inner-conflict then perhaps you may benefit from a mild dose of compassion.
The Merriam Webster definition of compassion is a deep awareness of the suffering of another along with the wish to relieve it. Unwittingly many of us may practice compassion already, when you notice the homeless person huddled beneath blankets along your stroll to your office, or the friend who can barely help himself but to become completely obnoxious when he drinks, the colleague who is unrepentantly ten minutes late for each and every meeting. You may notice yourself resisting the urge to be irritated by these and many others along the path of life. Maybe by leaving a pair of hand warmers for the homeless person and having a talk with both your colleague and friend about what may be going on for each of them respectively. Having compassion for those we interact with does not mean that we don’t notice or even that we don’t become irritated with the mystifying ways of others but it does require that we respond in a way that is a reflection of our most wise and caring truth and that our response is rooted in an attempt to relieve the others suffering.
I make no remark that consistently compassionate thought, speech, and action is simple, nor do I state that it is an entirely natural collusion with our at times wicked or selfish human mannerisms. I do however promise you that by living with greater compassion we become the ebullient bringers of joy, and the gregarious gesticulators of grace, the sort of buddaesque persons enthralled under our very own Bodhi trees in a whirlwind of calm clarity. I would like to encourage the reader to take the practice of compassion even one step beyond reaching outwards with this conundrum of kindness. Empathy fueled action towards others is a wonderful way to begin but just as importantly, extend greater compassion towards yourself! According to Buddhist wisdom “Our sorrows and wounds heal only when we touch them with compassion.” If you turn your attention towards your own inner world, in what ways are you your own harshest critic? Which feelings do you carry followed by that additional burden of shame? How do you unflinchingly hammer yourself upon the proverbial cross? Perhaps with just a touch of compassion for yourself you can finally lay those old wounds to rest. Keep in mind that once we become aware of our patterns of thought and deed we are afforded the opportunity to respond to life in a variety of manners and it is my insistent offering that a compassionate response to you and the many nameless and faceless others of the world will unveil a much more lovingly lived life! How may your hour, your day, your week be different if you were practicing compassion?
In health and wellness,
Stephanie McCracken MSPC
Offering Psychotherapy and Marriage Counseling
Reviving Minds Therapy
1010 Western Avenue Pittsburgh Pa 15233
by Stephanie McCrackenOctober 15, 2013 counseling, couples counseling, mindfulness, personal growth, psychology, psychotherapy, Uncategorized0 comments
There is great wisdom in the seasons, the rhythms of the earth. I admire the leaves, those curious objects transitioning in brilliant metamorphosis. They motion from soft and green to reds, orange, and rust while becoming dry and brittle, forming a carpet upon the earth in their final descent. Yes, the earth has many lessons for us; mere mortals. In spring she takes in, blossoming and growing but with time, she wilts and in a dazzling display, she falls, letting the leaves, flowers, cones and the like, all go back into herself. I often see many people in the world and in my office, even myself at times, who struggle to “let go.”
Past pains, disappointments, greedily lending themselves to calcified resentment. It is that little man perched atop the watchtower of the soul, waiting for another insult or injury from our loved one or family member. Sometimes our little internal watchman becomes hyper-vigilant, ever wanting to prevent our spirits from being scathed. When too many hurts have been accumulated, our memories becomes infiltrated with all of those winces, from the chronically late boyfriend, our ever critical mother, the sister that is always undermining your happiness, these things we remember! The problem is that we often remember too well, it is indeed a part of a healthy longing to protect ourselves from those who would hurt us. So we store away these abundant notations about others, retrieving the data in the future, making an effort to “duck” before the next blow is hurled. Often when we store away so much angst pertaining to specific others, we will become too quick to react, overflowing with hurt or anger in even minor instances. We hold fast to our internal list of wrong doing and to those who will listen we complain and wallow at the injustice of “others” who pain us! There is a normal and healthy amount of time to complain or be upset at the injustices or insults which will inevitably be hurled at us in this life. Yet I must ask, how useful is it to continue to hold on to anger and resentment?
One of my favorite anonymous quotes is “Holding a grudge is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to get die.” Often with our lists of anger, we are exclusively causing injury to ourselves! As it often is with human foible, the very mechanisms which may serve to protect us, become the source of our very own brand of strife! If you will allow yourself to reflect honestly, each time you recount the story of your critical mom, failure to thrive brother, masochistic professor, it really only makes you upset again. The physical and emotional stress that results from accumulating our lists of hurts may lead to coronary disease, somatic illness, angry explosions, drug or alcohol abuse, and may be related to mental health disorders such as depression. Forgiveness and the ability to move beyond the sins of our foes is an ability that will serve you very well, even if you don’t think you’re (insert explicative) boss/girlfriend/ex deserves your forgiveness, it may be time for you to consider letting things go for your own health and wellbeing.
There is wisdom in forgiveness, each of the major religious gurus speaks abundantly upon the topic, for example Jesus Christ, “But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also.” Along with the Dalai Lama who even wrote a book titled The Wisdom of Forgiveness, he states it eloquently with “All major religious traditions carry basically the same message, that is love, compassion, and forgiveness, the important thing is that they should be a part of your daily life.” We should also remember Mahatma Gandhi who is quoted as saying, “The weak can never forgive, and forgiveness is an attribute of the strong.” I am not a spiritual leader, I am only a psychotherapist, a woman who struggles with the very same human dilemmas as all of the rest of you, yet I will recommend that you take the time to lay to rest those angers, hurts, and pains.
Take a long hard look, maybe even make a list of all of the grudges that you are needlessly carrying with you. Accept them, remember them, I have even suggested that some clients wrap that list around a rock and carry it with them everywhere for a week. Then when the week is over, take the time to think about your experience in lugging a heavy and burdensome weight in your pocket. When your week is over, the time is up, lay it to rest. As a clinician who respects traditions and rituals, perhaps making a ceremony of it will help you to solidify the process of letting go. Bury it, burn it, burn it and bury it, rip it up. Whatever you do, let it go and don’t set off searching for its remains. Allow it to be over, not for the other person who has hurt you, but because you love yourself enough to not sit with toxicity in your blood. Because peace and serenity are your goals, because Gandhi, Jesus Christ, and the Dalai Lama said so, let go of resentment and make some room for more love, peace, and contentment. In a Technicolor array of splendor like the leaves twirling from the sturdy oaks to rest peacefully atop the fall earth, may it decay into next year’s nutrient rich soil.
In peace and love,
Stephanie McCracken MSPC
Reviving Minds Therapy
Offering Psychotherapy and Marriage Counseling
1010 Western Avenue Pittsburgh Pa 15233Learn More