It’s easy to have compassion for others, for the most part. In doing so, we feel we are making the world a better place. What we fail to realise is that compassion must first start with our self – that is where the change in the world begins.
A lot of people don’t take the time out of their lives to look at their own self, at least not without using some form of judgement. And even if they do so, often they can feel guilty about it – they should be helping the kids with the homework or working at the local animal shelter instead of perhaps meditating on the nature of compassion. What I would suggest is that perhaps this taking time out for yourself is the very best thing you can do, for yourself and for the world.
Compassion for others is often seen as noble – when all it really is, is simply compassion. There is nothing noble about it at all – it is merely a way of viewing the world not merely as an exercise in inter-relatedness, but of a deep knowing that everything is connected to each other. The iron in our blood comes from star-stuff, the computer I write upon is made of plastic and metal, which in turn is made up of a myriad things that can relate back to sunlight, water, human and other animals. Compassion is seeing this in everything, and in doing so letting the barriers of the self and the other fall away so that we can see clearly, and in doing so, empathise and act accordingly with the world around us.
Not too terribly hard to grasp, that. But what of compassion for our selves? We are taught, at least in the Western world, to judge anything and everything. I’ve heard it said that this is what makes us human, different from the rest of the animal kingdom. It’s an interesting thought. We can judge others fairly, harshly, unfairly or with loving kindness. However, it is still a judgement. We cannot have a judgement without having a sense of self – and yet how many of us have looked in the mirror at some point in their lives and said “Who is that?”.
There are many theories as to what makes up the sense of the self – from a mere collection of thoughts that we have repeated over and over until we believe them, the loudest pushing forwards, to an eternal and changeless core of existence that we try to return to again and again. I can offer no ideas – I’m still searching. What I do know is that this sense of self, however we view it, can get in the way of compassion.
Believing in a self, means that we believe in a separate entity to all other things. That’s not so bad – but it’s also where a helluva lot of conflict, judgement, and bad-behaviour can arise. I can judge something because it is not me – or in a lot of cases, because something reminds me of what I don’t want to be, I shall judge it, and judge it either wisely or harshly depending on my mood.
I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to fully drop the sense of self, but what I can and am trying to do is to drop the judgement that comes from the sense of self. In an earlier blog, I wrote about ceasing to expect things from other people – and how this can only be a good thing. This leads on to a life without judgement as well. I’m getting better at it when it comes to other people. But when it comes to myself? I am my own worst critic. How many of us have said those exact words? How many of us judge ourselves more harshly than we could ever judge others, or even worse, project these judgements of ourselves unconsciously onto others in order to feel better about ourselves or to outpace our own demons?
The key lies in finding compassion for your self. To sit with your self, to see your self in all reality, in the “good” and the “bad” – whatever those may be. In acknowledging all that you have done, and realising that, as in a Taylor Swift song, that “who you are is not where you’ve been” or “who you are is not what you did”. Pretty deep stuff from a 19 year old in her song, Innocent. I also really like the lyric “Lost your balance on a tightrope, it’s never too late to get it back”. We have all made mistakes – we can stop judging ourselves and simply get on with living life to the fullest with all compassion, for ourselves and for others (which is really one and the same).
This last month has been a deep, introspective month for me, of looking deep into my soul and seeing the good, the bad and the ugly. Coming to terms with all of this, with all past mistakes and glourious achievements, and realising that these are not what constitute my being – they are simply my past – has led to a mini-breakthough in the way I view the world.
I have compassion for my Self.
Getting to know your Self, in understanding, not in judging, is the key to compassion. If we all simply tried to understand everything and everyone, instead of judging – as Sam Cooke sang, “what a wonderful world this would be”. See your faults, see your errors, see your successes and your triumphs. And let them go. Return to the Self of the present moment, instead of living in the past, and letting the past define you.
Equally – stop living in the future. Stop judging your Self for not being where you want to be. Stop being so harsh for having dreams, even. Let the future go, much as the past. Sure, it’s okay to plan, but hold onto those plans lightly, for everything in this world changes. It’s the one constant, paradoxically.
Get on with life now – by having compassion for your Self. It’s the best thing you can do, for yourself and for the world. If we can let go, we can truly live in a world of love and peace. End the judgement, and begin the understanding, both of your Self and the world around you. Have some compassion – for your Self.