Compassion...When it's REALLY Hard
I was in L.A. co-training last weekend when the news of what happened in Paris trickled through. I normally do not address world events in my writing. Taking a stand, publicly, has always been a bit scary. It means possibly creating a divide and causing disagreement in my readers. This is now the risk I am wiling to take. And in a moment I will share why…
I was co-training with the Integrative Wellness Academy – a coach training company that is courageously teaching new coaches and light-workers how to work with the WHOLE person – Spiritually, Mentally, Emotionally, and Physically.
As the news hit of what was unfolding around the world my heart fell to the floor. I realize that these acts are not new and may continue to unleash. A good friend of my wife’s was staying in Paris, he is safe, and it’s getting closer and closer to home.
Every time I hear about an act of violence that is in response to fear and disagreement of this magnitude I am blatantly reminded of the power in this work.
The work of going within…
I can only speak of my experience because that is all I know.
I won’t sit here and tell you how to feel or how to respond. I won’t pretend to know what it was like to be in Paris on that evening as my friend was. And I won’t pretend to know what it’s like to have your homeland represented in such an unfair and ugly way.
So instead I will simply make an invitation - Just as I did to the 30 students who showed up for our training.
Now is the time for us to shift our relationship to how we struggle. At this training I got bold and for the first time in my career I decided to share openly and freely about my mission and the vision I have for this work.
When I say ‘my work’ I am not referring to me as a coach or to you as a client, student, or reader.
I am referring to the act of pausing, listening, and creating a life with intentionality. I am referring to the world.
Writing this article, choosing to address something like hate, is something I can’t ignore anymore if the work even remotely has a chance to do its job.
First, I don’t believe we need to eradicate suffering….
Have you ever read or heard this quote attributed to Buddha?
“Life is 10,000 joys and 10,000 sorrows.”
My interpretation is this – life is both/and. Life is love and pain. Life is joy and sorrow. Life is a blessing AND a burden. Why?
It is both because one helps to define the other.
When you are experiencing a moment of pure bliss it’s in the absence of anything not blissful. It’s in this contrast that you have this full experience.
This is the law of duality, which says that one thing is actually TWO things – if, for example, you are a woman then at the same time you are also not a man.
Why does this matter?
Because the intent of life is not to eliminate suffering – it is to use our moments of struggle to learn, grow, and learn. The point, then, is to change our relationship to what it means TO struggle.
Think about a trait of yours that you are proud of - like resilience, tenacity, compassion, etc. Now think back on all the experiences that help you develop this trait. Do you find a story of pain in there?
For example, if you are what someone calls ‘resilient’ and you love your resiliency then this painful moment that helped you learn resilience was your teacher. I believe in my bones that if we change how we struggle and contend with the hard stuff then we change how we suffer.
I do believe we can eliminate poverty, hunger, racism, and even hate by allowing struggle to be our teacher and not our demon.
When I hear about an event like Paris what comes over me is first sadness and deep empathy for the victims AND the perpetrators. Then I go to work on myself – did I experience judgment? Yes. Did I experience fear? Yes. Did I experience anger? Yes.
Then my experience of this event is one not only of sadness and empathy but ALSO of judgment, fear, and anger. The work then isn’t out there but inside of me. It is now about healing my judgments. Learning from my fears. Understanding my anger.
In the end I come to a place of LOVE for all sides. For ALL of humanity. This is compassion when it’s really hard.
I invite you to look within. Tragedies can teach us a lot about who we are and what beliefs we walk around with. They can show us in an instant how we view the world and our place in the world.
As you look within see if you can create space to extend love to yourself and to all involved. Can you extend forgiveness? This is the work.
Until we, as individuals, do the work of constantly returning to a state of WHOLE-ness we will continue to be swept up by our fear, anger, judgment, etc.
The moment you allow that emotion to be a teacher you’ve retained the learning without harboring the pain.
Harboring pain is the birthplace of poverty, hunger, disease, and hate. They are born from emotion that is experienced and taken inside the self.
So, if I may, I invite you to continue to grieve, extend empathy, and compassion for those who were deeply effected by this event. AND, just as important, I invite you to look to yourself and extend the same love and compassion for your experience of this event.
Because what you heal in yourself you heal in the world.
Much love and light, Peace of I. Andrea
The photo above is one of the paintings in the 10,000 Buddha's project - read about it here!