Years ago, I had a breast lump aspirated and had to wait a few days for the results. Those days grew my compassion as I wandered about the grocery store and streets of town wondering what kind of news others might have recently received that had them seem so disconnected or disgruntled. I remember saying to myself, “You never know who just got a frightening diagnosis, word of someone’s death, or lost their job.”
My results were benign and I was greatly relieved. With the relief came a loss of memory, for compassion. Some of it stuck, but the frustration I felt with others on the road, in the shopping aisles returned. Old habits die hard I guess, but they do eventually die if we persist.
It’s also true that we never know who just received great news and is celebrating. When I am not feeling so great I can wonder about another’s happiness and even envy it some. Compassion teaches me to hold both the joy and the sorrow in the same cup.
Lately, I’ve been feeling compassion in a way that has me realize why I’ve found it so difficult to be with in the past. It’s not particularly comfortable.
I cried the other day as I watched a woman standing on a traffic island receive money from a stranger passing by in a car. She checked the bill several times, pocketed it and shuffled wearily back to her position. I wondered about her, what journey she’d been on, what brought her to this point. It’s so much easier to judge than be curious. To be curious, to wonder, includes feeling into what might be happening over there. I don’t like feeling that. It hurts.
I cried yesterday when I saw a young guy being clueless and projected that he was not well educated, not particularly conscious (I don’t really know) and I thought of the world and humanity. I cried for the human condition. We try. We really try. I don’t like thinking about it. I don’t like how it feels. It hurts.
I cried today when a Jerusalem Cricket gave up the ghost. Spider bite? Age? I don’t know. All I know is that it hurt me to watch it wiggle all of its parts as its brain gave its final hard-wired instructions. I don’t like death. I don’t like losing people. I don’t like thinking about losses that will come. It hurts.
I’ve built a lot of protection between me and the pain I feel in the world. I’ve got rules, assumptions, avoidance techniques and no lack of judgment that create a wall around my heart. It’s not that I don’t care. It’s that it hurts so much to feel it. And, feel it I must, beginning with my own stuffed-down emotions. As the heart cracks open, the ability to be with a full spectrum of emotions grows and I can still cry, but I don’t make it into another brick in my protective wall.
(If you are interested in growing your emotional capacity, keep an eye on Lucid Living. They are up to some amazing work and I’ve grown tremendously from my experiences with them.)
Copyright (c) November 2010, Kathy J Loh, All Rights Reserved