Only when we know our own darkness well can we...
Compassion is not a relationship between the healer and the wounded. It's a relationship between equals. Only when we know our own darkness well can we be present with the darkness of others.
Compassion becomes real when we recognise our shared humanity" Pema Chodron
Last week I had lunch with a close and dear friend who had suffered a recent and sudden family bereavement. As you might imagine, my friend was and is struggling to deal with many difficult and challenging emotions and many tears were shed by us both during our lunch.
How often, when we encounter another who is struggling with difficult emotions or a difficult situation, do we find ourselves jumping in to offer advice or we find ourselves telling the other to 'not' feel like this or that. In those moments, albeit often unintentionally, we risk shutting down the other through being unable to tolerate what is arising in us and/or the other. Sadly, this is so often true when a boy or even a man is told by another to 'man up'.
Last week, as I sat with my friend, I was able to bring mindful awareness both to my friend's words as she recounted the circumstances of her bereavement, and to my own experience. I did not need to judge our experiences, I did not need to offer advice and I most certainly did not need to tell my friend how to 'feel' (or not) what was being experienced. In fact, I did not need to 'do' anything at all.
I simply needed to be compassionately present with, and to truly listen to, my friend.
Only through practising mindfulness have I come, in Pema Chodron's words, to 'know' my 'own darkness' and to start to relate to this in a kind and compassionate way. For me 'darkness' means those aspects of myself that I believed from a young age to be 'wrong', or even 'shameful'.
Through mindfulness I have been able to cultivate a more loving and accepting relationship with my own humanness and thereby a kinder awareness of our shared human experience. For me, there can be no more important work that we all need to do, now and for the rest of our lives.
Are you cultivating compassion?