“We can never obtain peace in the outer world until we make peace with ourselves…”
Since practicing Mindfulness I’ve become very aware of when judgment is coming up. It begins with a sometimes sharp at other times subtle pain in my heart, a closing of the throat or a agitated feeling in the stomach. It’s a feeling of being triggered…the stories are usually about how I did something or someone did/said something wrong. The first arrow is the pain that is a part of life. The second arrow and all the other ones that follow are the stories that we make up about the trigger; why it happened, what we did to cause it, or what’s going on for the other person and then we end up creating a novella and reacting to our stories. What I find that helps during these times of reactivity is to pause and stay with the feeling versus reacting, acting out or turning it inward and feeling inadequate. I pause and in that moment when I need it the most practice self compassion…this is very different from what most of us do…this is empowering and very liberating!
The healing power compassion and kindness
Here’s a story from Tara Brach’s podcast on the power of compassion and connecting with other’s suffering:
“Fran Peve-psychologist walked across Standford campus when she saw two chimpanzees surrounded by scientist & publicitist who were trying to get the chimpanzees to mate. The male chimp was running lose and the female chimp was on a chain. The male chimp was pulling on female chimp’s chain and she’d pull away whimpering. Fran began to feel sympathy for this poor female chimpanzee when suddenly the female chimp yanked the chain away from the male chimp, walked through crowd and took Fran’s hand, led her across circle to the only other two women in the crowd. The female chimp joined hands with one of the other women and they all stood in a circle. The little chimp reached out through all of the yrs of evolution to form her own support group.” There is shared understanding that can be felt beyond what our psyches can feel. When we respond to the suffering of others they feel it and we are connected in that moment.”
This is a beautiful story about the power of empathy and how it helps us to connect with each other. Many times when we see suffering our first inclination may be to look away because we tell ourselves a story about how painful it is to watch other’s suffer. Often we are the ones who suffer the most as we push away or resist our own experience. In that moment we disconnect from our true self and contract against the experience as if trying to either ignore the pain (which takes a lot of energy and still hooks us in) or we become that feeling and are so indentified with it that we forget about the other parts of us; our goodness, our capacity to have compassion for our own pain. It’s like we’re trying to outrun our own shadow and in the end all our energy has gone into pushing life away. If we can open our own hearts to our suffering, have compassion for ourself and hold the suffering in a tender space or imagine ourselves being held by a beloved presence, spiritual figure then healing can begin to occur.
A gift to you is this poem about letting in suffering and touching kindness.
By Naomi Shihab Nye
Before you know what kindness really is
you must lose things,
feel the future dissolve in a moment
like salt in a weakened broth.
What you held in your hand,
what you counted and carefully saved,
all this must go so you know
how desolate the landscape can be
between the regions of kindness.
How you ride and ride
thinking the bus will never stop,
the passengers eating maize and chicken
will stare out the window forever.
Before you learn the tender gravity of kindness,
you must travel where the Indian in a white poncho
lies dead by the side of the road.
You must see how this could be you,
how he too was someone
who journeyed through the night
with plans and the simple breath
that kept him alive.
Before you know kindness
as the deepest thing inside,
you must know sorrow
as the other deepest thing.
You must wake up with sorrow.
You must speak to it till your voice
catches the thread of all sorrows
and you see the size of the cloth.
Then it is only kindness
that makes sense anymore,
only kindness that ties your shoes
and sends you out into the day
to mail letters and purchase bread,
only kindness that raises its head
from the crowd of the world to say
it is I you have been looking for,
and then goes with you every where
like a shadow or a friend.
May you touch kindness today!