Compassion is a daring practice~Pema Chodron
Over the last several weeks I have returned to a daily practice of tonglen, the practice I used to begin this year-long experiment in daily compassion practices. I returned to it after weeks of several different self-compassion practices and found in returning to tonglen, my ability to turn towards and accept suffering, both mine and others, has increased and become stronger.
I feel the self-compassion practices have heightened my awareness of and ability to be with our common humanity, especially in recognizing how we all suffer, everyone one of us, regardless of our life circumstances.
Seeing our common humanity is an elemental part of self-compassion practices. It is integral to our ability to feel connected, to ease the pain of feeling lonely and separated. An important thing during this time of social distancing and isolation.
When we allow ourselves to open our view to see our common humanity through the experience of suffering, we aren’t looking to compare the degree of our suffering against another’s, rather to let our heart break a little and soften so compassion can flow to ourselves and others.
We can find our way to being equals with compassion. Pema Chodron says compassion “is 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 recognize our shared humanity.”
I believe there is a gift in this global pandemic, and that gift is the opportunity for us to really see and feel our common humanity. As we let ourselves see all the ways we are being impacted - people getting sick, people dying. People separated and feeling alone. People shut out of their jobs and losing their income, wondering how they will survive. People on the frontlines treating the sick; the unknown lasting impact on the global economy. It is easy to react in fear and panic and feel we need to close our hearts as a matter of survival so as not to be overwhelmed.
But if we can dare to practice compassion, even for a couple of minutes every day, we can find, like I have, unexpected strength in softening our hearts just a little bit. We can use the tools of self-compassion practices to start to see and accept the suffering in our own lives and, little by little, let it expand out to others.
Another gift of this time for many of us, is the opportunity to slow down. We can take the time to foster our ability to be with suffering with a compassionate heart. We can be the calm in the center of the storm (even if it is only for a few moments as our capacity expands). We can support others who are suffering; and we can let ourselves begin to imagine the lasting ripple effect of a world of equals seeing each other with compassionate eyes.
The next practice I am turning to is called giving and receiving compassion. It is kind of a modified tonglen practice; instead of breathing in suffering, one breaths in compassion for oneself, and on the out breath, sends compassion to others. Here are links to a pdf version of the practice and an audio version. I invite you to explore this practice with me.
May we all be safe and well. Namaste
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