Suffering, Judgement and Compassion
When reading about compassion in Pema Chodron’s book "The places that scare us", I found a practice I have been doing for years. She is describing standing in line and wishing the defiant teenager in front of her to be free from suffering. As I gradually deepened my meditation practice, I started to notice how many times a day I judge the people around me. The second step was adding action after noticing my judgement. I would say in my mind to the person I was judging, “may you be safe from inner and outer harm,” or, “may you be filled with loving kindness.”
I kept doing the practice and it is almost a reflex for me today. The question I keep asking myself is how can this practice be done sincerely. My concern is with using the practice mistakenly and just spiritually bypassing the hard feelings I sometimes have towards others or myself. The answer is that I do not have any answer. I do know that things started to shift as I went along. The “fake it till you make it” approach gradually transitioned into a kinder and softer view of the world and myself. This in turn led me to gentler and hopefully more skillful actions towards others.
In The Way of Tenderness I saw a refreshing view of this question that I keep asking myself. The sense that I got from the reading is that a much deeper investigation is needed in order to really open the heart to others and myself. This investigation, in that book’s case of race, sexuality and gender, is the opposite of bypassing. It is a brave full on stepping forward into the fire, while knowing that there will be experience of pain. This bravery is also very much connected to the bravery of the warrior that Pema Chodron was talking about.
In The Courage to be Present, Karen Wegela mentions the “soft spot” that we learned to cover up. I think that I learned to do it because the feelings of compassion do bring lots of pain, and this was not something I was ready to experience until only recently. Through meditation practice, and Buddhist teachings, I started to let things in. And once I started, it became like a breach in a dam; the energy of the suffering around me as well as the compassion of others keeps making the breach bigger and wider, demolishing the barrier between me and the world.
Sasha Raskin, a therapist in Boulder, provides individual ,family, and couples therapy / counseling in Boulder, Colorado, and worldwide via video and phone calls, drawing from over ten years of clinical experience. Schedule your free 20-minute phone consultation with Sasha Raskin