Saturday, September 7, 2013

Compassion

I really like the concepts of Buddhism.  At least as I understand them.

I find the idea of reincarnation into different lives to be reasonable.  And I like the idea of gaining knowledge in the pursuit of enlightenment.  Mindfulness and meditation are both practices that I feel would greatly improve my quality of life (I try to do both, but am not as successful as I like in my quality or frequency of practice).

There is, of course, a lot more to Buddhism - there are many branches and different forms of Buddhism.  But one common thread that seems to carry through this religion - and through a lot of others - is compassion.  As I understand it, compassion for ALL humanity.

This is one area in which I struggle.  I have a very hard time having compassion for some people.  Most people, most of the time, I do have compassion for.  On an individual basis, the more I think I understand a person's motivations, past experience and general life stresses, the easier I find compassion for them.

And I have compassion for groups of people.  Syrians, for example.  I can have great compassion for people who are going through such a horrible time, especially at the uncaring hands of others.

But somewhere deep down inside I feel like I just don't have enough compassion for people.  Like I should be doing more to alleviate the suffering* of everyone out there.  And that is where the problem lies, because I cannot alleviate anyone's suffering but my own.  Anyone expecting me to alleviate their suffering (to fix them) is going to be sorely disappointed.  I cannot do that for them.  They have to do it for themselves.  And I have to understand that I don't have that power and should not feel guilty for not being able to fix everyone else.

(*and have you noticed that two people in the same circumstances can experience it completely differently?  One person can stand up and become whole, while another will be broken?  I doesn't matter if you live in a ghetto or a mansion, you have the choice between suffering and peace.  We all do.  It just takes each soul its own time to figure it out.)

I started to write a post about how hard it was for me to find compassion for people.  But in thinking about it, I realize that isn't the case.  I have huge compassion for anyone who is truly trying to figure out life and fix their own issues.  I have compassion for the most violent criminal if that person has realized what they did and is working on trying to change into a better person.

I have no time whatsoever for someone who thinks the world owes them anything.  No time for someone who puts unfair expectations on me and wants me (or anyone else) to fix them.  No time for someone who thinks that all they need is "X" and they will be fine.  Not because I don't want to fix them, but because I can't.  I can help.  I can talk to them about what is going on with them.  I can donate money to charities and try to help out the physical and monetary lack that people feel.  But I cannot fix anything for anyone.  And if you expect me to fix you, and I disappoint you, then I feel guilty.  And it is not my place to feel guilty for not fixing you ... because I can't do it.  And it is not your place to be mad at me for not fixing your pain.  Because I can't do it.

So here's what happens: if you think I can fix you, then you put too much pressure on me.  In doing so, you drain my energy and make me weak.  So I withdraw.  That's the short explanation.  If someone tries to take too much from me, I put up walls and pull back.  Probably because in the past I've put too much energy out there and been hurt by it.

We each have to do the hard work required of us.  We each have to travel this path, ultimately, on our own.  But we are not ever completely alone.  We all have the support of other people (even if it's in the form of self-help books written by strangers).  We all have God (even if we don't believe it).  But we each need to take responsibility for our own inner life and walk the path we need to walk.

How do you find your path?  Listen to you heart.  Not your head, your heart.  If it feels right, then it is right.  And it might take a long time to learn how to hear your heart over the incredible noise of your head, but it can be done (I manage sometimes).  God (the Universe, the light, the Goddess - however you want to understand that life force within you) uses your emotions and your body to tell you what to do.  You just have to learn (perhaps through trial and error) how to listen and interpret.  It might take years, but each step of the way is an improvement.  I'm no where near the end of my journey - it might take me lifetimes to get to where I need to be - but I'm a hell of a lot further along than I was even a year ago.

And so I continue to take steps along my broken path to a destination that I'm not even entirely certain exists, let alone being able to see it clearly.  And I do it because it feels right.



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