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Exploring compassion: an inner journey

Welcome to this space.  This space will be dedicated to exploring the journey of learning to be compassionate—and the first step of this journey is to take care of ourselves.  It’s about protecting and nurturing those parts of ourselves that are inherently designed to protect us, but often get forgotten amidst the busyness of our lives.  The parts of ourselves that whisper to us to slow down, to pause for a moment, and remember who and what we are, asking us to pay attention to ourselves and what we need.  If we don’t take care of these gentle parts of ourselves, they shrivel and we are left wanting and waiting for the pain to ease when we’ve been struck a blow.  It could be as small as a passing remark from a stranger that somehow stings us, or it could be as significant as an unexpected, life altering event.

How, in these moments, do we take care of ourselves and then be able to extend that same care to others?  What have we learned to do when we feel pain?

Certainly for myself, the very thought of always responding with compassion does not come naturally. Compassion was really only for the obviously painful events in life, not for the mundane small hurts or defeats that we incur daily…sometimes even by our own voices.  And yet, this way of being always left me wanting more, but not sure what that ‘more’ would be.
In exploring this idea of finding something more, a different way of being and responding, that didn’t leave me still struck down, I’ve come into the gracious presence of compassion and her sister, self-compassion.

As one writer puts it ‘ to turn around the tendency to be reduced by life’.  In my life, I have known that feeling of being reduced like a second skin.  For those who know me, undoubtedly they’d be surprised to hear that admission from me.  Like most people, I’ve been well trained to put on a brave face believing nobody likes to be around a pity party.  I took this to the extreme, afraid of showing me and all the pieces that hurt.  I’d even hid them from myself.  I’m fortunate I have a good family, married for 25 years and we have a priceless 12 year old son.

But along the way, the silence of an undiagnosed brain injury in my husband chipped away at our hopes and dreams.  We coped and survived, but stayed silent in our pain.  Because on the outside he looked fine to everyone else, to say otherwise somehow felt like a betrayal.  Compassion for us, and for our situation, didn’t even enter our awareness.  How could we explain our life to those on the outside?  When it’s a traumatic event, we are quick to respond and offer kindness.  But when it’s just so everyday, the novelty isn’t there.
We just kept moving forward as best we could, almost like trying to pretend we were a normal family, as if asking for kindness would make us less because the need for it wasn’t self evident. And yet that was precisely what made things harder.

Why are we often quick to give our hearts in compassion when big events strike, but we are not so quick—-and sometimes even go to the opposite end and are judgemental—in the small, sometimes invisible places that compassion is most needed?

That question is the catalyst behind this blog.  Im hopeful that this space will allow for reflection on our experiences and expectations around compassion, and especially how we can use it to take care of ourselves and then share that expanding goodness with others. I’m grateful to those who have encouraged me that this is a worthwhile topic to explore, and giving voice to our need for self compassion will help us find our ground.

 

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