Recently, I feel as though I have been cracked wide open. This is the first time that I have dived deep into some powerful work with a therapist. It is messy. I am coming up upon stuff that I do not want to look at. I can see how certain experiences of my past have caused me to be limited in certain ways as an adult. I see that some of my beliefs are not serving me at all. Tears of pain and also joy have soaked the pages of my journal as I write my deepest fears and also step into my power to claim my wildest dreams. I know that the funky feelings are arising because it's time for me to look at them, honor them, and allow them to move through me.
Through this growth and understanding of my own limits, I have noticed that I have been internally softening to people and situations that once triggered the hell out of me.
In this article I will share two ways to cultivate more compassion toward others.
1) Understand your own limits to accept and acknowledge the limits of others.
I used to get very frustrated with people who are not direct and lack certain communication skills. I would think: "I would do it this way," or, "If they were only like me..."
Lately, however, I have been remembering that these skills of setting boundaries and communicating clearly, compassionately, and with love are pretty new to me! Not too long ago, reaction was my default rather than an intentional loving-yet-direct response. Not too long ago, I avoided difficult conversations and just kept things inside and let resentment build.
I began to understand that maybe the things that bother me about others are their limits and their unique challenges, where I trip up around my own set of opportunities like people-pleasing.
So I ask you: What edge are you working in your life? Has your heart been repeatedly broken and you are having trouble trusting in love? Is it possible that the people that most trigger you are suffering from their own set of wounds too? When I step into this inquiry I immediately soften around situations and people that once easily sent me into an internal tail spin of judgment and attack.
2) Do The Compassion Exercise:
One of my first yoga teachers and gurus, Natalie, taught me the Compassion Exercise. This is found in the book Resurfacing by Harry Palmer, which is one of the books of the Avatar self-mastery course that he created. I do this exercise often, especially before I have a difficult conversation with someone or if I feel judgment, anger, or a justified resentment. One of my favorite slogans from AA is: "There are no justified resentments."
Here is the exercise from Palmer's book:
This exercise can be done anywhere that people congregate (airports, malls, parks, beaches, etc.). It should be done on strangers, unobtrusively, from some distance. Try to do all five steps on the same person.
Step 1 -- With attention on the person, repeat to yourself: "Just like me, this person is seeking some happiness for his/her life."
Step 2 -- With attention on the person, repeat to yourself: "Just like me, this person is trying to avoid suffering in his/her life."
Step 3 -- With attention on the person, repeat to yourself: "Just like me, this person has known sadness, loneliness, and despair."
Step 4 -- With attention on the person, repeat to yourself: "Just like me, this person is seeking to fulfill his/her needs."
Step 5 -- With attention on the person, repeat to yourself: "Just like me, this person is learning about life."
I often share this exercise in my yoga classes during the final savasana. I always receive amazing feedback from my students, especially during the holidays when resentments can run high.
This exercise reminds me of our universal One-ness.
We are all inherently the same. Love, belonging, purpose, community, and a connection something Greater are woven into the tapestry of our shared desired feelings. When we can truly know this, our ego-driven feelings of separation vanish while compassion and acceptance thrives.
As the Dali Lama said: " If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion."
May your day be filled with Love and Light.