Compassion is a topic I keep coming across in blogs at the moment (picking up the idea of serendipity from my own blog recently!). Yogis often talk about cultivating compassion towards others, but receiving compassion is also an art that’s worth practicing. I read a great post recently about handling compassion, how to confront one’s vulnerability and how to ‘stay present’ with the reaction this can inspire from other people even when it makes us uncomfortable (or, in my case, even more uncomfortable). I know I’m seen as empathetic to others and this comes quite naturally to me, but I’m pretty bad both confronting my weakness as well as at accepting the compassion shown to me by others.
So how do I handle this kind of thing? (Leaving aside my hypocrisy of giving but not receiving…)
Mostly by avoidance. By not being honest with myself or with those around me about how I’m feeling. It’s a learned behaviour from early years when I felt I had no cheerleaders on my side. Doctors, family, teachers, friends, friends’ parents (I was a teenager then) offered up only doubts: were my symptoms ‘real’ or all in my head, was I making it up to get attention, was it something other than ME (drug-taking and anorexia being top contenders, unless I was just lazy…), and — almost by mutual consent — they offered an attitude that if we all ignored it, it would just go away.
Now yoga makes me aware there’s another more open way to explore how I feel more honestly, now that I have concepts of ahimsa and satya and all the rest to guide me. Yoga is gently confrontational. Each practice creates a space for opening my eyes and looking bravely into corners I’ve chosen to ignore for years. Never mind my interest in the anatomy of poses — it’s the skeletons in the closet I should be paying attention to!
The stumbling block to all this is trust. In myself, in others, in the world.
Ah, there’s plenty of scope for practice there…
Somehow thinking of this as a work in progress that I can change little by little makes all things possible: it brings a sense of gratitude for all that is available to me even on grotty days and a sense of bowled-over-in-wonder at the good days. 🙂