Deep compassion

I’ve been avoiding someone from my past life for a while now. They hurt me a lot, in ways I’m only just coming to recognise, let along come to terms with. For the past few months these memories, long suppressed, have come out in my yoga practice. That’s my laboratory and place of experimentation. How do I feel now, how do I make sense of what happened in the past, and how do I move through it with honesty rather than denial? I try to be on the mat with presence and acknolwedgement of the difficult feelings that arise, the painful experiences that are triggered (to use the technical language of trauma) by some aspects of asana practice, but that’s just an hour or two a day. It’s relatively contained — although in truth it often overwhelms me. But there’s some comfort in the rituals and the structure of practice, and knowing that when I finish my practice there will be some temporary sense of closure, some level of respite until the next time I face up to myself and stand tall.

But in mundane everyday life, I’m full of avoidance. I knew there was a message left on my voicemail. But I didn’t listen to it for two weeks. I didn’t want to hear that voice from the past. And then unavoidably I had to take this phonecall. Hubby answered the phone and innocently passed it over to me. I couldn’t say no. Of course, with deep irony, this call interrupted my savasana too…!

So I talked to this voice from the past, trying not to shiver as various recollections flooded back. Why were they calling? What did they want from me? What could I bring out from my fear, shame, regret, and all those difficult emotional places I’m working out? Well, quite a lot, it turns out. They were calling because they had suffered a recent and completely unexpected bereavement and they didn’t know who else to turn to, who else understood them well enough to provide good counsel and emotional support. So of course I offered what I could. And it came from a place of compassion, a place deeper than my own hurt and fear. Although all that matters a lot and I’m trying no longer to deny it and push it aside, there is a deeper layer of shared suffering, based on our common humanity and the fact that at points in our lives we all love and lose, and we each must rebuild ourselves afresh in the face of these personal tragedies.

It’s what I’m doing for myself every day in my practice.

And somehow out of that I was able to offer some love and compassion to this demon from my past. In their current situation, they too are lost and wounded and fearful. And I know what that feels like.

Today I am proud of my strength. As I go about my business, the secret soundtrack playing in my heart is “I will survive”.

I will survive
Oh, as long as I know how to love, I know I’ll stay alive
I’ve got all my life to live
And I’ve got all my love to give and I’ll survive
I will survive

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