Is this a question you ask yourself? Sometimes I ask it.
I used to think that we were put here on this planet to love. Just plain love.
Today, I hold a different view. I think we're here to embody compassion. Why? Because true compassion, in my view, anyway, is a step "above" love. Some people are easy to love; others more difficult by their very nature. But with training and practice anybody hold any person—even the most difficult or unkind—in tenderness and mercy.
The problem is that we are not really taught how to be compassionate. We are taught to like or dislike, to love or disdain. And the same applies to ourselves. We are not shown (nor encouraged) how to be self-compassionate, which is absolutely vital, before we can even begin to demonstrate genuine compassion for others.
This is why I talk and teach so much about self-compassion. Self-compassion is the pre-requisite for living in and creating a peaceful, kind, and loving world.
I'd like to share an excerpt from my book, My Deepest Me, on self-compassion. The text below serves as Day 14 for our 30-day journey. I believe it offers a solid explanation of my perspective and take on "the meaning of life."
Our faith traditions tell us we are supposed to be patient, kind, and generous, but sometimes that’s just plain hard to do. Life is challenging. People are too. This is why it is important to learn to treat ourselves kindly—to treat ourselves as lovingly and tenderly as we would a dear friend or a precious child. Instead of being disappointed in ourselves for missing the mark, or failing at embodying the spiritual virtues to which we aspire, we can choose another course of action: self-compassion.
In every spiritual tradition, compassion is highly valued. Compassion for ourselves, however, has often been aligned with self-absorption or selfishness. And we are not taught, nor encouraged, how to be self-compassionate.
In truth, self-compassion is one of the most powerful spiritual virtues we can adopt to walk peaceably in the world. First, we must learn to walk peaceably with ourselves. Then we can learn to walk this way with others. We cannot exhibit true compassion for others if we have not cultivated it for ourselves.
1. Self-assess and reflect: How skilled are you at self-compassion? Do you talk nicely to yourself or are you self-critical? Do you make kind choices for yourself or do you tend to push yourself? Do you have high expectations of yourself and find fault with yourself if you don’t meet them?
2. Reflect on this teaching about self-compassion by the Buddha: “You can search throughout the entire universe for someone who is more deserving of your love and affection than you are yourself, and that person is not to be found anywhere. You yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe deserve your love and affection.” What stirs in you when you read this?
3. Right now, place your hand over your heart and offer self-compassion to yourself, saying “I am enough.” Breathe in, breathe out. Allow a sense of “enoughness” to wash through you. Feel the transformative power of knowing you are good enough—just as you are.
Self-compassion opens my heart to myself in a kind and loving way. It routs out feelings of selfishness, deservedness, and guilt. When I am tender with myself, I can be more gentle with others.
Excerpted from My Deepest Me by Janice Lynne Lundy.
©2015. All Rights Reserved
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This morning I heard the school bus go by for the first time in months. I was in bed, slowly awakening from a less-than-restful night's sleep, and after hearing the bus roar up the hill, I thought to myself, "Time for me to get back to school, too."
Though the school I had in mind for myself was not a traditional one, a building with walls and windows, but the landscape of my heart. A space of potential quiet, characterized by inner exploration and discovery. For me, school is a purple, buckwheat-filled, meditation cushion.
It's been a busy, loosey-goosey summer here. My husband "semi-retired" in early July so he is home with me now much of the time. Home is where I work and practice. It's been wonderful to spend early mornings together, sipping coffee, enjoying the quiet having gentle conversation, but I've missed my "practice"—a more formal time of being alone with myself and All-That-Is.
So, this morning, I dusted off my meditation cushion and sat. It was difficult, to say the least. My thoughts behaved like untamed horses. After a few moments of inner struggle, I chose to listen to a recording of crystal bowl playing to help me crawl back to center.
I enjoyed my process, though I wouldn't say that the practice itself was great. But then, that's what a meditation practice is all about: noticing when you want to label it, judge it (and yourself), especially when it feels less than idyllic.
This is good for me. Meditation is one of the kindest, most compassionate things I can do for myself because it allows me to meet myself where I am with gentleness. My "best" meditation practice is when I am aware enough of whatever I encounter within myself to be quite alright with all of it. Even thoughts that behave like wild horses have their own interesting cadence and insights.
Just before I meditated, I was reading from Ram Dass' book, Polishing the Mirror: How to Live from Your Spiritual Heart. Synchronistically, I'd left off with the chapter on spiritual practice. This passage in particular spoke to my heart:
"It's delicate, because you have to practice from the place of really remembering why you're doing it, with some joy and appreciation. If you go into it with, "Oh, I gotta do my practice," the practice will eventually clear that resistance out of you, but I don't necessarily feel that's a good thing. That's what happens to people when they have to go to church every Sunday. I would rather push you away from spiritual practices until you're so hungry for them that you really want to do a practice, rather than give you a sense that you ought to do the practice or that you're a bad person if you don't do it, because you will end up hating the whole business. In the long run, I don't think it will be good for you. Spiritual practice is wonderful if you want to do it. And if you don't, don't."
This morning I woke up hungry. And grateful. Grateful that I knew of a way to sate the spiritual hunger I was feeling. Pull the purple cushion out of the closet, de-lint it and sit down. To me, doing so felt much like it used to when I'd climb aboard the big yellow bus as a kid on the first day of school.
Today, may you welcome yourself home in similar fashion doing whatever works, using whatever practice gets you back to you. We begin again. It's back-to-school time, back-to-self time. May you enjoy the ride.
A few years ago, when I was serving as a magazine editor and feature writer, I had the privilege of interviewing Clarissa Pinkola Estes, PhD. I'd admired her work for years.
At the time we were talking about her new venture, The Dangerous Old Woman, and the conversation often returned to the subject of wisdom.
I finally asked her, "How do you define wisdom?"
Her answer, "Wisdom is what works."
I've thought long and hard about her answer and, truthfully, have pretty much taken the definition on as my own.
I used to think of wisdom as something lofty. Something only a gift few people had. Or something to be acquired as you aged and had clocked plenty of life experience.
Abiding by this definition, I believe that each of one of has a deep reservoir of wisdom. It may not feel like it on most days, but it's there. Sometimes the difficulty of daily life keeps us distanced from it, frantically paddling in a swirling pool of yuck and muck where we lack the mental clarity and emotional strength to climb onto steadier ground.
Wisdom is what helps us stand tall—calm, clear, confident. Cognizant that we have what it takes to roll with the ups and downs of life. To love rather than hate. To heal rather than hurt. To grow rather than hide. As Dr. CPE reminds us, yes, wisdom is what works.
A few years ago I was guided to engage a morning process of accessing my own inner wisdom. I wanted to remember what worked in terms of living a wholehearted life. I'd light a candle, set the intention to tap into my own good stuff (and that which the Divine revealed to me), then write it down. Those jottings became the "Beads of Wisdom" I sent out to my e-mail list beginning in 2012.
Today, I launched a new version of these Beads. I call them "Beads of Wisdom 3.0" because they're new and different, because I'm new and different.
Passionate about growth, I vow to always be faithful to what is unfolding within me and to where it's taking me. I'm always happy to share what I'm discovering along the way.
So with great pleasure I invite you to join me for a new and deeper understanding of wisdom and receive a daily dose of mindfulness, lovingkindness, and compassion. A dollop of what works for any of us to live in the highest way possible—calm, clear and wise, no matter what.
You can read more about Beads of Wisdom 3.0 here and read some samples too.
They're free, from my heart to yours. Enjoy!
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