True love and compassion takes work. It takes the courage to look at ourselves first and explore more deeply all the ways we don’t feel that way, while letting go of self judgment.
So many of us understand that love and compassion is the way to change the world. But we sometimes feel like it is “woo woo”, or like there’s no way that could really be all there is to it. It’s a simple idea, but not always an easy one to manifest as we are each dealing with our own humanity, figuring out how to exist and flourish as best we can in this beautiful, crazy world. Really stepping into true love and compassion…trusting in it, believing in it…takes courage, self exploration and forgiveness.
When it feels hard to believe that love and compassion could change the world, it’s not because we don’t wish it to be true, but because the hopelessness about what’s possible can creep in and pull us towards the false safety of staying closed, protected, and separate from our fellow humans. We live in a world that, in addition to love, compassion, understanding, kindness, good deeds, and friendly neighbors is full of hatred, fear, wars, bigotry, and oppression. How do we make sense of it all, and how we do keep holding love in our hearts while experiencing all that is happening around us? Taking the time to look inside ourselves isn’t just about us…it affects how we feel, think, and act with the world and can ultimately help us find the love, compassion and understanding we seek.
We are naturally born with hope, zest, and love. We can see this clearly in children. The harshness of the world comes at us at different times in our young lives, and little by little the “realities” of life creep in. The adults around us have been scared and scarred by the crushed dreams of their own hopelessness and fears and they pass that along to us. In small ways and sometimes in big ways, we start to lose our connection to the place inside of us where we know that love rules. We are naturally protective of our own lives and well-being, and we can get confused by the hate and doubts and blame and fear that we see, not only in the world around us, but in ourselves. How do we work through all of that? How do we understand the span of human emotions and feelings, that they’re all valid, and that we can take responsibility for managing them? It can get very confusing when those feelings overwhelm us, pulling us to act on them either towards ourselves or towards others. Because we feel like we are protecting ourselves, we can feel righteous in our actions, and lose sight of our natural connections to other humans, and our connection to ourselves.
There are many ways to explore our understanding of the world, start to shift our perceptions and find some peace and understanding within ourselves. In yoga and meditation, we use the breath to guide us towards our internal space and bring connection back to our inner knowing. In Yoga philosophy there are Sutras pertaining to the Kleshas which are the ways of human suffering. The first klesha, avidya, encompasses all the other kleshas and is about the misconception and ignorance that creates misunderstanding…not only of those around us but of ourselves as well. It’s about the disconnection from our true selves that causes us to suffer through our ego, pride, attachment, aversion, hatred, and fear.
If we decide to take responsibility for our own feelings and go towards healing this misconception of ourselves, it can start with small steps and if we choose, we can explore more deeply. Self exploration tends to be like peeling back an onion, finding many layers as we go. It’s important to get and have support to work through it all, whether it be meditation, therapy, spiritual guidance, personal coaching or something else.
As we embark on our individual growth and development journey, we start to see how it’s essential to bringing us back in sync with love and compassion for the world. It doesn’t mean we won’t ever feel unkind, or angry, or scared, or like we don’t like some people. How do we practice kindness that isn’t about just pretending or being all “nicey-nicey” when we don’t want to be? Does operating from a place of love and compassion mean we take crap from people or don’t stand up for ourselves or don’t voice our opinions? Not at all. It can be an act of love to call someone out on an unthoughtful, aggressive behavior that is harming someone else, and ultimately harming the perpetrator as well. It can be an act of compassion to be kind to the person who is cranky and having a bad day. But it’s really never a ‘should’ or a ‘have to’. We are ALL a work in progress and as we cultivate a deeper understanding of ourselves and our own struggles, we can create loving, thoughtful actions for ourselves, while realizing that others are in their own part of their own journey, just like us.
We are often hard on ourselves for all the places we struggle and we’re hard on others for the places they struggle. One of the hardest things to do can be dissolving the cycle of judgement that keeps us stuck in the energy of blame, doubt, and mistrust. The world is full of judgement, whether it be about how someone looks, their fashion choices, what they believe, who they date, how they act, how they speak, etc. We are constantly assessing people and making internal or external judgements about them. Those judgements really start within ourselves, where we’re hardest on ourselves, and we pass them along to others where it’s hard to face our own struggles. Pulling those internal pieces apart is so important in finding a clearer understanding about what’s happening in order to end the cycle and come back to love and understanding.
Forgiving ourselves for any ways that we may have gotten lost, not done everything perfectly, or maybe harmed others, is another important key in the process of self-understanding. There are many things we do throughout our lives out of anger, fear, lack of information, ignorance, or self-righteousness. We’re not always aware that we’re doing it, and if we become aware later, we often tend to feel badly (consciously or subconsciously) about how we acted. It is not only important, but necessary to find the forgiveness of ourselves that allows for the healing of those choices. It ultimately helps us to forgive others as well, and bring us back to a more centered, peaceful place in ourselves, allowing for love and compassion to shine through.
Where are you at in your personal journey? What ways have you explored or would you like to explore towards becoming strong and grounded in your own internal knowing and staying present in love and compassion? Can you forgive yourself? Can you find a place of non-judgement for any ways that you’re hard on yourself? Be kind, be gentle, be courageous, start with yourself, the rest will follow.
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