When we talk of compassion, we usually mean working with those less fortunate than ourselves. However, compassionate action involves working with ourselves as much as working with others. To relate with others compassionately is a challenge.
Really communicating to the heart and being there for someone else means not shutting down on that person, which means, first of all, not shutting down on ourselves. This means allowing ourselves to feel what we feel and not pushing it away. It means accepting every aspect of ourselves, even the parts we don’t like. To do this requires openness, which in Buddhism is sometimes called emptiness – not fixing or holding on to anything. Only in an open, nonjudgmental space can we acknowledge what we are feeling.
It’s difficult to hear that what we reject out there is what we reject in ourselves, and what we reject in ourselves is what we are going to reject out there. But that in a nutshell, is how it works in line with Buddhist thinking. To the degree that we have compassion for ourselves, we will also have compassion for others. Having compassion starts and ends with having compassion for all those unwanted parts of ourselves, all those imperfections that we don’t even want to look at.
In each of us, there’s a lot of softness, a lot of heart. Touching that soft spot has to be the starting place. This is what compassion is all about. We have to mindfully take the time to give ourselves an open space in which to feel our soft spot and nurture compassion towards ourselves.
We start with ourselves. We make ourselves right or we make ourselves wrong, every day, every week, every month and year of our lives. We start with being willing to feel what we are going through. It starts with being willing to have a compassionate relationship with the part of ourselves that we feel are not worthy. If we are willing through meditation to be mindful not only of what feels comfortable, but also of what pain feels like, if we aspire to stay awake and open to what we’re feeling, to recognize and acknowledge it as best we can in each moment, then something begins to change.
As we begin to have a sense of celebrating the aspects of ourselves that we found so impossible before, something will shift in us. Something will shift permanently in us. As we learn to have compassion for ourselves, the circle of compassion for others becomes wider.
~ Taken from “When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times” by Pema Chodron