Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Compassion in the Mirror and Beyond


Special thanks to UK education leadership specialist Viv Grant of Integrity Coaching for her tweet this week with this very important reminder from the American author and Buddhist practitioner, Jack Kornfield.


This one also goes out to the other new connections I’ve made in recent months, especially Will Lee and Hannah Wilson. I’ve felt great compassion coming from your work.

Compassion. In my mind, it’s one of the keys to our existence. The standard definition describes a sense of pity and concern for what others are going through. When someone is killed for no other reason than the color of their skin or when famine and violence threaten innocent families simply trying to live, we should have a sense of compassion. Compassion leads to action and action is what really matters. Action shows what we really stand for.

What benefit is there to looking at ourselves with compassion? It might help to literally go to the mirror and do so. Look into your own eyes and say, “I see you and what you’ve gone through.”.

Sometimes we can’t face ourselves. We feel as though the problems within and around us are simply too much to handle and we turn away. This can put us on the slippery slope toward defeat. If we fall into a mindset where we feel helpless and hopeless, then our vision becomes blind to anything else.

There is a mountain of pain in this world. Yet, there is also great goodness. If we can look at ourselves and cling to even a single positive, we have hope. If we have hope, we can keep looking. We can keep trying. And when we try, anything…or at least something...is possible.

Fail? Regroup and go at it again. Perhaps you’ll inspire someone else to make a move. Even if you don’t get a single acknowledgement of your attempts, you can still look yourself in the eye in that mirror and again show yourself some compassion: “No one can take my work away from me.”. Eventually, your efforts may make a surprising difference in your life… or in another’s.

I was soaked in self-loathing in 8th grade, as many early teens are. I was a highly emotional, artistic girl struck down by a self-doubt and peer ridicule that I was not able to handle alone. A classmate found me one day, hiding in the art supplies storeroom, bawling my eyes out. Through a series of goofy jokes and pointed observations, he helped me see some sunshine despite the maelstrom I was being swallowed by. He showed me compassion. I learned later that he took that amazingly compassionate spirit and reached out to a multitude of others through his short life. To my lifelong regret, he did not receive- or feel- the compassion he himself needed, taking his own life in despair. He turned his glance away from the eyes in that mirror and couldn’t find a way to look back.

Let’s shoot for as perfect a compassion as we can manage. It starts with ourselves. It must then spread out to the larger world. To each other.

Compassion. Action. What we really stand for.

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