I watched a webinar yesterday presented by long time meditation teacher, Tara Brach, as she is starting a free radical compassion challenge on April 26.
The question came up of how can we have compassion without exceptions? It’s easy to have compassion for those we love. But we often say “I can’t have compassion for people who perpetuate racial injustice, climate change non believers/believers, COVID or vaccine believers/nonbelievers, the 1%, people outside my faith, murderers, physical/emotional abusers, people who betrayed me, etc”.
We say love knows no boundaries but understandably we build boundaries up… to protect ourselves and people we love. (This doesn’t mean we shouldn’t create safe places for ourselves and each other. We also need to be accountable for our actions).
I was surprised at Tara Brach’s answer as she explained at length the importance of creating an embodied experience of compassion for ourselves by taking a U-turn. We can feel our own pain, anger, grief and bring compassion to all those hurt parts of ourselves while staying with them. Notice with awareness that the limbic system is trying to protect ourselves. We hurt because we care and people who do bad stuff are also hurting.
With the more compassion we bring to ourselves then perhaps we can notice more quickly before the protective parts of our brain want us to react out of fear (flight, fight or freeze).
In this compassionate caring for ourselves a lens of perception can open so that we may understand and eventually have compassion for others. That even though people can do horrible things, that is also only one aspect of them. In this freedom the need to “cancel out” people, numb/distract ourselves, defend and reject the polarities we face won’t have as strong of a hold. We act with purpose from a neutral place (the heart) because we have embodied it. However, this is a process and takes time. And then we need to repeat that process over and over in deeper layers of ourselves.
That talk ignited a whole new possibility of compassion within myself as I , like many of you, continue to navigate these challenging times. The phrase, “have compassion for yourself” can be so much more than an overused phrase if we embody it.
I am still integrating it, so you might want to check out Tara Brach to find your own clarity about her talk.