Poem by Miller Williams (father of Lucinda)
Have compassion for everyone you meet,
even if they don’t want it. What seems conceit,
bad manners, or cynicism is always a sign
of things no ears have heard, no eyes have seen.
You do not know what wars are going on
down there where the spirit meets the bone.
This poem was shared with me during a Compassion Cultivation Training I recently took. It’s a course developed by Stanford scientists and a group of noted individuals interested in the fundamentals motivations of individuals to do good. I was inspired to take this course as I realized that I wanted to teach my son how to love and accept himself and others, but to do that, I had to be able to do it for myself. In self-love and self-compassion, I was lacking.
So I began 2017 on a journey to find self-love and self-compassion, and I figured learning more about how to cultivate compassion surely could cultivate self-compassion. It turns out I was right! I still have a lot of work to do, but I am far better off than I was.
While many people consider themselves compassionate and are compassionate, developing conscious compassion is something truly wonderful in and of itself. Not only did this class help me to further find compassion for people, especially people I didn’t like, but it helped me to find it for myself. And my increased compassion for my tantrum-ing and trying toddler saved my sanity!
I wanted to share the poem above because it really says it all. We don’t know what another person has been through, experienced, and walked through, just like they do not know about us. This doesn’t excuse bad behavior, but sometimes a wee bit of understanding can lead to a closed mouth instead of name-calling.
There is so much to this training that I am not able to share it all here, so I will focus on self-compassion. We started our training off with breathing. Conscious compassion requires, well, consciousness and focus on the breath brings us into the moment. We also practiced daily meditation, which helped us find compassion for people we loved, ourselves, working our way up to people we did not care for. Our homework was to be conscious of our everyday lives, and as we made eye contact with someone to silently say to them, “May you be happy.” It’s a powerful exercise. Those four words hold more power than I initially thought. I then tried to wish happiness for myself. It was hard, and it was weird. I kept at it, and now I can genuinely wish happiness, peace, and joy for myself. It’s really nice.
Now, Westerners have the least amount of self-love and self-compassion for themselves in the world. We are not taught to do that for ourselves. We are taught to do that for others. But many of us find that we can’t do that for others UNTIL we can do it for ourselves. So I challenge you to take a moment each day, find a quiet space and say to yourself, “May I be happy, May I be free from suffering, May I know joy and peace.” Find love for yourself and see what happens!
May you be happy,
Click here for some more advice from Liv. This time on Breathing.