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The Power of Compassion

"From my own limited experience I have found that the greatest degree of inner tranquility comes from the development of love and compassion. The more we care for the happiness of others, the greater our own sense of well-being becomes. Cultivating a close, warm-hearted feeling for others automatically puts the mind at ease. This helps remove whatever fears or insecurities we may have and gives us the strength to cope with any obstacles we encounter. It is the ultimate source of success in life. As long as we live in this world, we are bound to encounter problems. If, at such times, we lose hope and become discouraged, we diminish our ability to face difficulties. If, on the other hand, we remember that it is not just ourselves but every one who has to undergo suffering, this more realistic perspective will increase our determination and capacity to overcome troubles. Indeed, with this attitude, each new obstacle can be seen as yet another valuable opportunity to improve our mind!” -- Dalai Lama, Compassion and the Individual

I remember the day I made the decision to start a support group for parents and caregivers of chronically ill and special needs children. My daughter was six years old, her sister was eight and we were struggling for balance in a chaotic household riddled with medical trauma. I was on the edge of a divorce, felt alone fighting daily depression. I had no one to relate to. I was determined to find support beyond therapy once or twice a week. It wasn’t right to feel bereft in such a terrible time of need and my anger spurred me into action.

I had no experience as a group leader. I had only the desire to seek comfort and support from others who understood. Our pediatrician validated my determination and I formed a small support group.

Mostly mothers attended with some fathers. The children’s illnesses varied but family struggles were similar. We wanted to feel support and find comfort in inclusion. We found solace in sharing solutions to our day-to-day problems. Unfortunately, without a skilled facilitator, the group lasted four months. I felt defeated and yet determined. My anger was my fuel.

I learned a lot about myself since this experience almost 35 years ago. I have always been empathic, aware of others emotional. This support group experience birthed a deep compassion and a desire to help.

I understand that empathy is the ability to viscerally feel the emotions of others and compassion is when those feelings and thoughts include the desire to help.

My difficult childhood helped me define the best possible childhood experience for my children.

My daughter’s chronic illness and ultimate transition taught me survival skills while dealing with impossible odds. Her fierceness taught me to be proud of my differences.

My late spouse’s tragic car accident helped me experience life after death.

I hold hope in my compassion when you lose yours.

I hold courage in my compassion when you can’t find yours.

I love myself with compassion and accept my primal wounds.

I exercise healthy boundaries with compassion and feel safe.

Compassion begins within.

Let us agree

for now

that we will not say

the breaking

makes us stronger

or that it is better

to have this pain

than to have done

without this love.

Let us promise

we will not

tell ourselves

time will heal

the wound,

when every day

our waking

opens it anew.

Perhaps for now

it can be enough

to simply marvel

at the mystery

of how a heart

so broken

can go on beating,

as if it were made

for precisely this—

as if it knows

the only cure for love

is more of it,

as if it sees

the heart’s sole remedy

for breaking

is to love still,

as if it trusts

that its own

persistent pulse

is the rhythm

of a blessing

we cannot

begin to fathom

but will save us


Participants’ Reflections

  • This was huge for me, for where I am at this point in time. I have a big decision I need to make, and your opening lines about love and compassion helped move me forward. The whole topic of anger (see March 4 blog). For me, it’s a foreign land. In hearing your story and how you turned anger into the fruitful end that you did is a beautiful permission to look at anger in a whole different way. My go-tos are to avoid it or get sad. Sadness becomes a pity party. It doesn’t bring anything about. But anger does as you show. The phrase ‘reaching out’ – you reached out and made connections and brought support, if not healing. Thank you for your example.

  • From the very beginning, this resonated with me. You reached out to others to support them and support you. You do that here. The group does that here. With Covid, at first, I had so many things on my to-do list and I kept going. But then, the things were done and it was Christmas and I was alone for the first time in my life. So I kept plowing along. But what I noticed, if I don’t pay attention, something will land me in it. I began to get frightened because all of a sudden, I was forgetting things, I wasn’t taking care of myself, I was impatient. I began thinking I’m just getting old. Then I read this article about late-stage pandemic problem. How the whole environment of Covid is creating these same symptoms in everyone, even younger people. Hearing you talk this morning about what you went through and how you handled it, it just resonated in the same way. I’m going to share the article with friends.

  • What I wrote this morning was hard for me. I don’t understand how I write. It’s like someone else is writing and then I hear it when I read it. It brought me to a place of sadness. Problems can be so huge and it seems hard to think past them, but obviously we can. When I use compassion to reach out to people, it helps me feel better because I hold the hope that people are struggling to find. I found hope living through terrible situations. I think it’s important to not give up because, by sharing what one feels, it can change a life. Matt Kahn says, “to hear it is to clear it, to feel it is to heal it.” I kept saying that today as I cried through the meditation. I heard it, so hopefully this is another layer coming out of the incredible pain I put up with for years and years.

  • One of the things I’ve been noticing about myself, my journey is to figure out what is my energy and what belongs to someone else. I’d experience anger, and then realize some of it belonged to my mother. So I tend to pay attention to energy. Yesterday, the energy shifted in the group and I can’t explain what it was. And today, I heard your words and I couldn’t get into the meditation, my mind was all over the place. I’d try to quiet it and come back to my breath. But it wasn’t happening. I’m saying this because, based on that article someone just spoke of, I think there is a new energy here that we haven’t experienced before. It’s universal and it’s coming through us at different times in different ways.

  • It’s hard to put words on it because we don’t understand it. Words are limiting, some things are beyond my vocabulary.

  • That was a perfect reading. I loved the line “I hold hope in my compassion when you lose yours.” It’s so true, using our heart to help someone, even if it’s for a few moments. 100% love for a few seconds can last a lifetime. The feelings in the poem sounded very familiar. It’s okay if there is something we haven’t been able to resolve—anger, guilt, fear—it’s okay even though we are here to work on ourselves. We are here in a loving, trusting community. It’s a relief to hear it spoken that I’m okay even if I haven’t been able to do it all yet. When I do things, I want to do them well. Hearing that poem and your words, I’m feeling that maybe it’s okay—that I can do a good job and I don’t have to have resolved all those things.

  • The part that resonated with me was about heartbreak. You said that the only thing that can have you go on from heartbreak is loving again. Your heart is breaking but you are still using your heart to love, and that’s how you go on. It resonated with me. When my son became estranged, I still love him and my heart is breaking, but love gets me through. Thank you.

  • Thank you so much. This was an incredible reading. You reminded me of a situation. I knew of a young 18-year-old who was suicidal. One day, she and an adult invited me to lunch. I didn’t know why. It turned out the young girl was depressed and suicidal because she was realizing she was gay and she couldn’t tell her parents. It was a shock to me because it was the first year I was out of the closet and I was afraid myself. But they were reaching out to me for help. I didn’t know how to help, but I shared my coming out story. In doing that, I gave her hope and she is still alive. It’s true we can help each other by giving each other hope by the strength of our stories. Thank you so much.

  • By sharing your story, it doesn’t necessarily have to be right and about fixing things. It’s sharing our truth and, in that moment, that person knows they are not alone.

  • It’s important to keep in mind that our bodies are barometers, and we all have levels of how we are tuned into our bodies. When we hit a truth, we cry because our hearts are impacted. When we see beauty, we get goosebumps because it affects us. It’s a barometer. I use my barometer to help lead me to what feels right. The more I use it, the better I get. It’s a way using my whole being to function in life. This reading today hit my barometer. I hope it did for you as well. I hope you had a nice morning meditation. We’re going to go on with our day being gentle and compassionate with ourselves. If you pass a mirror, smile to yourself. You deserve it.

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