“Compassion in action has to start with ourselves. It is unconditional compassion for ourselves that leads naturally to unconditional compassion for others.” -Pema Chodron
Somewhere in one of my notebooks I scribbled a quote by Ram Das, “Compassion=Fierce Grace.” It got me thinking. The word fierce in front of grace really denotes something deeper, more powerful and radical. When we think about it, we must be fierce, loyal, loving, brave, diligent, respectful, honorable, persistent and insistent with showing ourselves compassion. This dedication to our “compassionate self” is really the cornerstone and foundation on which the rest of our relationships are built.
In my mind, the word fierce also signifies strength. And in my humble opinion, being strong is a precursor to being compassionate. Strength in our beliefs, values, vision, integrity, priorities, practices, authenticity, self-preservation and personal power allows us to help and support others without losing ourselves. Yet, I realize how daunting this can be for empaths and highly sensitive people. That is why remaining steadfast in our loving-kindness practices is part of the equation.
Once we are able to stand strong with ourselves and shower ourselves with love, compassion and understanding, will we be able to stand alongside another and genuinely be our compassionate self…no pretense, no sense of obligation, duty, judgement, resentment or need of accolades. We will be able to hold the space for that person’s struggles, sorrows or suffering without taking on their struggles, sorrows or suffering. We can lend support, show acceptance, understanding, and be non-judgmental yet stand in our own personal power. Why? Because we have done our own housekeeping and taken care of our Self first.
It’s all about alignment (as is any yoga pose). A strong foundation can hold us, support us, lift and carry us. Showing ourselves compassion is spiritual work. It’s knowing and wanting to be aligned to that divine essence in us – which is part of the bigger divine creative power that gives us life, holds and sustains us. It’s wanting to show up in our best light. It’s wanting to be of service. It’s wanting to be part of the universal energetic flow of giving and receiving. And when we do it from a place of our personal power, from a place of fierce grace, we know we are able to be compassionate without depleting ourselves.
Every day we are faced with the opportunity to be compassionate, if we take the time to notice (just sayin’). We can go throughout our day, eyes wide open or sealed shut. The choice is ours to make. We can help others heal and help to move humanity forward, and that is also a choice we must make. And we can’t make that choice without first helping and healing ourselves. I believe it is our privilege and a responsibility we have to ourselves for having been given the gift of life….the gift of another day.
I will leave you with a beautiful prayer-meditation from the lovely book, May You Know Joy – Meditations for Everyday Living:
May you know compassion. May you know that compassion is innate in all human beings. Nurture compassion and begin accepting yourself for who you are and without judgement. Be genuine in your motives and take time to listen and understand and care for yourself. From this grounded practice, take your compassion into the world. Compassion runs deep and has incredible healing powers.
Inhale love & light…Exhale grace & gratitude, JTC