Opening up to the world

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A Year of Mindfulness: 52 Weeks of Focus – Week 16

Compassion. Sometimes easier said than done, I believe compassion is a central lesson we are all here to learn. Centered on self more often than not, we quickly forget about the pain others are experiencing. Practicing compassion helps us to take the focus off of ourselves and to place it with another being.

At times, the person I struggle to find the most compassion for is myself. I will make excuses for everybody else, and then be hard on myself for the same types of mistakes. Other times, I’m lost inside myself, nearly oblivious to the outside world. The time in my life when I felt the most compassion for other humans was during my 19th & 20th years when my mom grew sick and then died of Ovarian Cancer. Going through that type of grief opens you up to the world like nothing else. I saw everyone I encountered with new eyes—who knew what pain they were hiding? And often the pain was transparent—they could read it on me like I could smell it on them. This bond with strangers.

And if laughter by the evidently carefree seemed inappropriate, it was also understandable. Laughter during that time seemed wrong—but was such a guilty relief.

These days, I am highly tuned in to the suffering of non-human animals—and it’s hard to forgive humans their role. But a broader picture emerges. A connection of all creatures on this planet. We are not so different. I remind myself that compassion extends to humans as well as animals. If only I could harness that feeling of connection, compassion, empathy that I felt in my deepest grief, without killing myself in the process.

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