“Compassion sometimes requires us to be firm, to disappoint, and to say no. True compassion is giving from a place of authenticity and integrity as opposed to giving from a place of obligation and expectation.” -Candace Thoth
As a society we praise individuals who sacrifice their lives for the well-being of others. We idolize individuals who continuously give and those who always seem “nice.” For many years, I truly believed that my purpose was to make others feel good even at the expense of my own well-being. This mentality quickly led to compassion fatigue and burnout, but it ultimately allowed me to see where I had been untrue to myself and others. Here are some of the misconceptions I had about compassion:
A compassionate person should rarely say no to others.
A compassionate person should always put others first.
A compassionate person should always makes people feel good.
A compassionate person should always go out of their way to help.
A compassionate person should “fix it” whenever someone is suffering.
The above statements are just a few of the many misconceptions I had about what it means to be compassionate. Contrary to my intentions, operating from these beliefs resulted in being inauthentic and becoming resentful. Giving because we think we should or because we feel obligated to give is not true giving. Taking on the weight of the world and trying to “fix” things to make people feel better is ultimately harmful to ourselves and others. When we are over-responsible for others, we rob them of their opportunity to walk their own path. Additionally, we add unnecessary stress to our lives and sabotage our well-being. Sometimes the most effective way to help someone is by telling them no or even letting them go.
Genuine compassion means being true to ourselves, saying no when we mean no, living with integrity, and respecting people’s path. There is no need to “sacrifice” our integrity or well-being in order to be genuinely compassionate. When we are true to ourselves, we are at peace, which is the most compassionate thing we can do for the world.
I am continuously amazed by the mind’s craftiness and ability to create such convincing theatrics and stories. What’s more interesting is how easy it is to get swept into these stories and undoubtedly believe them to be true. Admittedly, it’s easier to be consumed by the mind’s stories because we can justify our reactive behaviors (attacks, gossiping, and judgments), relinquish our responsibility for our own inner peace, and remain the victim. Blaming others is instantly gratifying because we are allowed to cling to our comfort zones and fully convince ourselves that we were wronged.
On the other hand, taking a closer look at the mind’s stories requires taking responsibility and letting go of our justifications and excuses for reactive behaviors. It also requires questioning some of the things we have believed most of our lives, which can be frightening. In a sense, being responsible also means being vulnerable, which is a skill most of us have long forgotten how to do and yet both skills are the very things that set us free. We are bound to the vicious cycle of reactivity as long as we allow false stories to dictate our lives. The good news is that at any point, we can assume responsibility and reclaim our freedom.
Yesterday, when I snapped the photo above, a driver of a jeep (going about 35 mph) hit a cyclist. After hearing the loud noise, I turned around to see pieces of metal flying. Initially, I thought the jeep’s tire exploded but then I saw the driver and the passenger get out of the vehicle and rush to the front of the car, looking at the ground in shock. Immediately, I knew they had hit someone. My assumptions were confirmed as an ambulance arrived on the scene and the EMT workers put the cyclist on the gurney. The bike was upside down, seemingly stuck under the jeep. In just a flash (literally, a shutter flash), lives were instantly changed.
Witnessing the accident served as a reminder that every moment matters. Our lives can be taken at any time. We are not going to live in human form forever. There will be a day when our lives as we know it will cease to exist. Knowing that our time here is limited makes me incredibly appreciative of the experiences I’ve had and it also makes me more encouraged to take action on the things I want to do before passing. Our time here is precious and I choose to see that as a beautiful blessing and a loving reminder to live fully.
Please keep all those involved in the accident in your thoughts.
“Peace doesn’t require two people; it requires only one. It has to be you. The problem begins and ends there.”-Byron Katie
Throughout my life, I have had incredibly high expectations for myself and others. Thoughts like “he should be doing this,””she shouldn’t have done that,” or “I can’t believe I…” used to swarm around in mind like an F-5 tornado, stirring up immense anxiety and anger. It was as though I had a script of how life “should be” and anything or anyone who was not operating consistent with my ideas was harshly judged. Of course, none of the judgments were ever communicated, I was far too quiet to share, but underneath the surface my mind was swarming with judgmental thoughts. It wasn’t until I read Byron Katie’s Loving What Is that I consciously realized just how harsh the thoughts in my head could be. More importantly, I realized that they were simply not true, which was incredibly liberating. It took some time to wrap my mind around the fact that no one could truly betray me but being able to experience and understand that concept is rewarding.
People are free to be whoever they want to be. They are free to have totally opposing views from my own, live a drastically different lifestyle from my own, and even lie, cheat, and steal. They are free to do whatever they want to do and having a running script about what they should and should not be doing does little to prevent such activities from happening. Furthermore, strictly adhering to such a script only leads to frustration and disappointment. The reality is that we are all free. Part of that freedom is that people are going to behave inconsistently with our scripts, which ultimately, is perfectly fine. How boring life would be if our script completely dictated how life flowed? Allowing people to Be is peace.
Creativity is abundant, it’s simply waiting for us to allow, receive, and convey its messages. Look no farther than a kindergarten playground, where youth are running around with a plethora of fascinating ideas. On the playgrounds of our youngest youth, there’s rarely a concept of a poor idea, all is allowed to be expressed, explored, and attempted. But when we look across the average lifespan, something happens as we age; we inhibit ourselves from expressing the inspiration that flows through our veins and/or we become numb to the stream of creativity, unable to easily pick up its subtle cues. With creativity so rampant, why is it that so many people seem devoid of ideas? Why is it that so many people seem to express only what others expect of them? Why is it that people have a challenging time expressing themselves authentically?
There are many theories as to why and how many of us have reached this place of being effectively “blocked,” which we will not elaborate on because the most important point is that there is a solution. The main solution is to simply Be. Whenever an idea arises within us, we can allow it to linger instead of quickly quelling it and making a list of all the reasons it won’t work. We strip the life away from ideas before they even get an opportunity to bloom, failing to realize that perhaps the small blip we initially receive is just a tiny piece of the much larger puzzle that will unveil itself later through more brainstorming and expression. Let’s allow ourselves the freedom to tap into the creativity stream without criticism, judgment, or harshness. Let’s give ideas a chance to come into fruition even if they just end up being scribble on a piece of scrap paper. Ideas are begging to come to life but they need wiling participants to take on the task of expressing them in some way. The question is, are we up for it?
“I love to think of nature as an unlimited broadcasting station, through which God speaks to us every hour, if we will only tune in.” -George Washington Carver
This morning I went for a stroll to the post office and decided that I would bring a camera along with me. My intention was to practice creating sharper images but I walked away with so much more. As I was attempting to convey the exquisite beauty and detail of various plants and flowers, I became lost (actually found) in a world full of wonder and joy. There is a profound peace that comes from being fully present particularly when among flowers and plants. What was most exciting was how tiny details such as speckles on the leaves, indentations on the petals, and the tiny flowers blooming within the petals all became visible once I tuned into them despite never noticing them before. I was amazed that even though I have traveled the path many times, I was totally unaware of such remarkable details. When we slow down and tune in, it becomes apparent that there is so much to appreciate in this world.
“He kēhau ho’oma’ema’e ke aloha” is a Hawaiian proverb that translates to “Love is like a cleansing dew.”
When I remember that I am love, everything just flows. Resistance seems to dissolve effortlessly and my greatest desires appear right at my doorstep. The interchangeable flow between giving and receiving is limitless and my soul feels fully renewed and restored. My perception of life transforms from a challenging battle to a stream of tranquil peace. Tension falls away and I see the inherent beauty in all that exists. And yet, when I look before and after my remembrance, none of the external conditions have actually changed. Oh, the power of love!
Currently, I’m in a creative mode and millions of ideas have been floating through my head, yearning to be expressed through writing or photography. This mode is incredibly exciting because I’m in a space of openly accepting ideas and their potential. I’ve found that my level of acceptance is directly tied to the volume of creative ideas that come to me. For example, if I’m critical of the ideas that come up, writer’s block immediately ensues and my inspiration dwindles. Additionally, if I’m producing something solely for monetary gain, the project usually falls apart. I’m noticing that the production phase is an entirely different experience when I come from an attitude of creating simply because the idea wants to be expressed.
I believe when we primarily focus on the outcome of the creation, we block potential and clog the flow. The less I attach to outcomes, the more I’m able to produce and ultimately appreciate the creation. This process has reminded me of how enjoyable it is to create just as a means of expression, without tacking on an additional agenda. Similarly, it has shown me the importance of being open to receiving ideas without shutting them down before giving them life. In a sense, everything just wants to express itself.
*Image is of a lovely palm that caught my eye, Waialua, Hawaii
“Peace is not the absence of conflict but the presence of creative alternatives for responding to conflict – alternatives to passive or aggressive responses, alternatives to violence.” -Dorothy Thompson
A few months ago, I decided to get a full-time job. This was a challenging decision for me because I already convinced myself going into it that adjusting to a corporate structure might be difficult for me (old data patterns). Nonetheless, I took the job. Immediately, I experienced the mental tension of wanting to be “free.” I didn’t like the confines on my time, needing to report, and a myriad of other things. I had been used to running my own business and working only part-time hours. Within just a week, I wanted to quit and I’m not going to lie a major part of me still does.
However, on Monday, I experienced something that I had intellectually understood long ago (it’s amazing how different an intellectual understanding is from an experiential one). The idea is that we are always right where we need to be and where we are is a perfect opportunity to give. What do I mean by this? First, I had to realize that I’m not in the wrong place. Clearly, this job is the perfect chance for me to learn how to let go of some of my old data and programming. If I simply quit out of frustration, it’s very likely that I will continue the same pattern going forward and will repeatedly find myself in similar situations. Another thing I noticed is that my mentality going into the job was solely focused on what I was going to take away from it. I wanted the job for financial stability and the opportunity to learn about business, and those were the only things I was thinking about. Not once did I consider how I could give to the job and the people I interact with there.
When I decided to focus on how I can give without putting emphasis on what I’m going to take away, I feel less tension and more appreciation. While this concept does not completely absolve my desire to quit, it does make it easier to let go of my old data and embrace opportunities to give freely. This lesson applies to other areas of my life as well. When I focus on what I’m going to take away from someone or something, I create unnecessary tension, especially if it I didn’t receive what I originally expected. Instead, I can choose to focus on what I can give and I can choose to give freely without any binding expectations (one has to wonder if we give with expectations is it truly giving anyways). And while we may ultimately decide to leave these situations, during our immediate experience, we can view them as great opportunities to learn how to let go because peace is truly accessible wherever we are.