There are so many moments in which we can be a compassionate presence to another person. If we reflect upon even a day in our lives, we will realize this. Last week, my elderly in-laws were in town, visiting us after an extended cruise in which they encountered days of stormy weather. They arrived exhausted, and their fatigue brought out a vulnerability they were already feeling with age and their limitations.
During our visit, they talked about the feelings of regret they carried in their hearts from what they called “all our mistakes and poor decisions.” My husband and I knew we could not resolve their feelings, nor minimize or dismiss them. We were being asked to be a compassionate presence to them, and to offer compassionate listening. At the end of our week together, they thanked us for listening, and told us it made them feel better. Once again, the power of compassionate listening and compassionate presence eased the suffering of others.
I have come to realize that the more I can be compassionate towards myself, the more compassion I have to give to others. Lately, I’ve felt a deep yearning for self-compassion. When I’m tired, but have to meet the demands of the day, I long for compassion; when I’m feeling vulnerable, I need compassion to help me not run away from myself or the situation, but to keep opening up; and when my heart is aching with sadness or loneliness, I desire compassion.
The awakening of a compassionate heart for yourself, for others, and for the world is necessary to be able to grow in love. I invite you to practice compassion. What would that look like, sound like, feel like?