embryonic compassion

Some interesting thoughts on pain and suffering from Norman Fischer:

So this is what I learned…about the meaning of loss:  love rushes into the absence that is loss, and that love brings inspired action.  If we are able to give ourselves to the loss, to move toward it – rather than recoil in an effort to escape, deny, distract, or obscure – our wounded hearts become full, and out of that fullness we will do things differently and we will do different things.

He goes on to talk about that sore spot or rawness that is painful and that we try to cover over or protect.  He points out that, although painful and no fun, the sore spot is valuable.  He tells about how Trungpa Rinpoche call the sore spot “embryonic compassion”.   I love that.  Potential compassion coming from our wounds waking us up to love and to loving action.  This is precious and wonderful to me in the way it brings reason and purpose to suffering.

He then goes on to describe the darkness that descends on our thoughts and emotions after the shock of loss has passed and fear and despair arrive:

We are anxious about our uncertain future, over which we have so little control.  It’s easy to fall into the paralysis of despair, coming back to our childish default position of feeling completely vulnerable and unprepared in a harsh and hostile world.  This fearful feeling of self-diminishment may darken our view to such an extent that we find ourselves wondering whether we are worth while people, whether we’re capable of surviving in this tough world, whether we deserve to survive, whether our lives matter, whether there is any point in trying to do anything at all.

This describes perfectly how it feels when the dark veil falls – the thoughts reflect so closely what I’ve experienced.  He goes on to point out that this sense of loss, despair and fear is terrible, that we hate it, but that it is exactly what we need.  It is the embryo of compassion stirring to be born.  Birth is painful.  Like Jung said, “There is no coming to life without pain.”  Oh, how we resist this!  We spend much of our time administering our own personal versions of an epidural…alcohol, dope, food, tv, computer, books, busyness, and on and on…

Norman points out that instead of medicating, this is a perfect time for spiritual practice because now meditation (or your practice of choice) has gone from being a lifestyle choice or method of self-improvement to becoming a matter of survival!

I love the way Norman doesn’t diminish the power of darkness or try to cover it over with snappy spiritual slogans.  Instead:

The goal is not to make the thoughts and feelings go away:  when there is loss or trouble, it is normal to feel sorrow, fear, despair, confusion, discouragement, and so on….but it would be good to have some perspective – and occasional relief – so these thoughts don’t get the best of us and become full-blown demons pushing us around.

Hard times are painful and no rational person would ever think to bring them on intentionally, yet disasters are inevitable in a human lifetime and it is highly impractical not to welcome them when they come.

Welcome them?  That is a novel thought.  Yet, we can welcome them, because these hard times remind us of what’s important, what is basic, beautiful and worth while about being alive.  When all is going well, we have a tendency to become dull to all that we have, to all of our blessings.  When we have less, we appreciate more.  We have more openness to wonder and joy – our hands are open, less grasping and greedy.

Seen this way – loss, pain and hard times have the potential for bringing more happiness, more awareness of the joys in life, bigger hearts and more compassion.  It can bring a slower, more heartfelt and realistic style of loving and being in this world.

Gabriela Mistal:  I give thanks on this day and every day for the ability you gave me to gather the beauty of the land as if it were water that one takes with the lips, and also for the wealth of pain that I can carry in the depths of my soul without dying.