Many of us would consider ourselves to be compassionate humans or could at least remember ways in which we have exercised our compassion. It’s a seemingly easy street to travel if we view it from our own angle. I, for one, believed myself to be very compassionate by nature until my eyes were opened to the duality of true compassion.
My Nana gifted me the book Saving Simon by Jon Katz two years ago, a story mainly of a rescue donkey, Simon, who made a triumphant recovery after years of neglect. You see most of us (myself included) would would have a hard time accepting that another human could allow a fellow being to live in mud up to its shoulders not able to move about its pasture, feeding it just enough to hang on and suffer. Admittedly, I had struggled with accepting someone who could impose such suffering on another being. In Saving Simon, Katz reaches out to the family whom Simon belonged to during his years of mistreatment in search of answers to his many questions, naturally any of us might have. He didn’t get what he was in hope of (maybe some remorse) but he did find a valuable lesson- Compassion is a two way street.
Compassion does not discriminate from one being to another and it is not up to us to choose who gets compassion and who does not. Compassion defined:
a feeling of deep sympathy and sorrow for another who is stricken by misfortune, accompanied by a strong desire to alleviate the suffering.
I will speak for myself when I say there are many moments looking back now that I had a ‘makeup’ of someone deserving of my compassion. It was similar to a prerequisite of sorts- you have to have this, this, and, this to qualify for my compassion. Perhaps a reflection of my own compassion for Self. How many of us exercise forgiveness over some aspects of ourselves more easily than we do others? How many of us could have used compassion and forgiveness of judgment during our own times of suffering? Quite often the person behind these heinous behaviors are troubled with their own suffering and/or neglect- for those of us on the outside to resist the urge to inflict more harm to the person ultimately causing harm is where I believe we really stand with compassion. Standing up for what we love and believe in does not have to mean standing against.
My compassion was first tested (after reading Saving Simon) when the universe brought me face to face with the man who abandoned my passed rescue canine, Bear. (See Rescue Animals for brief background). This was no coincidental moment for even I felt it coming well before it did nor am I one to believe in coincidences anyhow. As he came running down the street to approach us I felt a protective sensation rise- for this was the person who abandoned an elderly dog in the dead of winter, a dog that never deserved such abuse no different than any of the other critters. When he entered the cipher of Bear and my space, anger sparked like a match put to gasoline. He attempted to lie about how he went about leaving Bear making it necessary for me to take a step back. Observing his behavior I felt an internal shift where what I felt slowly started to dissolve encompassing me fully into the present moment. I saw a very broken person someone very disconnected from almost anything real and of intimate value. It became clearer that the blessing was mine- Bear trusted me, she stood next to me as to express gratitude and forgiveness. She showed me it was ok to let go of my own judgements, take off the tinted glasses, and accept what was true not what was my view.
This past weekend at the shelter we had a 10 month old puppy relinquished to us. He was brought in with a chain around his neck not a dog chain but something you would find in a hardware store and a wire wrapped around his stomach area, a homemade contraption his family made in attempts to control him or handle him. This was the first relinquishment I have handled on my own and it was heavy on my heart. This extremely oversized puppy was under obvious stress when he was brought in and even though he wasn’t in the best situation he had already formed the bond of the pack with his family members. We had his owners turn him out in the kennel and as they walked away from the gate he squealed, yelped and made every heart wrenching sound imaginable. There was no doubt he knew what was happening, he felt the break of a bond. Tears ran down my face as I felt his pain, felt the relief of two family members, and the shattered soul of the other. She loved this animal but had no way to handle him and little support. Her tears saturated her cheeks as we embraced one another sharing one heart, and though through words our language may have been a barrier animals taught us love is a language transcending carrier. Like anything else compassion is a practice, one that grows as we do. If we fill our internal space with judgements and preconceived notions we take away even from those we feel need most our tenderheartedness. No need to put fertilizer on something you don’t want to grow.
Compass is in the word compassion. Compass can often be defined as an instrument to determine distance, direction etc. Compassion is the compass of my heart and I want its distance and direction to be immeasurable, limitless.
May all your roads lead through the depths of the canyon exposing the truest view encouraging the space encompassing your heart to expand in new directions.