Compassion for the Self – November 16 2019

Compassion for the Self – November 16 2019

When I tried this morning, after an hour or so of unhappy thinking, to dip back into my meditation, I took a new idea with me: compassion. I asked my heart if it could please infuse my soul with a more generous perspective on my mind’s workings. Instead of thinking that I was a failure, could I perhaps accept that I am only a human being–and a normal one, at that?

Elizabeth Gilbert, Eat, Pray, Love

Imagine a compassion large enough to encompass even yourself.

Dr. Tony Cahill

What would compassion for the self feel like?

Imagine watching a four-year-old, working alongside her mother in the kitchen. The mother is making cookies. The little girl, standing on a footstool, is making her own batch of cookies. Imagine her making the biggest mess possible, dough and flour everywhere, all over herself and the counter, in her hair from where she’s had to move it out of her eyes. She’s not making the mess just to make a mess. She’s making a mess because that’s what four-year-olds do when they try to do an adult task. Watching this, we would be charmed. We might be impressed by her commitment to this thing that is so obviously over her head. And if the cookies got cooked, we would probably eat them and enjoy them and make sure the little girl knew how much we appreciated the work she did to make them.

Now imagine an all-loving Creator, watching his creations moving through life, evolving with each moment, with each situation, with each day; by definition always stepping into new situations and new challenges; for indeed, each day is new. And indeed, we are evolving creatures, designed to be always learning, always in need of a new level of skill, a new way of seeing things, a new approach; always reaching for something more; sometimes succeeding and sometimes failing. Sometimes failing spectacularly. That Creator probably would feel about his creations the way we felt about the little girl.

This is a model for how we might feel about ourselves, if we were able to imagine a compassion so big that it is not just for others. A compassion for oneself.

Each of us is always doing the best we can at any given moment. Each of us can look at who we are today and see how much we have grown from five years ago, from 10 years ago. We can see how much more capable we are, how much more we are able to love. Yet we’re still self-critical. We talk negatively to ourselves. We berate ourselves for our shortcomings. What level of success would we have to reach in order to stop this negativity? How perfect would we have to be? When is there enough growth that we can move from self-judgment to self-acceptance?

Probably never.

But we can imagine the compassion a loving Creator would have for his favorite creation. And through choice and awareness and repetition, anything we can imagine, we can become.

Today I will choose to see myself with compassion. I will choose to take a point of view bigger than my judgment. I will imagine the love of an infinitely loving Creator for his favorite child. I will smile at a personal shortcoming, pick myself up and once again, try my best.

Guitarist, The Highline, NYC