Thursday, June 26, 2014

6/27/14—Slipping Into Another's Stream

Our last post was about letting go and trusting that what is truly yours will come to you. In it, I described surrendering as akin to letting a river's current take your body. Today I came across an older post of mine quoting Mark Nepo, who describes compassion as "entering the stream of another without getting lost." How amazing is that? Entering into the stream of another without getting lost.

If you consider there's an invisible hand guiding all of us down the stream of our lives, this is a pretty cool visual. And to understand another person is to experience their stream. As the author says, there is a danger of getting lost in another's stream. But compassion asks us to enter that stream without losing sight of our allow their stream to run parallel to ours, but not spill over into ours.

After all, we're all born from the same waters. Someone may do something we'd never do, but that doesn't mean we're not capable of doing it. Compassion requires getting in touch with that part of ourself that understands ourself enough to know there is nothing anyone does or feels that is not somewhere inside us. In that sense, there is really only one stream, but maybe different currents to get caught up in.

There are many who think compassion is only for the "deserving". And someone, somewhere along line distinguishes "deserving" from "undeserving", I suppose. But compassion is for everyone. I've been criticized many times in my life for having compassion for "undeserving" people. In a conflict between two sides, for example, I'll be able to see the pain of both sides and have compassion for both. 
People always say they don't expect you to pick sides. But they do. And the side you're supposed to pick is the one deemed more deserving. Compassion should flow only to that side. And if compassion flows to the other, as well, you're a traitor, playing both sides or sitting on the fence. Well, I'm OK with being criticized for thinking that's a big, stinky load of bullshit. Everyone is equally deserving of compassion. We are all children of spirit. We all have pain. We all feel misunderstood. We are all. Worthy. Of compassion. 
When Mark Nepo says compassion is slipping into another's stream without getting lost, that's the same as saying "feel compassion, but don't bend who you are while doing so". Sometimes I see people willfully hurting others in the act of what they call compassion for another...using compassion for one as an excuse to be nasty to another. That's getting lost in another's stream. Unless, of course, being nasty is part of your stream.

Compassion is not something you have to prove to others. It's not saying "I approve of your actions." Nor is it a weapon you wield by witholding. It's something that comes from the soul part of you—the part of you that recognizes that even those who are considered "evil" are of God, like you, and suffering from their separation, like you. It's the part of you that sees their pain and sorrow, even when it's hard to find. And the part wise enough to acknowledge the thin line that separates "good" from "bad" and sane from crazy, and feels bad for someone who can't keep from crossing over that line. Even if we can't empathize or know how they're feeling based on personal experience, we can nonetheless, genuinely say "I'm sorry you're in such pain right now". Regardless of what we think of them as a human being.

We slip into someone's stream without losing ourselves. And I'd go so far as to say that neglecting to find compassion for another *is* losing ourselves. It's losing sight of our shared soul—the human struggle and the oneness we share as children of God and the universe. When we deem another's "sin" as too ugly to look at or when we fight against it, we're dishonoring that part of us that is universal. We're saying we're so ashamed of who we are that we have to deny it. We are really not all that different.

The more honest you are with yourself and the better you know yourself, the more you can see that the same dark corners exist within you, even though you choose not to bring them to light. But there are other dark corners you DO bring to light, so you know how others struggle. When you have grown to the point that you can own that, then you can see the struggle in others. And when you see the struggle in others, how can you help but have compassion?

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