The beautiful young man placed a fragrant plumeria lei around my neck, welcomed me to Kaua’i with an enormous smile and asked “How are you ?” .
“Oh thank you these are beautiful,” I said, inhaling the flower garland.
It was 2000 and just a week into my first trip to the mysterious Hawaiian Islands in the distant Pacific Ocean and I was still overwhelmed by all the loving gestures of the native culture.
He leaned his head in and asked again: “so how are you ?”.
Because I hadn’t answered the question …
It was right then, I realised, I come from a place and society where asking how are you is not really a question, rather a greeting that needs no response. In fact, please don’t respond.
So it was right then, I realised, there are actually people who mean what they say and care about others the way I care in return.
And THAT was an epiphany.
In Spirit Ritual #1 we looked at our connection to every sentient being and our connection to the energies of our gorgeous universe.
In conjunction with this connection, we now apply compassion.
Compassion is being genuine in our interaction with people. Not just the family pet or a person on their birthday.
To consider a compassionate connection to our Earth is a daily ritual which helps ground us, envision a more peaceful world and flows on to our relationship with people.
But should compassion be entirely reserved for others ?
Compassion is usually considered an outwardly expression of sympathy or empathy towards others: proof we can relate to other people and other lives. We watch the news and get emotionally involved. We learn about a cause and get a call to action. We spend energy, time, money and to a large extent our own wellbeing in order to be there for others; help friends; love family and be sincere in our understanding of other people’s feelings and needs.
Those of us with strong empathy and intuition may find ourselves super thoughtful; find it no trouble to our soul to speak highly of people and wish them the absolute best; and completely understand or at least try to when something goes wrong for another. We do not fear that lighting their candle will put our own flame out.
But it can get exhausting.
Because rarely are we taught to have compassion for ourselves.
As a self-confessed nursemaid of the world, compassion for myself is definitely one of my greatest challenges. Bringing it up the list from last or non-existent to one of my first daily tasks is something I need to pin to my forehead.
It is completely natural for me to empathise with others and equally natural and easy for me to help. It is probably why I thrive at teaching. For most of my life I didn’t realise this is a gift. Not all people are capable of compassion toward others and not all people actually care. Which is why nursemaids are often left wringing their own apron when they occasionally need a compassionate ear.
Having travelled the world; worked in many careers; taught thousands of students and interviewed hundreds of great spiritual leaders and healers, I have to acknowledge today’s world of people has a severe lack of natural reciprocity. Put simply: you can help people but don’t expect it in return.
So it is extremely important – every day – to first grant compassion to oneself.
Bringing compassion to oneself when you have never or rarely done so is life-transforming in a good way. It is also extremely confronting for people who never expected you to consider self-compassion before others. You will certainly go through even more need for self-compassion once people hear “no” or “I don’t have time” or “I’m going to see what’s best for me”.
In order to bring compassion to the forefront of my own understanding I have asked myself the following defiant dozen and acted upon most:
1. Do I offer myself the same understanding of my life circumstances as I do to others ?
2. Do I truly reflect and consider how well I am doing in light of all of my own personal challenges, such as with my health, as I offer others ?
3. Do I say to myself the same ‘never mind what other people think’ when I am concerned about people’s opinions ?
4. Do I allow myself to fall down in a heap and convulse with sadness, grief, shame or shock as I would tell other people to do and not keep it inside ?
5. Do I voice my feelings as I suggest other people do ?
6. Do I stand up for myself and be the role model for future generations as I expected my predecessors to stand up for me and as I have stood up for others ?
7. Do I celebrate my own successes and encourage other people to celebrate me as much as I celebrate everyone else ?
8. Do I spend as much money on special gifts for myself as I do for others: whether they are handmade cards full of love or beautiful gifts from a store ?
9. Do I look after my body, my health, my energy and my mind as I help and advise others ?
10. Do I spend top dollar on only the best foods for my body as I would only spend top dollar on special treats for others ? Same goes for excellent shoes, good quality clothes, non-toxic organic skin care ?
11. Do I respect my life choices, my careers, my writing and my abilities as I respect thousands of students I have taught and encouraged with gusto ?
12. Do I allow myself to not be everything I thought I could be or would be as I would gently remind others ?
My final two questions need to be asked in combination with each of the defiant dozen.
Do I really mean it ?
Do I really care about myself ?
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