Walking the Six-Fold Path of Self-Compassion
I have been thinking a lot lately about Compassion. Especially Self-Compassion. And Anger, too.
Mainly, because I’ve been so angry of late. I’ve been walking this path of anger and trying to understand it’s spiral and the umbilical cord that is tied to my own energy and center. You see, I’m of the mindset that all feelings and emotions have a purpose, a reason for being. We cannot ignore them for long. Yes, those feelings will return and end up making life very disruptive for us.
Self-Compassion as a Path to Self-Healing
I’m learning more about why both anger and self-compassion is so vital to our health, our life force and our bliss. Earlier on in my path, I thought anger was destructive and damaging and that we should work to eradicate it from our lives completely. Through my work with the Goddess, I have since come to understand that Durga or Pele (whatever name you have for the destructive forces) has her purpose and intent.
What brought this anger about, you ask? Well, I decided recently to try and reconnect with my creative genesis and experience a path of artistic expression again. Art and music both. These paths, along with the path of language has been the most difficult for me to traverse since Las Vegas.
It’s one of the most difficult things for me to admit. Once I played Mozart on the piano and created beautiful impromptu pieces on my own… now, I can barely beat out a scale. It brings up so many memories of my past, things I thought I resolved, but as we all know the spiraling force of our ascension often brings new things in old memories to light to rectify and resolve. It is indeed an ongoing experience.
1. Remembering How to Do For Myself
I believed that as damaged as my brain was, reconnecting the olde neural networks to play music, to read music, to learn a new language, even to pick up a paint brush is profoundly, deeply challenging, incredibly painful and powerfully liberating all at the same time… that is should I find the courage to traverse the challenge and reclaim that part of my soul.
You see, after Las Vegas and the brain damage it left me with, I had to relearn many things. Things I didn’t want people to know about. Things that humiliated me. Things that would remind me just how devastating one single episode could possibly be for the rest of my life.
Things like how to tie my shoes again. I couldn’t remember how the laces went together. For the longest time I just went without laces simply because I couldn’t admit to myself that I had regressed so badly that I was worse off than most kindergarteners. Even now, there are days where I have to actively remember how to tie my shoes. Really think about it.
This is really painful for me to admit. To anyone.
I wear scarves and turtle necks more often than I care to admit. I really do enjoy scarves…and turtle necks. The real reason I started the habit of these accoutrements… was to hide my neck from would-be onlookers. The fragile skin once bore the permanent impressions of fingers that strangled me for nearly 3 years. Every time I looked in a mirror I’d see those ugly reminders of a brutal past.
I had to remember the very basics of mathematics. How to add and subtract numbers again. What a prime number was. That part of my brain was nearly wiped out. I had to learn how to drive a car. Again.
I had to learn how to cook, how to do things like laundry all over again. I had to research things like how to fold towels and t-shirts. Things we never really think about, because its programmed as automatic muscle memory. How to hang a shirt. How to iron. Even how to shop again. How to move my body with grace again.
Sometimes I felt the need to disappear from the pressure of attempting to be a capable, self-sufficient adult. I just needed to cry and process all that had transpired. We all know no one is fully self-sufficient and everyone has similar experiences. I am certainly much better off than many others, and I am eternally grateful for that.
2. Discovering Compassion In Others
I don’t think many people realize just how damaging the aftermath of such an experience is for the person who has to walk the path of recovery. Lucky for me, I met many people who demonstrated both kindness and compassion, but not sympathy or looked at me as a helpless creature.
There’s so many things we take for granted. You see, when a person loses functional ability, they are brought to their very knees. They are often in desperate need for compassion, because they have virtually none for themselves, they’ve been so traumatized and damaged.
I had to put up a brave face. I had to pretend nothing was wrong. For my children’s sake. For my own sake, really. I didn’t have time to have a breakdown. Not until I met my current husband did I feel safe enough to fall completely apart.
And an older friend from the community college would take me away from my reality from time to time to lessen the pressure of day-to-day expectations. He knew things weren’t right in my world, but didn’t understand to what extent. We just hiked together quietly in the woods, occasionally talked about life and the hereafter, but mostly just existed and joked with one another.
He taught me compassion. The kind of compassion I didn’t give myself.
Another friend I met later on would play music for me. He played guitar and piano. He encouraged me to sing again. Something I hadn’t done in ages. He encouraged me to find laughter again, fun again. There was never any pressure or demands on me for anything other than friendship and mutual compassion.
After the event in Vegas, it was both shocking and surprising that I would find such compassion in the face of two loving, kind men. Neither of whom had any interest in me sexually or otherwise. It went a long way to assisting me on my healing journey.
Both took time to teach me things. To show me I was both capable and smart.
3. Understanding Anger as a Path to Self-Compassion
Every time I hit a roadblock in learning to do something that was once a vital element to who I knew myself as – where I’d come face to face with the brutal fact that I had been crippled and fractured, I would be overwhelmed with anger, resentment, and frustration. The kind of dark, powerful, raw emotion that could, quite literally, blow a hole the size of the Gaza Strip right through the middle of Washington D.C..
I had won art show after art show with my work early in life, now I can barely connect dots, much less flow with the paint… the frustration with this limitation pulled me right back into the past shortly after escaping where I felt completely helpless and entirely alone.
I’d constantly remind myself it was a gift to still be alive, seeing my children grow up. It is a gift. One I’m profoundly grateful for.
Yet still, I would find myself so riveted with such a deep profound anger directed at myself that I would just in the end, give up rather than continue down the path. I would tear it all to part, ripping up whatever I was working on and just toss it all out, the baby and the bathwater.
The past needed to stay past. I had to stop bringing it up.
Where once we tread, we are not meant to tread again in the same vein or the same footsteps.
I carried a tremendous amount of anger and resentment within for what I had gone through and how impaired it left me. I didn’t want to admit it. But there it was.
White-hot furious anger.
When the anger left me, I would be left with a gaping black hole. and I would sink. Sink deep, deep into an abyss of depression that left me depleted for weeks afterwards.
Whenever someone challenged my abilities, I’d cave, throw in the towel and disconnect. Walk away. Back then, I never committed to fully mastering anything, because between you and me, I simply didn’t believe as crippled as I was mentally, I’d ever be capable of mastering anything. I just figured I could learn enough to get by, because that was all I was capable of.
At the same time, it was this thrust of emptiness, this fractured brain of mine that compelled me to master things I’d never have otherwise attempted to master. Like SQL, web development, writing to heal myself… least of all attempt to master the subtle art of compassion.
I came face to face with all of this recently in an attempt to reclaim some small part of my artistic nature.
I didn’t understand fully why I felt the need to reclaim my artistic side until recently my path to reclaiming my Goddesshood quickly became all tangled up with the path to self-compassion.
4. It’s Your Choice: Self-Compassion or Victimization?
It’s difficult to talk of being damaged in this way. Sometimes I feel irreparable. Like a broken down old truck. Like the old car my husband refuses to get rid of.
I refuse to be irreparable. I’ve traversed the healing journey with sage healers and wise women all these years. I know I chose this path. I’ve cleared myself of interminable disease. I claim responsibility to this path and I blame no one for it. I am self-accountable. Self-responsible. It’s time to also be self-compassionate.
But every once in awhile, I’ll sink into the old blame game and patterns of victimization. Maybe because it feels good to blame someone other than myself. But I know the truth. Whenever I point one finger out at another, there are three more pointing right back at me.
The blame game and the cycle of victimization isn’t a path where compassion is ever crossed. In fact, rarely does compassion come into play. Victims play the victim role in order to acquire sympathy and H.E.L.P.. For those of you who don’t know me, I believe the word HELP can be a foul, dark, disempowering, four-letter word.
Compassion isn’t about helping or sympathy or disempowerment. In fact, compassion is one of the most empowering, healing, and uplifting experiences we can share. Self-compassion is a path, one we often stumble upon along our path of self-anger, when we realize the victim-blame-game isn’t getting us anywhere fast.
With that in mind, I wanted to share with you my understanding of A Path to Increasing Self-Compassion.
Walking the Six-Fold Path of Self-Compassion
1. Compassion Begins When the Victimization & Blame Games End.
The Path of Self-compassion begins when you learn to recognize your patterns of self-defeatism… what we often refer to as victimization and blame. I’m a master at the game of blame and victimhood. These are games I grew up with as a child. Because I am a master at them, I can recognize every subtle nuance that is thrown up in this perpetual cycle.
Everyone else is at fault. Not me. I didn’t do it. What stimulates us to participate in blame and victimization roles is what we are rewarded and recognized for. Many victims share their story as a way to garner sympathy or excuse themselves. Well, I can definitely say there are people out there with worse sob stories than you or I and making fantastic things happen in the world.
I do not share my story as a way to acquire sympathy recognition or pity, but as a way to demonstrate a clear path forward out of the abyss and into a life of clear and tangible, meaningful purpose.
2. Recognizing when Baggage Isn’t Yours to Carry
For the longest time, I was a rescuer. Raise your hand and like this post if you feel me here. Rescuers have a tendency to believe it is their mission to “save the world” from itself. That was my belief for a very long time. The greatest relief to me was when I recognized it wasn’t my purpose to save the world, just simply be the best me that I could be. What a gift of self-compassion that was.
When someone treats me badly, or questions my abilities that I have spent years relearning, honing and practicing, it is really only a reflection on their own inner baggage. Certainly not my own. My reaction to their action is what I need to own, but their reaction to me is theirs to own. We have to learn to recognize when it’s someone else’s baggage and when its ours. My habit has long been to carry everyone’s baggage for them, along with them, too. I exhausted myself saving everyone else. This was a lesson my mother tried to impart to me early on, but I didn’t understand her intent at the time. Now I do.
When we see that a disrespectful person, a negative person, a rude person must be living in an unhappy reality of their own creation, it isn’t up to us to save them from it, but to shine our light even brighter that maybe, someday they might turn their eyes up from their own dark abyss to gaze at the light of lights that is all of us shining up here.
3. Recognizing Your Emotions, Your Thoughts and Your Actions Are The Only Thing You Can Truly Be Responsible for.
When I stopped trying to fill other people’s expectations, and other people’s shoes, this was the single greatest gift to myself. What a gift of self-compassion. I finally stopped doing that this year. Yes, its taken me this long to stop filling up and walking in other people’s shoes.
A negative mind is a dungeon for the person who chooses to live with it. I chose a negative mind for years. I finally recognized this was a large part of my problem. When I realized I wasn’t responsible for other people’s reactions to me, this huge weight lifted off my shoulders and empowered me in new ways to create and be free. Now I sing in the car. I don’t care who listens. I know I sing poorly. But I love to sing. I’m not responsible for their reaction to my singing. I am responsible for improving and practicing my vocal instruction.
I still sing very softly, but opening my mouth and voicing my heart through song is a long way from where I was just two years ago. I’m still incredibly sensitive to others’ thoughts and feelings, but their reactions are slowly affecting me less and less.
4. Joy is a Choice and a Gift we Give Ourselves.
A person who does not realize that joy is a choice is a very sad person indeed. I dislike being sad for very long. I find joy in my children. I find joy in writing. I find joy in visiting friends. I used to do what most people do, I longed for the ideal material condition or circumstance to satisfy my own personal quest for happiness. The satisfaction from physical items is usually short lived.
5. Release the Resentment You Hold Against Others
Part of the path of self-compassion includes extending that loving compassion outwards to others. I realized recently during a private argument I had with an extended family member I don’t often converse with that in myself I hold a deep seated resentment against people who have hurt me badly in the past. It came up so shockingly, I didn’t even realized that resentment was still there.
I mean I held so much resentment and anger I couldn’t find compassion for what they were experiencing in their time of need when they reached out for me. I am beginning to learn that in order to demonstrate self-compassion, I must learn to release what I hold against them in order to be at peace. Their own reality must be so overwhelmed with their own self-image issues and insecurities that they often hurt others unconsciously.
6. Offering Gratitude for All that You Have Come to Learn
I have a habit of thanking individuals from my past for the way they have helped me open up discoveries to my introspection. I found that offering up gratitude is a fantastic way to release resentment, but also to forgive and move forward. You can learn so much from those around you. You can learn about aspects of yourself, who you want to become, what you don’t want to become like, what you want, and what you don’t want as a part of your life.
I know I’ll never be exactly the same artist with the same form and mode of expression that I had once before. It will be different. Richer. Fuller. More compassionate. Deeper. It just takes time and practice. I constantly remind myself that it takes 10,000 hours to truly master something. It’s not an overnight process, no matter how I wish it could be.
I am a ways down the road from being able to spread out my wings out wholeheartedly without fear that they will be clipped and I’ll tumble back down to earth in a tailspin out of control.
It’s a large part of why I am such a recluse. It is very hard even opening up to friends and family, much less appear in the public eye for speaking or teaching engagements.
However, I am learning. I am Growing. And I continue to practice. A little bit. Day. by. Day.