by Catherine Madsen
Bliss Crafter, Austin Yoga Tree
In yoga, we often talk about the lotus. The lotus is a beautiful flower that grows from the muddiest of waters. It blooms untarnished by the murkiness from which it grows. It blooms unsullied by the negativity that surrounds it. It blooms with a unique vibrancy caused by its resilience to be tainted by darkness. The lotus is an analogy for life. There will always be negative experiences, people, and situations around us. It is our job to rise above these shadows and blossom like the lotus, unspoiled and pure.
This analogy can also be used when talking about compassion and suffering. There is an ocean of suffering that surrounds us. This suffering is the muddy waters; it is the darkness from which something beautiful will grow. Compassion is the lotus that blooms from the blackness of suffering. There can be no lotus without mud, and there can be no compassion without suffering.
Suffering is what gives us the chance to open our hearts and learn about true compassion. If suffering was absent from the world, we wouldn’t be able to sympathize, empathize, or love. We should view our personal breakdowns, addictions, losses, and errors not as failures on our journey but as invitations to crack our hearts open. We should also be just as accepting of the personal breakdowns, addictions, losses, and errors of other people. Every failure should be seen as an opportunity to rebuild, to get stronger, to get better.
Compassion requires us to accept suffering and understand its purpose. In order to accept suffering, we must open ourselves up to its pain without guarding our hearts. It dares us to touch our deepest wounds and to touch the deepest wounds of others. Cultivating compassion is far from easy. Compassion forces us to not only accept but embrace the worst of the world and still love it.
"In order to have compassion for others, we have to have compassion for ourselves. In particular, to care about other people who are fearful, angry, jealous, overpowered by addictions of all kinds, arrogant, proud, miserly, selfish, mean--you name it--to have compassion and to care for these people means not to run from the pain of finding these things in ourselves."
By being able to accept and have compassion for people who are flawed, we are then able to put this compassion towards ourselves when we realize that we are also not perfect. The reality is that everybody in this life is perfectly imperfect. We are all flawed; we make mistakes and we fail. To have true compassion, we must accept the imperfectness of our lives. Compassion is what makes us human; when we have compassion we can fail, we can change our minds, we can quit and still be okay.
Humans are capable of so much love and compassion. Embracing darkness and pain can give us access to the untapped potential that we have for compassion. Once we have access to this compassion, our actions will be done, not out of guilt, but out of love.
"It is important for us to stay in touch with the suffering of the world...in order to keep compassion alive in us. But we must be careful not to take in too much. Any remedy must be taken in the proper dose. We need to stay in touch with suffering only to the extent that we will not forget, so that compassion will flow within us and be a source of energy for our actions."
I am happy, healthy, and free from all suffering.