Recently I’ve struggled to define my way of relating to the world. Given the myriad of changes in my life, people naturally ask what I’ve been going through. I search for the right term. I’ve toyed with saying I’m “new-agey”, “on a spiritual journey”, “working towards self-actualization” — etcetera etcetera. These phrases are all accurate, to a degree, but nothing really sounded right. So I’d fumble with an answer. So much for my skills as a wordsmith.
But tonight it hit me like a ton of bricks. COMPASSION. My religion, my philosophy, my way of life is all about living compassion. Compassion for myself, for other people, for animals, for the earth, for the universe. Empathy and love and the desire to alleviate suffering — it’s something we can strive for in every situation and relationship and personal decision.
Let me be clear — by no means have I mastered it! I’m no Gandhi (as anyone who knows me can definitely attest, lol). But it’s the best way to sum up what I’m working towards.
I stopped drinking out of compassion for myself.
I went vegan out of compassion for animals.
I started volunteering with hospice out of compassion for those whose lives are ending.
It all goes back to the same ideal: I don’t want to see others suffer. Or myself.
Frankly, I find self-compassion to be the most difficult of all. Being gentle with myself is a journey that’s bound to take awhile. But I’m on my way, and at least now I can more easily define where I’m headed.
So next time I’m posed a question about my belief system or the decisions I’ve made or sea change I’ve undergone, I’ll tell you simply: it’s compassion all the way. Because really, (in my humble opinion) what else is there?
As the Dalai Lama once said: “If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion.” Amen, Mr Lama.