Posts Tagged ‘compassion’

A Better Presence

March 3, 2012

I am never enough. There is always more of me to become. The soul that swooped down from the heavens to nestle among embryonic membranes and permeate my fetal cells captured my infantile first breath and is still emerging.

This life all about how I can do better.

How can I live better?

How can I love better?

I can tweak my communication with others. I can smile more. I can bring more sincerity, compassion, and attention. I can talk less and listen more. I can meet another person’s gaze with single-minded devotion to this moment we are both in . . . my indivisible focus. Just for an instant, I can be perfectly present for another.

In being present to another, I am present to my own soul and I am, after each encounter, more than I was the moment before.

This immutable forward progress makes me painfully aware of why the motion of existence is one-way. There is only growth, becoming, and ending. There is no reversing. There is no undoing what has been done no matter how much I wish I could. Reversal would undo not only the actions (or inactions) that I regret, it would also take away all that I have become.

This is my only opportunity to love myself, my daughters, my friends, and the strangers who come and go. In the next moment, they might be ended. I might be ended.

Will I be complete at the moment of my physical death? I don’t know, and it simply does not matter. Death is an ending and a beginning. All that I am follows me in this eternity. All who I have known live in my eternal memory. My better presence greets this day and from moment to moment, it whispers: what do you want to remember about this moment?

©2012 by Barbara L. Kass

The presence of compassion

November 15, 2011

I have never been very good at compassion. I especially have difficulty being compassionate with people who I view as behaving badly (including myself). My initial reactions have been to point out their shortcomings, avoid them all-together, let them ruin my moment/day/week/month/year/life, and ruminate endlessly over how they (I) should behave.

I came upon this story from the book Lovingkindness by Sharon Salzberg. Sharon tells a story about meeting a Soviet official at an airport with “the most hateful stare I have ever received from anybody in my life. It was an icy rage.” She felt as if he had “poisoned her being.”

Some part of her woke up. She realized that every day this man experiences the state that she had just experienced. She writes: “A tremendous feeling of compassion came into me for him. He was no longer a threatening enemy, but rather someone in what seemed to be in intense suffering.”

The path of compassion begins with the knowledge that we do to others what we do to ourselves. None of us really know what is going on inside another human being. We don’t know what they might be experiencing, thinking, or feeling. Even if we ask them, the answer may come back nebulous and arbitrary. I have witnessed people in obvious distress and asked them about their state of being only to be told that they were “fine.” Such a response can indicate that they are truly fine, realizing they are in distress but handling it. It can also mean “I don’t know” or “none of your business” or “NO, I’m NOT!” Distress might be a normal state of being and as long as they are feeling distressed, they feel normal.

This is as far as I have gotten along the path. Compassion is a moment-by-moment, person-by-person phenomenon. It encompasses my projection of myself on to others. It realizes that I am being projected upon. Somewhere in between is a reality I can speak to.

©2011 by Barbara L. Kass

outside presence

July 4, 2010

This presence is not about being outdoors. My outside presence is the presence who can watch me living, responding, feeling, and acting as if I were watching me on a movie screen. Unlike the movies, though, I am still connected while observing how I am being in the world. There is no disconnect involved . . . only distance.

I learned how to do this many years ago as a guided meditation to help resolve old childhood traumas. It is an excellent method because it keeps me from reliving the drama and recreating the same old emotions. And, because I am a compassionate observer (compassion totally rules this process), it is a safe place to give my child now what she could not get back then.

Lately, I have been working to bring this process into my adulthood on a more regular basis. I am acutely aware of how my thinking process contributes so much to my emotional way of being . . . many times the thought seems instantaneous with the emotional outbreak and I miss it. All emotions are okay to experience, but I ask myself this question: is my emotional response appropriate to the circumstances given everything I know? I especially take note of my reactions when another person has done something that causes me distress.

Since I am on a quest to feel good as often as possible and other people sometimes seem to be on a quest to thwart those efforts, I have to look at the distress signals carefully. They are appropriate to times when I might be in danger, when someone might cause me harm, and when someone is not being honest with me or trying to get me to be someone for them that is not good for me. These also include times when I might be expecting others to be who I think they should be. Signals of distress are anxiety, fear, anger, impatience, resentment, and any other emotion that makes me uncomfortable and gets that hot fire burning at the top of my skull.

With the exception of immediate physical harm, when I am in distress, I have to look at how I have constructed the thoughts in my head and examine whether or not I have talked myself into being distressed. We have all been taught in our childhood to feel a certain way when certain things happen. For example, my parents taught me that I should feel unworthy and stupid when I brought home anything less than an “A” on my report card. As I experience grade anxiety in my classes at Loyola, I have to sit down with myself and give me compassion, understanding, love, and acceptance should I choose to make a “B” in a class. I am allowing myself to enjoy the experience, knowing full well that I can make an “A” should I choose to do so.

I can’t hold onto the resentment towards my parents. That is nonproductive and simply reproduces the helplessness I felt when I was a child. I am experimenting with Laurie Buchanan’s recommendation of Emotional Freedom Techniques to help free myself.

While I know I exist eternally, I believe I am here to finish with many issues including the emotional issues that block me from living as my true presence. This human existence is far too short to waste time reliving the past and carrying this emotional baggage around weighs me down. When I leave this body, I want to leave as lightly as possible.

©2010 by Barbara L. Kass

The January Factor

May 30, 2010

I need to change my way of being in the world.

This is the most significant lesson I learned during my week of acknowledging how powerless I am in the world.

What I noticed most of all was that I enjoy feeling love, compassion, and understanding for others far more than I enjoy feeling frustrated, annoyed, or angry.

I call this the January Factor.

January gravitates toward everything that is pleasing and that makes her feel good and happy. At some point in our lives, we must have all had that inclination, but I lose touch with it wanting instead for the world to deliver it at my feet. January goes to find it.

January is my granddaughter and if ever there was a being that I love unconditionally, who I would die for, it is her. She is nowhere near the most perfect child in existence, but she is perfectly January. I named her for the month her mother was born.

My way of being in the world magnifies what is wrong, what needs to be fixed, and what does not meet my expectations. It is an aggravating way of being in the world because what is mostly wrong, needs to be fixed, and not meeting my expectations are people and situations that I am powerless over. January might look at what is wrong, broken, or not meeting her expectations and voice some opinion about it, but in the next instant she is looking for what is right, what still works, and what happily meets her desire to be joyful.

So, I am setting my intent to become aware of those times when I am feeling powerless, unhappy, and harping incessantly about it (and, worse, often plotting how I am going to make that person whoever-they-are do it my way!), I am going to stop and ask myself the question, “Is anything really wrong here or is my judge working overtime?” And, then I will find something or someone to be grateful and happy about.

©2010 by Barbara L. Kass