When I was a little girl, I wanted to hug and kiss everyone including any animal I encountered with the exception of spiders and woolly bears. This struck most people in the UK (my parents are Mediterranean) as ‘most awfully weird’ and hence I was labelled a weirdo until all the ‘hugginess’ was sucked out of me by people who found it alien to express physical affection.
Some years later I was most embarrassed to say that I’d joined their club but it wasn’t intentional…it was a slow and persistent wearing away of all things innocent and unaffected and was replaced by the stiff upper lip syndrome where emotions were to be suppressed and controlled at all times. I learnt that feeling emotions had huge costs and so I slowly built a barrier against them.
Still, I do believe that the universe has a divine plan for each one of us and that plan involves being saved from yourself at some point. So it was no accident that years after my souls demise a series of bizarre circumstances led me back to live with my ancient aged parents who have varying degrees of dementia. I remember the sheer internal terror my body felt before I moved in there - with good cause - as if the jaws of hell were literally opening to swallow me up into its fiery chasm (no drama there of course)!
And of course - through the amazing laws of attraction, the hell of facing ones worst fears came to pass. The thing that no-one tells you about living with people who have dementia – especially parents to whom you feel duty bound – is that if you give the circumstances half a chance, they will slowly and deliberately suck every last drop of your patience, sympathy, energy and life force out of you until only an empty shell remains - and then some!
But here’s the thing…
Out of darkness comes light...and out of the emptiness of depletion comes a new spark of life.; if you let it. When the mind and the emotions are exhausted a higher force can enter into that vacuous space.
Compassion has got nothing to do with any of those things mentioned above; not sympathy, loyalty or even patience. It’s a force all of its own and it’s a doorway that opens once you have had all you can take of suffering. That’s how it works. There is the ongoing destruction of the ego by life; and then there is a subtle energy that arises beyond the personal will and that of self filled desires. It is beyond the story of 'Me', but it needed 'me' to be born.
People can often mistake compassion for emotional coldness but the truth is, without healthy boundaries or what Buddhists would call detachment compassion could not arise.
One has to be the prodigal daughter/son, and venture into that world of sorrow, disillusionment and pain – far, far into it - in order to experience a world without love, hope or charity. It is only then that we can find that hidden light deep, deep within ourselves which brings about our own profound transformation, the likes of which no-one can really understand because it is quite miraculous. It is only then that we can have true compassion for others – the wish to end the suffering of others.
This does not mean that we wish to end death but to bring the understanding of eternity- of indestructibility of the spirit and put that knowing into the world perspective.
Compassion is much more radical that you might believe…
Now that would bring about enormous transformation