Updated: Oct 7, 2020
Compassion is a difficult emotion to master. Merriam Webster shares this definition: "sympathetic consciousness of others' distress together with a desire to alleviate it" When I finally understood compassion, it felt like I found the greatest tool for emotional mastery ever revealed to me. I had been reading about compassion in Buddhist writings and other lofty writings but it really took an a-ha moment for me to finally get it! A good deal of my training to become a competitive classical musician centered around critqueing others' abilities. Now this is a valuable tool for self-evaluation but it can also be very destructive. Comparing oneself to others on a regular basis is not a recommended practice. Out of self-protection of the ego, I started cataloging people according to their abilities as musicians. I also had determined that if they did not play well, they were not taking their craft seriously and therefore, they were not worth my time. Just think of all the wonderful people I never got to know because they did not meet my standard! Jump ahead 20 years after college and I was finding myself struggling with personalities that were stressing me out. I often found myself thinking: "I can't deal with them. Too much drama and so needy!" Never once did it occur to me to think differently about them. I was still putting them in my black and white categories of capable or not capable. In my head it was obvious they were incapable. I am glad to say that eventually all the reading I had been doing eventually sank in! It was not they who had to change, it was me! And so I found another way to look at things. I started asking questions such as, "Are they struggling right now? Is there some way I can help? Am I misunderstanding their situation? " I can't even begin to tell you how much lightness I felt when I changed my perspective. This enlightenment came at a key point in my life too. I was just beginning to see that I was raising a child with challenges. I had a couple of choices to make about how I reacted to parenting situations. I could blow up at my child because he was behaving badly, oddly, crazy (your choice) or I could sit back and ask, "what is really going on here?" Is he anxious? Is he misunderstanding the situation? Did I make an incorrect assumption about his understanding of what's going on? When I opened myself to these questions, answers would arrive. My parenting became more intuitive and compassionate. By asking questions that helped him get to the answers he was having trouble finding, we cooperatively arrived at a solution which made both of us much happier!