To be human is to endure suffering. We all suffer. It is in the design. However, we misunderstand the nature of suffering. You can look at the rocks in your path as stumbling blocks or stepping stones. But you cannot ignore them and hope your path stays smooth; this goes against your purpose. To wish for an easy path is a guarantee for frustration and disappointment.
You cannot compare your suffering to someone else’s. All people suffer. Yet some people have money or other symbols of status that seems as if their suffering is different than yours-less tragic or difficult. While we may think “my suffering is worse than your suffering,” or “nobody knows the trouble I’ve seen,” that kind of comparison guarantees added suffering. When we compare, we always suffer.
The Blues are an important part of American culture because they reflect the shared understanding of human suffering. Many cultures have their version of the Blues because suffering is such a human experience. The Blues recognize that all people endure difficulties, including loss, frustration, disappointment. Singing the Blues was and is a way to acknowledge our shared humanity. Everyone experiences loss. You cannot be human without loss.
Understanding that we all suffer, makes practicing self-compassion so important. Being human is hard. Really hard at times. To approach your life with compassion allows your mind to open up to endless possibilities, solutions and finally acceptance. Compassion allows you to live in your present understanding of yourself and your circumstances right now. Regret is living in the past. Anger about what was and what isn’t becomes a place we get stuck.
“Lovingkindness is giving up all hope of a better past.” Jack Kornfield
Kristin Neff, author of the book Self-Compassion; Stop Beating Yourself Up and Leave Insecurity (www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tyl6YXp1Y6M) talks about how to invoke a self-compassionate state by the physical act of self-soothing-stroking or patting your arm. Like a baby being rocked, the hormone Oxytocin is released. Oxytocin invokes a sense of well-being by inducing the natural hormone. Remember I wrote in part 1 about how the self-critical mode evokes a state in our brain of “fight or flight.” The physical act of self soothing begins to calm the brain, increases trust and reduces fear. We can tell ourselves, “It’s okay-I’m doing the best I can…”
Ultimately those of you who perhaps resist the idea of self-compassion, let me ask you about self-love. Do you feel you deserve love? Do you feel kind towards yourself? Do you forgive yourself for not being perfect? Are you living in the regret of the past?
If I could write a children’s book, perhaps instead of starting with “Once upon a time” and ending with “happily ever after,” I would start instead with:
“One time a divine being came into the world and it was you. You were pure love radiating out. You were taught that your love for others and for yourself was your most important Super-Power. With this Super-Power you could change the world.
As you grew, others tried to tell you that they were better and you weren’t worthy of your Super-Power. After awhile, you forgot it even existed. It was difficult to manage life because without your power, you felt alone, inadequate and separate from others around you.
Then one day, the Cool Woman came along and started telling you your original story-how all beings are brought into the world with the Super-Power Slowly, slowly you started to remember. It took a long, long time to remember your power. It didn’t make your struggles any easier, but it did remind you that you had to love yourself and love others to navigate difficult times. You begun to understand the obligation you had with this power and how to change the world.
One day, you started telling others about their the Super-Powers. You told them about how they came into the world, what their purpose was and how they too had the power to change. They could love themselves and they could love one another.
Slowly, slowly the world changed.