As I have been finding my way through the times we are living in, I have been enrolled in a Compassion Cultivation Training course. I got into it because in the midst of anticipating a challenging encounter several months ago, I “randomly” opened a book on compassion that had been sitting on my shelf for a while. And then, I “randomly” opened to a section on a practice recognizing our common humanity with others known as “Just Like Me.” As in, Just like me, this person I am struggling with seeks to be happy. Just like me, this person seeks to avoid suffering. Just like me, they…
I spoke this phrase in my mind regarding the ones I was battling with, and in an instant, everything went quiet. Immediately. And a deep, deep peace washed over me. Given how much apprehension, resistance and inner girding was in play for me, I cannot begin to tell you how surprising this all was.
And how very, very welcome.
I do not want to be at war with another. And yet, I find it one of the most challenging things I wrestle with. That being, how to live the truth of who I am and what it is that I want for the world while bumping up against others who have a different agenda. Whose version can seem to collide with what I most value. To be at odds with what makes sense to me. To smash into, and even deny, who I am and what I most yearn for with all my heart.
And I find it particularly challenging when fear is in play. For either myself or the other. For it is in those times that we, in our state of fear, begin to look for a source of danger. Begin to look outside of ourselves to identify where the threat is coming from. This is a great plan when the danger is real, but a catastrophically bad one when one our fears are imagined.
For to be in a place of imagined fear with another pits us against each other. Leaves us only able to believe that the one on the other side of us is wrong, evil, the problem. A danger. And because our fears are imagined while simultaneously seeming so very real, we cannot see our way clear of this because the fear locks us in; keeping the wrong thing alive. Fear, because of its connection to survival, even when imagined, will keep us fighting off imagined foes and all the while justifying our actions as necessary. In effect, fighting a made-up battle against a made-up foe.
I saw that in myself that day when I recognized how I was seeing others as different from me. Not like me at all. And in that place, I was able to make them the bad guys. The source of my suffering. The ones in the wrong. It left me recognizing that in keeping them separate from me, I was increasing and holding onto my own suffering. And I was ignoring that they were having their own experience. As legitimate as my own.
We have so much of this going on between us now. And I will tell you that as long as we keep the “other” side on the “wrong” side, we will all suffer. Greatly.
To be clear, this is not about accepting bad behavior. It is not about forgoing your values, what you need or who you are. Instead, it is about recognizing that everyone, everywhere, at every time, and under every circumstance is somehow just like you. Even if the agenda is different. Even if their solutions and sensibilities are different. Even if their way of life, their politics, their beliefs, their “you name it” are different.
We are all just like one another in that we all want to be happy and avoid suffering. In that we all want to be loved and recognized. In that we all want to be safe and free from harm. In that we all want a world that makes sense to us. In that we all…
The book I mentioned is called A Fearless Heart: How The Courage To Be Compassionate Can Change Our Lives by Thupten Jinpa, and the program can be found at https://www.compassioninstitute.com