“Compassion is the courage to descend into the reality of human experience” Paul Gilbert
So often compassion is seen as something warm and fluffy, a pleasant state in which we flow love to ourselves or another. And yes, this is a key aspect of what compassion is. However, this quote from Paul Gilbert really draws attention to something much deeper, at the heart of compassion as a way of being.
In order to be compassionate, we need to really be with whatever it is that is passing through us. We need to look, listen and sense clearly and fully what there is to notice. In doing so, we are not only looking at the good stuff and finding things to like. We are equally sitting with what is deeply uncomfortable and truly inhabiting it.
That descent into the reality of human experience is to be right in the middle of the messy jumble of existence, with all its tangles and jags, as well as its shimmering lights and bright colours. There is something visceral and vivid about our reality when we really get down to it, it’s not for the faint hearted.
Any practice that calls for true looking, be it yoga, meditation, psychotherapy or any other form, calls for courage. It asks us to be prepared to notice what we might not like, to confront uncomfortable truths about ourselves and those we love, and to stand firm, courageously with the knowledge of what we experience.
This is where compassion is truly present. It is the looking with kind and penetrating eyes at whatever we see, and being prepared to stay with it, to understand it, to embrace it so that we can move on and heal.
Staying with what we know and what we like can at one level be comfortable. And yet, when we do this we will often get a prick of discomfort that lets us know there are places we are choosing not to look. In our not seeing we may well be limiting ourselves, for there is always more, however much we see.
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