Today’s topics: Isolation vs. Common Humanity, Mindlessness vs. Mindfulness, Resistance vs. Surrender…
Isolation vs. Common Humanity:
Compassion literally means “to suffer with”, which implies a basic empathy in the experience of suffering. While specific life issues may differ from person to person, all people experience pain and hardship in some way, at some level, and at various times. Unfortunately, many people do not focus on what they have in common with others. Rather than accepting difficulties as a part of the shared human experience, many people are more likely to feel isolated and disconnected from the world around them when they fail. Realizing that we are not alone in our life experiences reduces our feelings of isolation and also promotes a greater ability to cope with the situation.
Mindlessness vs. Mindfulness:
If we do not recognize that we are suffering, we cannot develop compassion. Through mindfulness, we can recognize our suffering as it gives us the ability to accept painful thoughts and feelings in a balanced and open manner. One definition of mindfulness is “knowing what you’re experiencing, while you’re experiencing it”. This knowing is obtained by feeling it, not solely at an intellectual level. Usually, we are too wrapped up in our thoughts to feel the pain that we have. This rumination stops us from recognizing our feelings. We need to see things as they truly are in order to respond to our current situation in the most compassionate and effective manner.
Resistance vs. Surrender:
If we feel disgust or aversion to what is ailing us, we lose sight of what is really happening to us. The greater the intensity of suffering we feel, the more acceptance we need to be mindful. Acceptance does not mean resignation. Rather, acceptance is defined as “active, nonjudgmental embracing of experience in the here and now.” Acceptance of pain leads to positive, appropriate action. There is a certain amount of pain in life that is inevitable. We instinctively resist this pain, both mentally and physically, even though resistance causes suffering. Viewing suffering as a mathematical equation, “pain times resistance equals suffering”. If resistance goes to zero, then suffering goes to zero. Most of the pain we have in life is actually not pain, it is suffering. It is the way we ruminate about things. We layer problems on ourselves by fighting against things that don’t feel good. In life, pain is inevitable, but suffering is optional. Mindfulness, acceptance, and self-compassion are the opposite of resistance. We are not trying to change what we’re feeling in the present moment. Rather, we are establishing a new relationship to the present moment, “a more open, spacious allowing of pain to flow in and out of our lives”.