Saturday, March 19

Retuning to compassion

I had a moment of personal revelation while I was vacuuming this morning.  I like to vacuum, by the way; it has an odd rhythmic quality to it and the noise of the vacuum is like white noise so helps me just drift and ponder.

This morning I was thinking about something that happened yesterday at the office that really peeved me, and that led me to start thinking about a variety of options.  But then a thought slammed into my brain so hard I stopped vacuuming for a moment so I could concentrate entirely on that thought.

The thought?  Compassion.  I've lost my grasp on compassion.  Tunisia, Libya, political mean kids, Japan, and so much more.  The cover of the Mar 7 issue of Newsweek has the title "Brain Freeze: How the deluge of information paralyzes our ability to make good decisions."  I haven't had time to read the article yet, but I thought about that cover title as some sort of connection, maybe reason or excuse?

This hasn't happened overnight.  I started thinking about when it might have started, but I can't really be sure.  I have a sense of when I started being crankier and more impatient with people about their flaws and ineptitudes, real or imagined.  When I started being more judgmental and less inclined to try to help or coach.  I would like to say, a la Wordsworth, that the world is too much with us.

Written in 1806, this particular poem was long before the frenetic, chaotic pace of our time.  I'm not going to try to summarize or analyze this poem, but the first four lines resonate with me.
The world is too much with us; late and soon, 
            Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers:
            Little we see in Nature that is ours;
            We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon!
As do the lines
For this, for everything, we are out of tune;
            It moves us not.

I realized how little time I really make for myself to withdraw and regroup, to think about things other than work, to connect with family and friends, to enjoy something as simple as fresh air and sunshine.

Too often I turn on the TV when I get home from work. It's an escape, but it's not a "good" escape. Sometimes I read, but a lot of times I'm still working--making connections between what I see and hear and read with what I'm thinking about or trying to do at work.

So this morning I realized that along the way I've lost my compassion. Not completely, but the reservoir of empathy and sympathy is rather empty. And I also realized that, at least for me, compassion is what helps me listen well and think through options and possibilities. Without compassion, I'm more irritable and less patient; yes, more judgmental.

The irony is that I have to work a lot of this weekend.  But this revelatory moment of self-awareness is a good thing.  People joke about something being all about them and there are times in some situations when it might be "all about me."  But that's a weird trap and part of what helps drain the reservoir of compassion.

I'm not sure how to refill that reservoir except to practice compassion, except to be more mindful on a day-to-day basis how I'm reacting to others and why I'm reacting that way, but also to spend some time, even if it's only a short period of time, stepping away from the world and retuning myself to that which moves me, to that which moves my heart.

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