Apr 24, 2015

Compassion Through Grief



One friend who understands your tears is more valuable than many who only see your smile. -Unknown

Is there any more devastating human experience than the loss of a loved one? It doesn't matter what our personal beliefs are as to what happens to those we lose once they pass from this world. Whether we believe they are gone forever and death is the end or have deep abiding faith that they're reunited with others who will welcome them home, there still remains in our hearts an empty place where their companionship lived and breathed meaning into our world. That emptiness hurts - and it will for as long as it takes to stop.

The only people who believe there is a time limit on grief are the ones who have never lost a piece of their heart. - Unknown

These times are among the most challenging we'll ever face. They're made less so by the loving compassion of others. As societies we know the universality of loss. We know that we'll all face it at some point if we haven't yet. We build rituals around loss to support the grieving and buoy each other up at such times. These rituals are just as important to those who come to support as for the bereaved. They remind us of our own mortality and the fragility of it - it's fleeting temporary nature. They shine a bright light on the importance of nurturing the relationships we're blessed to have and they give us a chance to dig deep into ourselves and willingly feel the pain of another.

 When we can talk about our feelings, they become less overwhelming, less upsetting, and less scary. - Fred Rogers

As I attended two separate funerals this week, I was able to see this principle in action. I saw sharing of tears, hugs, and just the quiet holding of each other. I heard stories shared and laughter ringing through the darkness bringing beams of light. I heard a loving vocal performance sung from a soul - not from a throat. I saw cards, and flowers, and photo-memories - but most of all I saw compassion, because all of these things are the face of compassion.

Compassion was in the tearful eyes of those waiting to speak with the family of a lost loved one. I saw it in the ritual gathering itself - people putting their regularly scheduled lives on hold to be present to help shoulder the pain - to make it lighter even if only for that moment. It's been said that God loves us through other people - living angels who minister his love and tenderness. I've seen such angels. At times in our lives we will be called upon to be such angels.
When your fear touches someone’s pain, it becomes pity, when your love touches someone’s pain, it become compassion. - Stephen Levine
We must never underestimate the value of a sympathetic word or gesture. It may seem small to us - almost worthless, and there are those who feel that they have nothing to offer at such times that could be of any consequence. Instead they choose to stay away in fear of doing or saying the wrong thing. Any loving thing is the right thing. No one kind word, hug, or expression of empathy will heal a broken heart - like no one thread will bind, but woven together many threads become a strong rope that's hard to break and it's the same with loving expressions of kindness. They layer upon each other and form a thick blanket - a soft place for those who are grieving to fall. Those gestures reaffirm life and show the grieving that there is enough love left for which to carry on.
  A feeling of pleasure or solace can be so hard to find when you are in the depths of your grief. Sometimes it's the little things that help get you through the day. You may think your comforts sound ridiculous to others, but there is nothing ridiculous about finding one little thing to help you feel good in the midst of pain and sorrow!
- Elizabeth Berrien
May we each strive to be those ministering angels - those who just show up with a layer big or small to add to the blanket. Let's say the loving things that come to our hearts. Even our presence speaks volumes if we utter not a word. We all have it in us to lend healing balm in times of need. Let's also strive to be receivers of that balm from others. Don't turn away, out of discomfort or pride, the love being offered. It's a gift - given by someone who cares.
 If I can see pain in your eyes then share with me your tears. If I can see joy in your eyes then share with me your smile. 
- Santosh Kalwar
Let's also have compassion on those who try. Don't make them offenders for a word that might feel misplaced to us at the time. We all have different abilities and there are those among us who just choke in situations like that. Appreciate their efforts. Love them anyway for their concern. Understand that our sensitivities are at their peak in grief and the same words spoken at a different time might not have felt the same.
Loss is a common experience that we will all share. It's the bitter pill that comes with the sweet one in the "love package." It's just the much harder one to swallow. Let compassion see us through. Help others swallow their pill by offering them compassion too. I love the saying: "We're all just here to walk each other home." When is that more evident or important than in times of loss? 

Apr 15, 2015

The Kindness of Strangers





Kindness in words creates confidence. Kindness in thinking creates profoundness. Kindness in giving creates love.  - Lao Tzu


One of the things I miss most about being young is being cluelessly fearless. Having not yet had the opportunity to learn so many brilliant lessons the "hard way" made that easy. I'm not sure that times were simpler, but I sure was - and it was during one such simpler time that I learned a profound lesson about kindness.

I was in my late teens and as I shared earlier , I owned an old Ford LTD held together by rust and hope. The hope was that it would actually start when I needed it most.

The schooling started one winter as I was traveling quite a distance from home through snowy woods to and from work. As I drove, from time to time, I'd hear a loud clunk from under the car and the steering would temporarily go haywire. "That can't be good." I remember thinking - but not having the money to do anything about it left no option but to carry on, so I did - for several weeks - hoping for the best.

One night I left work later than usual. It had been snowing heavily all day and was already dark. It didn't occur to me to be worried about traveling on the snowy roads through the woods at night alone (blissfully clueless) - but I did at least think "Maybe I should have that noise checked out " before starting the journey. 

Back in those days, most gas stations were also repair shops so I pulled into the first one that I found open. I parked the car and went inside to speak with the older gentleman who was the only one there. When I explained to him what had been happening, his face contorted into that puzzled "It's doing what?" look. He scratched his head and suggested that the only way to know for sure what was happening was to take a look underneath. He opened the service door and told me to "Pull 'er in." 

As I was "pulling 'er in" the familiar clunk sounded and the steering went out - heading me straight for the other door. Seeing what was happening, he suggested that maybe I should let him pull 'er in. Once inside, he put the old LTD on the lift and up she went. After surveying for just a few minutes, he asked me how long it had been acting this way. "A few weeks" I admitted. He was quiet for a time then said, "You need to go sit in the office there and thank God you're still alive. You've been driving around with a broken tie rod end." Having no idea what that meant, but seeing that he did and it indeed wasn't good, I did as I was told.

As I offered my prayer of gratitude for my safety, I also worried. I was supposed to have picked up my son from the babysitter an hour earlier and didn't have the sitter's phone number with me,(no cellphones with contact lists back then.) I had no idea how long the repair would take but knew I had another 45 minutes to add to that for drive time on good roads. Considering the extra time the snow would add poured anxiety gravy onto the mound of worry.

I also knew that I didn't have the money the repair was going to cost no matter how little or much it might end up being. I didn't have a credit card. Not many people did back then and if I wrote a check for the repair I'd have to also pray he didn't drop it because it would have bounced like a Super-ball.

A few minutes later he joined me in the office and asked if I thought I could watch the shop and pump gas while he went to the hardware store to find the bolt he needed to repair the trouble. I assured him I could and off he went. Before long, he was back and working feverishly under the LTD. About an hour later, he came in and told me that it was fixed but suggested that I try to have a better job done on it as soon as I could.

I thanked him profusely and asked him how much I owed him and if I could possibly pay him in installments each time I got paid. He smiled and said. "Just forget about it. You don't owe me a dime."

I couldn't believe what I'd just heard! This man, a complete stranger had not only just fixed my car, but had put himself out to do it - and wasn't going to charge me a dime?!" My heart was filled with more gratitude for him and his kindness than it had even been for my own safety an hour before!

That was decades ago and I'm sure that if he's still alive, that gentleman has no idea that something that he did for a clueless young woman would so profoundly touch her, that she would share the story of his kindness time and time again and would eventually even write about it.

I can't be sure that I don't owe that man my life. How can I know what would have happened if I'd continued on that night without stopping? How can I be sure I'd ever have picked up my son or would even be here to share this? How can we ever know how important an act of kindness on our behalf really is? How can we measure the value of a kind act that we offer another?

Could there be someone out there today telling others of a kind deed that we performed maybe decades ago? Is there somewhere a heart filled with gratitude because we cared enough to help?
If we can't answer yes or at least maybe to those two questions, then maybe the bigger question is WHY NOT?

If life depended on the kindness of a stranger, could we be that stranger?

Photo Credit: Vladimir Pavlovic

Apr 6, 2015

This Has To Stop!



 I was obsessed with being perfect and beautiful, like a porcelain doll, forgetting that the purpose of life is to live fully, not to die perfect. - Kimber Simpkins


As a blogger, I love to read other blogs and get to know my fellow bloggers. It's a great way to see the world from the introverted comfort of my own home.

While so engaged, I came across a post that struck such a chord in me that I felt a need to share with all of you. The post was written by J.G. Lucas and titled What If and I'm sharing it in it's entirety below:


There’s a possibility that drifts past me, not quite making contact, not quite settling on me. It causes a slight lightening of the spirit but feels dangerous, like hope.“What if I’m OK?”

If I could say to myself, “You are.” What a relief that would be. How much extra energy and time I would have. How much unconditional joy I would have. The thing is, if you were to come to me and say, “What if I’m OK?” I would say, promptly, “You are.”
But you are. The hang-ups and insecurities you have, I don’t understand. You are beautiful and kind, you are brave and smart. You are a survivor. Every day you make it. You are still standing, smiling, laughing, studying, thinking, loving.

I’m not letting you off the hook. There just is no hook. Don’t be mean, that’s all I expect from other people. If you can stand up in this harsh and difficult world and not be mean, you are more than OK in my book. You are a marvel of humanity.

But from me, oh the expectations. The list is long and growing. The constant lengthening of the list is a promise to myself. “You will never be OK.”

If I was smart, I would ask myself, “Self, when I do all this, what can I have?” Cornered, my self will be forced to laugh a little slyly, and respond, “Have? Well nothing. There are other pages under that one, silly.”

This isn’t self-loathing or even self-pity. It is just something I don’t know how to release. It’s not like I’m interested in perfection. It’s not like I don’t know how little success with my list means to other people. It just is. It’s my hook. I’m not OK. Or Not OK enough for myself. I should work on that.  I’ll add it to my list.


What struck me about the post above is that in one form or another, I see this theme repeated continuously. I live this theme continuously. A large number of us seem to be completely disconnected from our OK-ness. I'm not sure where that comes from for you and often I'm not certain where it began for me.  Is it other imposed or self imposed and if self imposed why not self exiled?

Why can we find compassion and understanding for others but so little for ourselves? Why do we punish ourselves for our imperfections. Do we forget the human element that is a part of us all?

Are we arrogant in believing we need to be better than those we show mercy to or do we feel relegated by some outside force to always feel less than?

WE HAVE TO STOP THIS! Our lives are precious gifts. They are daily slipping away at increasing speed and too much has already been squandered by giving energy to the belief that we somehow don't measure up. 

We are all unique. There is no one anywhere to whom we can fairly compare ourselves because there isn't a duplicate to be found.

The question then is WHAT ARE WE CHASING? I believe it's an illusion. Perfection doesn't exist in human form. There is no amount of anything that will ever fill the "if only - then" void. We can't be pretty enough, rich enough, thin enough, popular enough, successful enough or any enough to compensate for our refusal to be self compassionate and self accepting.

Here is the challenge then. Will we CHOOSE to accept that we are already enough as we are striving to become more? It all starts and ends with that question. What will your answer be? Mine is a resounding YES!




About Anita Stout

 

I'm a Blogger, Writer, Mother, Grandmother, Business Owner, Entrepreneur, Life Student, Lover of Life and People. I have 2 blogs to keep me out of trouble, and one to get me fit. You can visit my other blogs at:
blog.lifeisntbroken.com
mindingmyownfitbitness.blogspot.com



 

 

About J.G. Lucas

I’m a mom and a writer with an accidental cat infestation (three), and a house that is attacking my spirit. I enjoy mangling words to make them do things they’re not supposed to do, and I’m currently using that proclivity to write a fiction series in the genre of Magical Realism-ish.

The above article What If was shared with permission and originally appeared at:

 https://smilecries.wordpress.com/2015/03/19/what-if/

Mar 30, 2015

Let This Be The Day




Love and compassion are necessities, not luxuries. Without them humanity cannot survive.  -The Dalai Lama


February 20th 2015: The day when 1000 voices are coming together to speak words of compassion into a world that desperately needs to hear them. I'm excited to be among those voices.Webster defines compassion as: "Sympathetic consciousness of others' distress together with a desire to alleviate it." Literally compassion means to "suffer together."









True compassion means not only feeling anothers pain but also being moved to help relieve it. -Daniel Goleman 

Mankind has and is making unequaled progress on so many fronts. People are more connected globally than we've ever been before. Communication is instant and we no longer need to wonder about anything as Google is only a tap away. Many of these advancements have contributed greatly to the quality of life we enjoy. I wonder if they're also contributing to the decline of compassion.



We're confronted almost constantly with suffering via news stations, social media sites and printed news. Is this barrage of pain serving not only to inform us but also to dull our senses and heighten our tolerance to it?


If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. 
If you want to be happy, practice compassion. 
-The Dalai Lama




How can we remain caring and have a desire to help alleviate the suffering of others when the sheer magnitude of distress exceeds our ability to completely comprehend it? How can we "save the world?" There's just too much to do and we, with all of our time saving creations, seem to have less time today than ever. Isn't it easier just to block it out - refuse to acknowledge the suffering in hopes that it will either take care of itself or someone else will take care of it? Isn't that why we pay taxes? So something will be done? These are all good questions, with no satisfactory answers.




Let us fill our hearts with our own compassion - towards ourselves and towards all living beings.  -Thich Nhat Hanh


It is easy to become overwhelmed. It's even easier to pretend that suffering isn't real or is self imposed by the poor choices that others make. Sometimes that is the case after all. People do from time to time land on hard times through circumstances they helped to create. Don't we all?




Wisdom, compassion, and courage are the three universally recognized moral qualities of men.  - Confucius 


When we're suffering ourselves, isn't the one thing we want from others compassion? Don't we want to be understood, heard, and directed? Compassion is an easy concept to understand when we're on the needing end of it. Its power to heal is completely evident then.



So, what can we do? Where do we even start with the overwhelming task at hand?




 RIGHT WHERE WE ARE!



None of us can do everything, but each of us can do something. We can start in our homes to be more present and aware of the needs of those we love with a heart open to responding. We can carry it from there into our relationships with our friends and colleagues. We offer compassion to complete strangers as we encounter them on the roadways - heaven knows that compassion could make our commutes  much less stressful.



We can seek first to understand, then to be understood. We can offer support to a grieving friend - take them a meal, offer to listen and just be with them.




COMPASSION DOES THE SPIRIT GOOD! PASS IT ON!
 



Compassion begins with awareness coupled with concern. It doesn't need to be some huge feat. It's often the small acts of tender kindness that mean the most to others. Just letting them know that they're not invisible and someone is aware of the burden they carry can do so much.



We can begin to make eye contact with those on the streets who are homeless. Show them that we recognize their inherent worth - even if we can't offer financial aid at that moment. We can afford a smile and a hello no matter how down on our luck we may be.





Our human compassion binds us the one to the other - not in pity or patronizingly, but as human beings who have learned how to turn our common suffering into hope for the future. 
 - Nelson Mandela



As transforming as a compassionate act can be for the one who receives it, it is even more transforming for the person offering it. It is impossible to serve another without our own hearts being lifted. We forget - even for just that moment - our own concerns. Our spirits are renewed. 


The joy compassionate service brings is something we want to feel again and again. It reminds of us of something deep inside ourselves that has always been there even when unused. It connects our hearts to others making us feel less isolated and alone. 

The individual is capable of both great compassion and great indifference. He has it within his means to nourish the former and outgrow the latter.
- Norman Cousins


Let this day, February 20, 2015, be the day when we  recommit to our humanity. Let it be a defining moment when we open our eyes and see again. Let's find a way to lift a burden, share a sorrow, offer a helping hand.

Let's remember that we're all more alike than we will ever be different, that our human needs are the same. Let this be the day that your heart begins taking its daily recommended dose of joy born of compassionate concern for another. Let me offer you just this one warning:



WARNING: ACTS OF COMPASSION MAY BECOME ADDICTIVE AND HAZARDOUS TO YOUR APATHY.


This post was originally shared at Life Isn't Broken by
Anita Stout

Mar 29, 2015

The Gift of Compassion

 

If your compassion does not include yourself, it's incomplete. - Jack Kornfield


 Compassion


 This post was originally posted on normalintraining.com by



Last week I gave a presentation at work on self-compassion, which was perfect timing. I had just posted my story about depression a few days before and was still reeling from all the thoughts and feelings that had exploded inside me as a result.


Blogging is truly a pay it forward kind of gift. I blog to help other people, but as I said in that post, it has turned out to be the best gift I have given myself. I’ve never had so many people thank me for talking about me. It was as though I had expressed compassion for their suffering when all I did was tell my story. When people thank me and tell me their own stories, every comment is another gift to me. So I received a lot of gifts last week, and I thank you if you were one of the gift givers.


One reader in particular, Abby Gardiner (AKA Stress Bubbles) said that she was sorry that I had suffered so much. I was taken aback. Until then, I was happy with the post because I thought it was a thorough and honest account of my depression, which I had never shared. And I was happy that I was in a place where I could accept my depression rather than feel ashamed about it. But I had not thought of it as a story of someone who had struggled with depression most of her life and whose shame kept her from seeking help.


I felt like Neo at the end of the Matrix when he broke open the code and everything suddenly made sense. I saw how impossible it was not to get depressed given my genes. My family members who are always in crisis. My tendency to choose people who need help because I had always played the helping role in my family. How little help I was able to receive from my family and my partners because of their own problems. And from anyone else because I never said how badly I was hurting. How I had cared about functioning more than myself. I had to get good grades. Get a Ph.D. Teach classes and see clients and rescue everyone I met.


Because she expressed compassion for me, I was able to have compassion for myself. Now, when I think about my story, it feels as though something is pressing against my heart. Perhaps the way it feels to someone whose heart has been jump started with a defibrillator. A bit painful and disorienting, I imagine, but you’re alive. What a powerful gift it is, compassion.


Since then, I make a point of thanking anyone who has shown me compassion. And I make it a point to have compassion for myself–even for the small things. Like having to spend a thousand dollars on a water heater. Or having a cold. Or having to cancel tennis when I was looking forward to it all week.

Because, if I’m being compassionate, then all the small things really aren’t small at all.

 

About Christy

I am a clinical psychologist at the counseling center at Washington and Lee University, where I have worked since 2002. I completed my B.A. in Psychology and English from the University of Virginia and my Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology from Kent State University. My areas of expertise include eating disorders, multicultural psychology, positive psychology, and mindfulness.

cbarongan

Mar 26, 2015

Ripples Of Caring





We may never know how far the ripples might extend past our moments of kindness or the lasting impact they could make on the lives of the ones touched by them.
Isn't that exciting? - Anita Stout


I was living alone with my young son, only 18 months old, separated again for the umpteenth  time from my husband and struggling. When I say struggling, I mean eating chicken pot pies for breakfast, lunch, and dinner because they were on sale 7 for a dollar and it was the best way to stretch my limited budget.

I lived and worked at an apartment complex that provided free rent as a perk of employment and drove an old LTD that was held together primarily by rust. In the car's defense, I only paid $125 for it so I always got more than I paid for when it started. It did start from time to time when it wanted to and if I pleaded and promised to fill it up with my next paycheck. On the days it didn't believe me, (with good cause) I'd call my friend Rich who worked at the complex with me. These days became more and more regular and Rich, bless his heart, was happy to pick me up and deliver my son to daycare before driving me to work.

Rich was an eternal optimist with a wicked sense of humor which was a Godsend to me at the time. Laughter is cheap but worth it's weight in gold. Rich was raised by a single mother himself and as a result I think it made him sensitive to my plight. His mother was a nurse who had managed to single handedly raise 8 children on her own of which Rich was the only son. 

Along with the free apartment, I was paid $4.00 an hour. What didn't go to daycare, which wasn't much, also needed to cover utilities and food and the occasional gas I'd promised the car. To say that things were lean would be to laugh. Things were dire. The only thing working to my advantage was that I was still too young to really understand the impact of dire.

It was November, the week before Thanksgiving, and on top of all the other expenses, I'd needed to take my son to the Dr. and pay for a prescription. Mother Hubbard's cupboard would have looked pretty good compared to mine at the time. I was too proud (taught early to be self sufficient) to ask for help so I got by eating can's of green beans and whatever else I could find when the potpies ran out.

One evening at about 7:00 there was a knock at the door. I wasn't expecting anyone so I was surprised when I opened the door to see Rich standing there with his mother, whom I'd never met before. The two of them, with both arms full of grocery bags, asked if they could come in. I was speechless. As they entered the apartment and began unpacking the the bags I was completely overwhelmed. The deep gratitude I felt was tainted only by the shame that I also felt at being in a position to require someone else to put themselves out on my behalf.

Rich's mother must have sensed this as she hugged me knowingly. I imagine, looking back, that perhaps she had been in my situation at one time or another being tasked with the care of so many young ones on her own. Very little was said. I hope I thanked them both graciously enough but I remember how difficult it was to speak and I'd never been that overwhelmed before.

That night changed me. My heart was broken open forever by the overflowing gratitude that wouldn't fit inside it without its bursting. I resolved there and then that I wanted to be like Rich's mother. I wanted to be the one to help someone in need. I wanted to honor her gift to me in every way possible.

That 18 month old son will be turning 40 soon and has 5 siblings as well. The time has flown on wings of lightening but its passage hasn't dulled my gratitude or my resolve to 
honor the compassion that showed up at my door unexpectedly on a bleak November evening.

That simple act of kindness set in motion numberless ripples as I've had opportunities to serve others over the years. I have no idea if my own acts of compassion might have influenced someone else to do the same, but how exciting is the prospect of that? What if we each only cast one stone? How far might the ripples reach? Let's find out shall we?

Mar 10, 2015

Imagine


  You may say I'm a dreamer, but I'm not the only one. I hope some day you'll join us, and the world live as one. - John Lennon



Love first. Ask questions later. What kind of world could it be if that were the prevailing mindset? What radical changes would take place?


What could happen if complete strangers could meet each other with the understanding that, beneath our various presentations, we all start with the same basic needs and wants? How would it level the playing field to give each other the benefit of the doubt instead of seeing through our acquired filters of suspicion and fear?




Imagine no possessions
I wonder if you can...


What if it were possible to give up the idea of me and mine and see things in terms of us and ours? Would we observe, conserve, preserve? Would it lead us to serve without worrying about what we deserve?

Would we be more generous? More willing? More available. Would there be less prescriptions written for anti-depressants? Would the prison system collapse? How many fewer people would go to bed hungry? Cold? 


Would hopelessness and loneliness become the things people wrote fictitious stories about? Would they be the modern day equivalent of "monsters?"


   ...No need for greed or hunger
A brotherhood of man...




How long would it take to see the end of bullying, abuse, and the need to control? Would greed whither if we felt connected more to each other than to our stuff? Would envy pass away as we realized that we're all supposed to have different talents to make us interdependent - unique pieces of a grand puzzle that when fit together create a matchless masterpiece?


Looking at the world today this may sound like some crazy utopian fantasy. Maybe it is. Maybe however we can make it true - one heart at a time.


Here's the rub. Someone has to start. Someone has to be willing to love first and ask questions later. Someone has to risk - put themselves out there - take the chance of being rebuffed. No one's ever died from rebuffing, but you'd think it was lethal the way we avoid it - even at the cost of ignoring our deepest need to feel connected to each other. 


 Imagine all the people, sharing all the world...

 
 What if labels, instead of saying MADE IN THE USA or CHINA or INDONESIA, said:
 MADE ON EARTH BY HUMAN BEINGS


Because that's the truth. The divisions, the separations, the yours and mine, the them and us, - those are the lies. 


It's not the truth that keeps us feeling isolated and alone. It's the lies. It's the illusion of separation and disconnection that keeps us separated and disconnected. 


WE ARE ALL PEOPLE!


People who bleed the same color, who love, who hurt, who strive, who win some, lose some and watch as some get rained out. We dream, realize some of those dreams and see others go up in smoke. We hope for better while dealing with the worst. We get sick, get well and most importantly ALL PAY TAXES!

 
We may not see this in our life time, but how would it be to die knowing that we cast our stone into the pond that sent out these kinds of ripples? Hate is a learned trait. It has to be taught. What if we decided not to teach it? 


What if we chose to teach love and compassion instead? How many generations do you think it would take before people forgot how to hate? Wouldn't it be awesome to find out? 
  
You may say I'm a dreamer, but I'm not the only one. I hope some day you'll join us, and

the world will live as one.  



Let's be the ones who go first - the ones who extend mercy before it's deserved, because if it has to be deserved it isn't really mercy. Let's take the risk - fly in the face of convention and refuse to be counted among the haters.


Love first. Ask questions later. Do you dare? 



PHOTO CREDIT: Original Artwork Sarah Kopp-Kazantsev
This post originally appeared on Life Isn't Broken