"If your compassion does not include yourself, it is incomplete."- Buddha
I am an active individual to put it mildly. With five children, two businesses, and volunteer work, my level of "busy" is off the chart most days. Which is why it was highly inconvenient to have unexpectedly and unexplainably thrown my back out, leaving me practically useless. It may have been set off by a vigorous tennis match earlier in the week, or by adding some crunches to my exercise routine, or by simply lifting my seventeen plus pound baby, or all of the above, but I can't pinpoint any obvious cause. All I know is that on Friday afternoon my lower back was sore and by Saturday morning I couldn't get out of bed without help. This was terribly frustrating because my weekend was full of plans. I was supposed to watch a tennis match Saturday morning and spend the rest of the afternoon planning and planting our Fall garden. My tennis team was depending on me to play a tennis match Sunday afternoon, and I had two home visits scheduled with midwifery clients that day as well.
Naturally, my initial thoughts were that I would muscle through the pain and would surely be "well enough" to play tennis on Sunday and make it to my appointments. But as the day wore on, it was looking less likely that I would be able to fulfill my obligations. I called in a chiropractor to come adjust me at my house. I'm not sure what hurt more- the injury or the treatment, but the good Dr. assured me that the only plans I needed to make were the ones to ice my back and go to bed. Time and rest were the only cure. I had remained positive until that point and then I caught myself feeling disappointment that I would not be able to keep my commitments. Thankfully, I have cultivated a decent self-care practice, so I was able to temper those feelings of inadequacy with self-compassionate behavior. I reminded myself that I cannot offer anyone the care and treatment they best deserve if i have not first allowed it for myself. I proceeded to cancel all obligations for the foreseeable future and settle in for some apparently much needed quiet rest and relaxation.
"Love and compassion are necessities, not luxuries. Without them, humanity cannot survive."- Dalai Lama
Saturday wore on without relief. I went to bed very early, mainly because I couldn't bear to be sitting up. I slept ok, but struggled again the next morning to even get out of bed on my own. My patience was wearing thin now. I had kept a good attitude until now, but it was time to get the show on the road and move on with living my life. As I lay in bed thinking these thoughts, my mind flashed a vision of my prayer list that I keep by my desk. The list is updated periodically as I hear of family and friends with different needs for prayer. There is a friend who is suffering from repeated miscarriages, family members who are stricken with debilitating degenerative diseases, a friend who's estranged son passed away unexpectedly, and another friend who's child was severely injured playing football. While it is a nice gesture to have created the prayer list at all, and there is definite power in that visual, a revelation came over me that I'm sure would not have happened had I not been forced to be still in my own suffering. It was as if, through my own affliction, I was able to truly connect with the magnitude of pain others were experiencing.
My compassion in that moment for the plight of my friends and family left me sobbing uncontrollably. I was aware that my physical manifestation of pain was a buildup of energies I had not processed or only partially allowed myself to comprehend. Perhaps my brain was trying to protect me from feeling the pain of my community, but the moment I allowed the compassion in, the opposite happened and I could actually feel my physical body begin to release and the tension to ever so slightly start to unwind. As I write this, I am able to go from sitting to standing on my own again. I'm not a hundred percent, but the healing after my moment of connected compassion has been notably steady. Of course we can never truly know what another person is going through, which is also why we should never be spending our time judging them. But we have all experienced unexpected loss and the grief associated with that loss. The underlying feelings are what we connect to and have compassion for. I can't say I'm happy it took a debilitating injury to get in touch with my compassion, but if it took that for me to be able to sit still long enough to tap into it, then so be it. This is why meditation is one of The Four Seeds of Self-Care. When we are still and quiet, we can connect more deeply with ourselves, often discovering where we may need more intentional practice in our lives. Connecting with ourselves on a deeper level than our too busy lifestyle often allows, creates space for us to also compassionately connect with our community. This is always a good thing and well worth our time and whatever it takes to get there. Our humanity depends on it.
With love and gratitude,
Kinda and Rachel