The Miracle of Compassion
written by Renee Fedun
In mid-October, I participated in the Mindfulness and Compassion Retreat held at Sarana Springs in Chatsworth. My intention was to coax my mind out of its endless muddlings and find some peace. To my dismay, I came home after the weekend supremely agitated.
I gamely tried to push aside the eternal loops of “I should have said this or done that or been kinder or more sociable…” or whatever else I found wanting in myself. I had worked hard over the weekend to remain present and responsive to the teachings, and I thought I’d made terrific breakthroughs. But here I was stuck again, unable to scare up the least bit of forgiveness for myself and my perceived shortcomings, unable to escape the misery-go-round of my thoughts.
I had been excited going into the retreat, imagining that we would be learning mindfulness techniques that would help us find compassion for the Earth and for each other, especially people whose points of view, politics or even actions might be inscrutable to us. This certainly turned out to be the case. But I didn’t realize that my compassion for the world must start with compassion for me. Surprisingly difficult.
Returning home on Sunday, I spent the remaining hours of the day alternately trying to lose myself in a jigsaw puzzle (not recommended since it gives you opportunities to think!) and writing up my ugly feelings in technicolour. I pondered some of the exercises we had done during the retreat, meditating on someone in our lives who had shown us great kindness and another person (or in my case, a dog) who was caring and compassionate, never judgemental towards us. We also struck up a relationship with our “wounded child”, thinking back to some seminal moment in our lives when someone close to us had neglected or hurt us and how that had coloured our view of ourselves and our world. We were taught to visualize the dark smoke of our pain, take it into our hearts and release it as white healing light. All this had been hugely helpful, but my mind still gave me no peace. I went to bed fearful that I would not be able to sleep.
Not only did I get a good night’s sleep, but I woke up the next day feeling different. Given the opportunity to rest, my mind, of its own accord, relaxed….and giggled. Lightheartedness set in. I had forgiven myself. It seemed a miracle.
Will I forever be at peace now? Hardly. But I know that there’s a way out of the endless cycle of recriminating thinking. Focussed meditation, one day at a time, is helping me find compassion for myself and others, over and over again. For this, I would like to thank Maxine, Andrew and Kim, our loving and compassionate retreat facilitators, for shepherding me and nineteen others towards “the four immeasurables” – loving kindness, compassion, appreciative joy and equanimity – and practicing with us. Namaste.