Tis’ the Season for Compassion

With the holiday season in full bloom and many things from this past year causing us distress, there is a great need for both compassion for others and for ourselves. 

First, we get to build awareness.  Why do we feel anxious, unsettled, overwhelmed, and even angry?  The year 2020 has given us so many reasons to feel these feelings; we are living through a pandemic, political tensions, and racial tensions.  On top of that, add the hustle and bustle of the holidays, which are in no way “normal,” and we have a cocktail for emotional imbalance.

Next, we look at our relationships.  Because the pandemic has us often isolated from human interaction, and our engagements are mostly on-line social platforms, we tend to forget there is another human being on the other end.  Our fears and judgments get built up and we’ve conjured a whole story without ever really asking another for clarification.  Before you know it, we end up “othering” them.

 The word compassion means to be alongside others, recognizing their suffering and wishing the suffering to be relieved. We are all in this crazy situation together.

In mindfulness practices, we take the time to be open, curious, seek understanding, and listen.  When I take a moment to focus on what is alike about me and another, versus what is different, I stop “othering” them. Rather, I am able to honor and relate to them.

Let’s start with curiosity.  We could start with a brave conversation and ask, “why do you feel this way?” Then, we stop and listen to what they have to say, asking questions for clarity.  Sometimes the answers will surprise you and give you a great perspective.  Sometimes I may not agree, and that is okay.  I do not have to agree to respect another.

These questions bring me into an honest, meaningful conversation with another. I am not judging them as sick or wrong.  Instead, I find ways to understand them, making it much easier to feel compassion.

Does this mean I have to agree with them?  No! Not at all.  What I am doing is generously assuming they have good reasons for feeling and dealing the way they are, and trust that it is working for them.  In other words, I keep to my side of the street and mind my business, doing the things that work for me.  If I am uncomfortable or don’t want the interaction with someone, I am free to leave at any time, still sending love and blessings their way.

Besides, there are health benefits to compassion.  It reduces anxiety and promotes oxytocin, the feel-good hormones. These feelings generate more trust, generosity of spirit, caretaking, and kindness.  (And who doesn’t want to feel good?!)

Lastly, don’t forget to extend yourself this same grace and compassion.  It is okay to recognize you may have wanted this year or these holidays to be different.  It is okay to mourn that loss.  Let go of the judgment of yourself, for your imperfections, or not doing things a certain way.  It is what it is.  Being with what “is” takes away the anxiety, the worry, and the fear.

The year 2021: ‘tis the season of compassion and forgiveness for yourself and others.  Breathe in a sigh of relief and let out all the negativity.  You are imperfectly perfect.

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