I just finished Compassion Bootcamp. Every day began at 8 am, finishing at 10 pm. To say I am exhausted would be too simple, as I have explored the depths of what it means to be the authentic me; a version of me stripped away of the need to be successful, be the perfect mother, best girlfriend, a person who has lived life unconscious of the fact that I have been holding the responsibility of all this in my two hands alone.
I was dumb-founded Saturday afternoon, as I wondered what it would be if I stop trying to figure it all out? If I accept that enough is enough? That my business, where it is now, is exactly enough for now. How would I live my life if I were to stop searching for cracks in my life and the people in it? How would I live if I were to stop judging things as “good or bad,” to stop seeing the world as black and white? Could I, in fact, live with the possibility that I am, in fact, good enough as I am? Could I accept myself completely?
On Saturday evening I went for a compassion walk — yes, that is what is what called — in the redwoods to engage in a ritual of self love and self forgiveness. I walked through the green moss and mud, stating all the things for which I was going to forgive myself. I then walked towards the creek bed, engaging in a meditation in which I uttered the following mantra, “May all living things find release from suffering.” As I walked, I began to notice the small insects scooting on the forest floor; I heard the croaking frogs and hoped they would all find release from suffering. I thought of all the people I meet when I am out in the world who are bound up in their fear, suffering, and hate themselves and the life they lead. I thought of the people in cars who drive too fast, of the rude checkout girl at the mall, and the angry men and women who appear on reality TV shows to entertain the masses. In my meditation I wished them all the freedom from their suffering. All of them.
Then, on Sunday, the shit hit the wall.
We were told we were going to do some work with the concept of blame, as well as the typical consequence of blame which can be vindictiveness. Hmmmm, I thought. Vindictive? Me? I am so not that “get back at ya” kind of person. I never wish another ill will, or think those mean sort of thoughts. I thought I might be able to skate through this part, until my teacher asked me who I was going to choose as the person at which I felt anger. Quickly, I told her I would do work regarding the anger I have towards my ex-husband who I divorced six years before. I figured this would be a mostly “easy,” out, as I am resolved regarding our past and forgive him for those grievances we have between us.
“No,” she responded. “I want you to think about doing this work in regards to your partner, The Brit.”
“But, I am not mad at The Brit,” I said. “I love him, and I know we can work out the stuff that is coming up for us. The issue is resolved.” I added. Besides, I thought now to myself, how could I express my anger at someone with whom I am currently in relationship? This didn’t make sense to me. In my world, I couldn’t really, truly be angry with someone, yet still want to have them in my life.
“Well,” she countered. “It’s just a suggestion.”
Shit. A suggestion.
I thought about it. I was, admittedly, still pretty mad in regards to what happened (or didn’t happen) on Valentine’s Day. And then there is this new thing; his confusion regarding his place in life. He had questioned the value he brings to the relationship. His concerns that he isn’t able to show up in this relationship in the way he thinks I deserve. I began to remember the conversations last weekend, and my resultant hurt. I remembered my gripping fear. And, I remembered the resurgence of a VERY old message (an assumption based on my past) that played loud and clear in my head when he began to share his fears with me. A message which goes something like, “Men always leave me. I am too much to handle.”
Damn. The teacher had been right. I was pissed at The Brit. And I had to dig deep into it with the faith that I could still love him, maybe even more than ever before, if I were brave enough to go into unknown territory.
The work ensued. I wont’ go into the details, but let me say that once I started to release my anger, the tears spilled onto the floor near where I sat. Soon, I was heaving sobs, chunks of mangled tissues surrounded me within seconds, littering the floor like the grey of midwestern slush in February. Feeling the pain of being disappointed by other men in my life began sucking the air from my lungs. Hurt and disappointment filled in the gaps of openness — the trust — that I had worked so hard to create. More tears. It was becoming hard to breathe. I had NO idea I had been holding it in, I had not stopped to take notice the feelings were even there.
Finally, in what was truly just minutes later, the tears began to subside and I began to recognize that this message — this, “I get left” message was so damn old. Most important, The Brit didn’t deserve for me to hold the anger from my past against him. He had merely shared his fear with me; opened a conversation. I had INTERPRETED it as a “leaving” conversation. I blew it into a drama, starring me as the VICTIM. I reacted as I had in the past — 6 years prior — when I didn’t have the skills or the confidence to know that the TRUTH was that Jem had been a very courageous man sharing his heart with the woman he loved.
Just as the realization began to sink in, I heard the teacher’s words from the front of the room. She asked us to imagine this person we had just blamed as a child of 12 or 13. I imagined The Brit, then, as a young man who had suffered his or her own share of grief during his lifetime. A person who had his own set of messages that played in his head, causing the fear that welled inside him, resulting in the actions which had unintentionally hurt me. Then, she asked me to acknowledge his sorrow and suffering. She asked me to have compassion for this person who had hurt me, simply because he felt stuck, struggling to be free from his patterns; working so desperately to be free from the critical voice in his head.
Then, it truly struck me. I understood, maybe for the first time, that to REALLY love The Brit, is to be able to be angry, mad and hurt, yet feel compassion for him. To be mad, yet to love him deeply still. To feel compassion which ultimately lead to a depth of forgiveness which I have never felt before. What’s more, I felt compassion for myself. For my reaction; for the way I unleashed my world of “old” hurts on him — a man who has loved me more completely than I have ever experienced in other relationships.
The exercise nearly over, I decided I had come to a pivotal choice point in my life. Would I choose to let past hurts leak into my present, possibly destroying my future? Was I willing to stand alone, afraid, more willing to protect myself from the possibility of being hurt than willing to LOVE completely? To trust The Brit? Was I willing to completely commit to the relationship, even when hiding behind vindictiveness and blame would be safe, and certainly the more familiar pattern I had deployed in past relationships?
I sat up, inhaling deeply into my center. I felt into the forgiveness. I felt into the love. Then I exhaled, releasing that old hurt. Letting go of the old “story,” the drama and pain of the past.
I stood then, tall, my held high, claiming love. I said it aloud, the group witnessing my bravery. “I claim love,” I said. “I choose to stand in the power of love. I choose to feel the true bliss of compassion.”
I arrived home today, by the way. It was an intense 72 hours. Sitting on the kitchen table when I walked into my kitchen was an incredible bouquet of pink lilies; they are from The Brit. To me they represent the power that love wields, the power of energetic shifts, and the power of knowing that in the end, love and compassion will always yield more love. More compassion. And peace.