As I let my heart open and close, open and close, I learn to take a risk, to let go of what I thought was true, to see things in a different way. I become the beginner again, the student again, the child again; the one who loves and loves and never stops loving. (Through the Gates of Loving Inquiry, Ahava Shira)
With the practice of Loving Inquiry we can create a space to witness and acknowledge how we are engaging in relationship with ourselves and others. Sometimes this is with kindness, openness and generosity. However, other times it may be with criticism, greed, envy or hatred. If we can recognize these unloving ways of being, and the thoughts, feelings and actions (and often reactions) that come with them, then we can make choices to shift and re-engage with understanding, acceptance and compassion.
Developing a practice of compassion is a radically loving act. It means we recognize that we are human and fallible, that we are only responsible for our share of the living. We are certainly not in control of everything, and we can never fully know why something has occurred. We all make mistakes, sometimes absolutely horrific ones. Still each of us is worthy of compassion, of forgiveness and of love.
After taking responsibility for things we have done, we would do well to stop blaming ourselves and others. Compassion goes two ways. The Buddha was willing to forgive a man who had killed others if he was willing to start being kind and loving from that moment forward.
The Gate of Compassion is an opportunity to find and nurture a place of refuge, a place in which we can hold ourselves, and strengthen ourselves. We can find this place of refuge in sitting meditation and in the Buddhist practice of Metta, or Lovingkindness, which I share on the Love in the Afternoon podcast this week.
In my daily life I necessarily return to this gate again and again. As a woman who has spent much of her life being overly critical of myself, which has often lead to being critical of others, opening to the wisdom of this gate has been my biggest challenge and healing.
Developing an ongoing relationship with myself that includes compassion for who I am and have been, as well as for the choices I have made and continue to make, has been vital to my growth as a partner, a colleague, a friend and a family member. It has also made me a more sensitive and attentive writer, teacher and human being.
How do you practice compassion? In what ways do you offer yourself the opportunity “to be the child again; the one who loves and loves and never stops loving”?