Anne Lamotte’s wonderful comment about the nature of mind is something I hold onto when the lights go out on various parts of my life: “The mind is like a dangerous neighbourhood. I don’t go there alone.” When the furies of insecurity and self-denigration mount their surgical strikes on my sense of worthiness, it’s a challenge to keep up a steady defence. I’m fortunate to have wonderful friends who are willing to sit with me through the mental games I play with myself and the darkening nights of facing the reality that our dreams don’t get fulfilled with fidelity to the blueprints we drew up when we were 4, 16, 28, or 50 years old.
Having a bevy of shrink-type friends can be nice because there are re-framings galore; these act to reassure more than just me, I suspect. There are also inexhaustible words of comfort, concern, and “fix it” suggestions. The best, of course, are the baked goods – and especially from the ones whose thwarted dreams involved chef and pastry schools. I love them all and know that they are variants of compassionate action.
And yet, what I sometimes crave is something akin to the angel alter ego of a child character in one of the daily cartoon strips I read. Pudgy and surrounded with flowers and stars in one moment, he transforms into a fierce warrior/protector when needed in another moment. It lead me to question the typical rationale we used to explain compassion.
Typically we state, “Compassion is ‘being with suffering’ because Com means with and passion is a derivative of suffering. Passion does derive from the Latin (pati) meaning suffer but not only that. It can mean to bear, to experience intense feelings such as wrath, ire, or fury. It can relate to being zealous, fervent and desirous or lustful. It also means to submit. These variations of passion are heated red and to be with such power seems to run counter to the typical construction of compassion as being quiet in its support.
Compassion is an expression of fiery love. It is a fervent submission to what is unfolding in this very life, in this very moment, in this breath. It is welcoming of all the furies and stands steadfast in the presence of the wild tearing winds of suffering. It is at the heart a fierce companion determinedly walking with you in the darkness of your path and eternal in its loyalty regardless of any outcome.
To be a fierce companion requires steadiness in being. The third stage of our three stage meditation this week then is appropriate in grounding us. We began by opening to the entirety of our experience and then returned to the breath. Now we bring our awareness to the solidity of our body. Sitting or standing, we feel ourselves fully rooted in the earth able to be steadfast and solid.