Compassion is the working side of love. It is the reaching out and touching back of one soul to another. It is the acknowledgement and true understanding that we are all in this together. Compassion is an ache-filled knowing that we all need the same things -- to be loved, to love, to be understood, to know that our footsteps upon this planet have made a difference.
Compassion is listening and truly hearing what another has to say. It is a conscious pausing and a slowing down to see and feel the person beside us -- to notice that they are just like us and that they count. Compassion is a wide soul and a non-judging spirit. Compassion is a courageous moving of ourselves into life with an accepting and open heart. Compassion is also the deep knowing that we are all on the same journey and that we are not alone.
But in our modern 24/7 lifestyle with its "instant pudding" communication and information overload, this connecting of me with thee is often underdone and undervalued. Our isolated, air-conditioned and compartmentalized days keep us running hither and yon, eager to get all our duties done. As soon as we put one project to bed, we open the file for the next gotta-do thing. We scurry through minutes that too soon become years, breathless and oh-so-very busy. And so, we don't realize how much of life's oomph and grit are lost, as we let opportunities to laugh and love with others wash unnoticed down the side streets of our lives -- moments that we blithely walk by without a second glance.
But are we ready for the intimacy that being truly connected to one another entails? It requires a willingness to be vulnerable -- to let ourselves be touched and nakedly shared -- within the profound "feeling-ness" and the sometimes-brokenness of life. Do we really want another to see the us that shows up when we are alone and honest with ourselves? Do we really want to share the confused us or the lost us that we lock back into in the closet of our souls when the alarm goes off at 7 a.m.? Yes, we do. For when we do this, we are no longer separate and apart. We are no longer alone.
With practice, compassion becomes second nature, and we become so much more -- more open and even, more willing and available, more aware and gifted in the doing of life. There is an anchored depth and richer meaning to the hours of our living. The joy of another becomes our joy. The sorrow of a neighbor can be felt and held in our hand with dignity and grace, for we have our own sorrows to share. Laughing voices heard as we walk the dog can bring an aching appreciation for life and twitch-lipped snort of, "Yeah, me too!"
Compassion is the working side of love. And compassion for ourselves -- a reaching out and a touching back of us to ourselves with honesty and abiding self-care -- is a very, very good place to start.