One of the most profound experiences I ever had was an exercise that happened during a course I was taking on Compassion at Stanford University. It was nearing the end of the eight week class and I enjoyed it very much. The teacher was a slim man who was humble and engaging in his delivery. I could tell he had the presence of a former monastic. We can all sense one another.
Each week he would start with a short guided meditation and then share a teaching point and an example. From there discussion would happen and people would bond over their various life experiences that highlighted compassion in action.
This last class- well it was different. There was, of course, the appreciation for the energy we all brought each week and the next steps to deepen our practice and understanding. But this time he asked us to write a letter to ourselves. He asked us to write all those difficult situations we faced in our lives and meet them with compassion. He was asking us to channel a loving presence to look at each and every trauma, failure, grief, disappointment with compassion. What would that look like? How would that feel?
Reluctantly, I started to write. I noticed how easily I could spill out onto the page every hurt, but how difficult it was to extend compassion. I wrote and wrote dutifully. He took each letter from us.
That class was almost a year earlier when one day, I received a letter in the mail – from myself. Not remembering the class, I almost put it into the trash, thinking it was some kind of joke or advertisement.
But I opened it and ran into the bathroom with a box of tissues as I cried and cried. Oh my! I hadn’t realized how much I have endured in my life. The early death of my Mother, my estranged father, the death of my dog, the trauma of my accident. It went on and on. I knew I have survived my life but this was different. This was a tender voice telling me with kindness that I have survived and I have thrived and I still have love and kindness in my heart. Here was a loving presence expressing kindness to me for all that I have through.
I now do self compassion practices regularly. I see and feel the kindness and love that I need to get through some difficult days. And I also teach it to my friends;
May you be safe
May you be happy
May you be healthy
May you live in peace…..