Welcome to the creator’s compass. We are a tiny sliver of the cyber world reaching out to create a space of exalting the human spirit. Today’s episode is Part 2 of Hurt people Hurt People. If you haven’t read Part 1 and would like to read it here.
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“Love and compassion are necessities, not luxuries. Without them humanity cannot survive.”
“You’re a fool,” she said, “to think you can succeed. Look at the statistics. Be reasonable.”
I swallowed my hurt down into my big toe so I didn’t appear weak. But the thing was, I felt weak. What if she was right? What if I was doomed to fail?
“Besides,” she continued, her diamond bracelet glistening in the hot sun, “no one makes real money with art.”
She sure didn’t. She married into wealth to a guy that after he proposed, she came to me and sobbed into my arms because he had cheated on her.
“Some people make it as an artist,” I stammered lamely, my martini that she had bought wobbling in my hand.
“Those people, dear, get a foot in the door with their looks.”
Her gaze traveled me up and down, from my yellow Walmart tank top to my scuffed TJ Max shoes, all with a smile of pity in her eyes.
Was this what hatred feels like?
Learning to navigate our matrix
Have you ever experienced that kind of a ‘dressing down’ from someone posturing confidence? If you have, I’m sorry you experienced that. It’s awful to be cut into pieces with words, looks and innuendos. Sometimes it’s so subtle you think you’re going mad, convinced you are imagining such cruelty.
Gaslighting, or out-right obvious unkindness, can be discombobulating and actually is experienced as shock, for our core nature is loving-kindness and unkindness confuses our emotional bodies.
Yet, in the world we find ourselves in, or to borrow the over-borrowed idea—the matrix we believe we are stuck in—dealing with unkind behavior from
ourselves to ourselves,
or ourselves to others,
or others to us,
is the reality we need to learn how to navigate.
Anchor emotion with reason
In Tibetan Buddhism, it is held as a practice not to condemn the ugliness we perceive, but to use the ugliness as the path to enlightenment by putting compassion into real- world action. It’s action in the middle of human dysfunction (think politics). It’s action when we feel horrible, sick, or plain tired. It’s action in the face of the endless, cruel competition that drives modern society at the expense of others’ well-being.
Through engaging compassion mindfully beyond its mere concept, the Tibetan Buddhists found the ultimate compass. Imagine taking up compassion with intent as our compass. In my experience thus far, that compass always leads us back home to ourselves, allowing us to pop out of the matrix and see reality just as it is.
Buddhist scholars came to this understanding through observation and reason, not religious dogma, although Buddhism as a religion has formed around it. Observation and reason are vital components in Tibetan Buddhist philosophy, where questions of anything and everything are welcomed and embraced, for truth doesn’t shudder at questions but delights in the opportunity to pierce through ignorance and bring peace. Just a few honest moments can teach us that we need reason to pop out of the matrix so as not to chain ourselves inside of it with untethered emotionalism. We need the anchor of reason to right the plane straight so we don’t plummet to the ground and explode in a million pieces of confusion.
This is not to say feelings are insignificant. Emotions and all that comes with them make us human. If it weren’t for emotions, we’d be robotic, lifeless, and without inspiration.
Imagine a life void of all love, anger, joy, giggles, and passionate embraces. Horrible.
Likewise, imagine a life void of reason. Picture the absurd state you’d be in not knowing how to do anything, your body simply in a constant state of emoting. Total chaos.
Obviously we need both emotion and reason to fly straight, to live in equanimity.
I think many of us feel that reason is cold and heartless. We may have come to believe compassion is at odds with reason. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Compassion is a state of equanimity, containing the feelings of empathy and love and the wisdom of knowing how and when to help yourself and others.
It isn’t reason that’s cold, it’s the quitting too soon within a progression of reasoning that falls short. And so many of us quit when the bitter winds pelt our faces, not seeing the warm valleys ahead.
Facing unkindness by covering our own feet
So, we find ourselves in the matrix, and our tools to break free from spinning endlessly into the vortex of mental oblivion are reason and emotion. But how the heck can these tools help us when dealing with someone being mean? How do we engage compassion in the real world?
When a careless, maybe equally confused person as ourselves, throws daggers at us with downright nasty words, it stings. We are hurt. Then our bodies buzz as the nervous system goes into overdrive protection mode. This makes our thoughts fire off like hot licks of flames.
We find ourselves in a total inward meltdown.
However, we have our tools, one of which is useless in the immediate moment of being hurt, our emotions. But reason waits in the wings, ready to come to our defense. All we need to do, for reason to draw its sword, is to pause in the face of the unkind person, despite maybe wanting to knock their head off.
In the pause, reason has room to take over. Having the space to breathe, our minds can hold at bay our emotions, and remind ourselves that the person in front of us, despite our visceral reaction to them in that moment, is confused and hurt themselves (otherwise they would not be acting like that). Like I mentioned in Part 1 of Hurt People Hurt People, this reminding is compassion in action, and compassion is the sharpened edge of Reason’s sword. And once the sword is employed, our emotions can dance freely without the nefarious side effects of creating unnecessary damage to ourselves or others by reacting in kind instead of thoughtfully responding with wisdom.
Logical people might read this and puff with pride. But they should quell the dragon of arrogance, for emotions sustain life. They are the vehicle for manifested love on earth. And when coupled with reason, emotions become a mirror of self (self-reflection), the reflection able to seek out ultimate truth.
Practicing real-life compassion can taste awful when forced to confront meanness, like our body is being forced to eat putrid meat. But, the thing is, that reaction is our emotional body gasping in hurt and when we nurture our emotions with the balm of reason, facing hurt people acting mean-spiritedly, gets easier.
We can summarize compassion in action as not covering the entire world with leather to cushion our feet, instead it is covering our individual feet, thus ceasing to spread our hurt and putting an end to spinning into our own matrix of misery.
The beauty of being human
To be poetic—emotions are the flower drinking in the sun, and reason is the soil anchoring the flower. Or, emotions are the breath inside the notes and reason is the logic of scales and harmony.
I may be overly-poetic to some of you, but really, isn’t the dance between emotion and reason actually magic? There is no beauty when one outshines the other. Implicit in gratitude of the human being is beholding both. We lose nothing and gain immeasurable fulfillment when we learn how to use the tools available to us.
We aren’t robots, and we aren’t doomed to spin endlessly in chaotic whirlpools of emotion. We can harness reason and emotion in equal measure, and when done well, peace is present.
It’s a peace that is rooted and eternal.
It’s a peace that gives others around us comfort.
Within those times hurt people hurt us, we are given the opportunity to rise into the understanding of our higher selves, that aspect of us which is the ground of all that is good, loving, and true.
When our triggers are harnessed with reason, when compassion holds the sword of reason and glistens with emotion, we become a point of peace in this world. How beautiful.
Sometimes I practice well, sometimes I don’t and I lose my way only to nurture resentment towards people that have been ugly to me. But I’ve found in myself, over time, with concerted focus and pure intention to honor this life, so much growth and a deepening real-life, not just hopeful words in my head, compassion, that state beyond embracing, but inclusive of, emotion. In other words, compassion is seeping from my head and into my heart.
I foresee that being able to view even the most hurt among us with the eyes of unadulterated compassion could only be total freedom. I pray that I’ve only tasted a drop of compassion and that the entire ocean of loving-kindness is readying itself to enfold into the awareness of which I am.
And, at that point, I’ll pop fully out of the matrix and realize that I never was in it to begin with.
Sending light and love,
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