On Finding Compassion

Compassion. The dictionary definition is: sympathetic consciousness of others’ distress together with a desire to alleviate it.

Such a simple concept isn’t it? Another is suffering, and I wish to heal them of their suffering. It differs from empathy in that empathy is when you feel others’ distress but don’t necessarily work to alleviate it.  To feel compassion necessarily includes feeling empathy, but empathy doesn’t always include compassion (although the western world often conflates the two.)

Compassion has been spoken about a lot lately by my yoga teacher, by other yoga and Buddhist friends and teachers, and has come up a lot in discussions with other friends of spiritual dispositions – from ALL different paths. We’re all in agreement – the world and the state it’s in is a direct result of the lack of compassion between human beings. So why is it so hard? Why is LOVE so hard? Because that’s what compassion is — loving others through their pain and suffering, through your own, and wanting them to be healed. Even if those other are the cause of your pain and suffering, showing compassion for them will be healing to YOU, if not them.

There’s a video making the rounds of Facebook, saying that racism is a form of mental illness, a type of PTSD. Racism, homophobia, xenophobia — any of the forms of hatred — stem from a lack of empathy (and ignorance) and compassion for others. Buddhist thought would say that this is indeed a form of illness, of suffering and through compassion and understanding, we can help those suffering from this and heal them thereby healing society and ourselves. We can even take it outside of Buddhism into the Judeo-Christian realm — Jesus preached love and compassion even for the least of us. As my dear friend (a southern Baptist. Yep. The Witch has a close, CLOSE friend that’s a southern Baptist) said, “But as a Christian how can one justify hate? Which directly conflicts with the edict in the BIble they swear by to care for widows and orphans? Because as far as I’m concerned you can’t claim to “follow” Jesus and hate you can’t do so and deny any responsibility for your fellow man. JESUS would probably tell them that one never wins anyone over with hate and force and if they wanted to “win” believers they are doing a piss poor job by showing a picture of Christians that looks a whole lot more like Pharisees than followers of a man who lived his life preaching love and tolerance and forgiveness.”

Compassion. Something so lacking in our world lately. (Or maybe all the time, it’s just a lot more noticeable what with the Leader of the “Free World” tweeting threats and banning entire segments of the population and threatening war with anyone that disagrees with him.) Compassion seems to be the one thing that is truly separating the “liberals” from the “conservatives” these days — and I don’t even want to use those terms anymore because they almost don’t apply as the political lines are blurring past the point of recognition.

Those that have compassion are protesting the mistreatment of others, not because they want illegal immigration to continue unchecked (I agree that there needs to be some kind of immigration reform but a blanket ban or a WALL? No, that’s not going to work but that’s a whole different post altogether) but because they think human beings should be treated with respect. ESPECIALLY those that are already vetted and have green cards and have been in this country for years, LEGALLY. We marched on D.C. the day after 45’s inauguration because we know his policies and cabinet and SCOTUS picks will do harm to the minorities of this country. White suburban women, tardy to the party, finally found their compassion and stepped up and said, “No more”. Even those lucky people who will likely not be affected too badly by the coming tide of fascist authoritarian changes (the few white cisgender heterosexual christian males of moderate and stable financial means, long may he remain with us) maintain compassion and try to stave off the tide of hatred.

But….why are we doing this? How can we continue when “the other side” is so hellbent on destroying us? Logically, rationally, it makes no sense to look upon the face of an “enemy” and feel compassion for them when you know they feel nothing but enmity for you. Because if we don’t, we become just like who we’re fighting against. We must maintain our compassionate stance, even when it’s hard. ESPECIALLY when it’s hard. Change may never happen, there may never come a point where we reach an understanding  but remaining a compassionate person amongst the hate and turmoil is  good for *us*. It’s self-care against the tides of hate and chaos. You might not end their suffering but it’ll change you and potentially help you find an end to yours.

So don’t give up. Breathe it all in and love it all out. And remember that there is nothing more fierce  than unconditional love, more courageous than compassion. This is our strength.

Peace.

Don’t Rage, Just Love

I’ve seen a few admonishments, or maybe they’re not so much admonishments but statements of practice from folks within the yoga and Buddhism community saying that we should not rage against the current atrocities being done in the name of “safety” by the US government. That marching “against” policies rather than for love or for understanding is somehow wrong or goes against yogic principles.

But I don’t see it that way. Maybe that makes me a bad yogi. If so…so be it.

See I rage and protest and fight BECAUSE I love.

I fight against injustice and oppression BECAUSE I love those that have experienced injustice and oppression. Not because I myself am oppressed. Not yet anyway.

I protest against harmful policies and administrations that seek to implement them BECAUSE I love humanity. Even those I don’t know, agree with or love me back.

I rage against the evildoers and express my rage for all to see BECAUSE I love and feel compassion for all beings on this planet and don’t want to see it destroyed just to line the pocketbooks of a very few.

It is because I feel love, and empathy and compassion for so many including those that don’t feel it for me that I rage, and fight, and protest and am willing to put myself in a position where I could be taken to jail, or hurt to keep others from harm. I help those that need it, knowing they’re unlikely to return the favor. Even those that voted for Trump get my compassion — for they so badly need it, probably more so than anyone else. For they were so badly misled. I am angry at them, yes. I acknowledge my anger — and then do my best to turn that anger into action to stop the harm from progressing.

So I rage.

I rage because I love.

My rage is tempered, purified and transformed by that love and vice versa.

I am not ashamed of it, nor will I be deterred from it.

Rage on.

Love is the Law. Love under Will.

Namaste.

 

 

 

We Survive, We Always Do

Last night, I started watching “The Man in the High Castle” on Amazon again. Consider it “research” on how to survive the coming years; and not just the next four, as the ramifications of this election will linger on well past my lifetime. Combine our political climate with that of Brexit and the resurgence of populist stances in France, the alleged meddling of Russia in our election and so forth…it just seems as if a sort of refresher course in how to survive under fascism seems prudent.

Sure, it’s fiction but science fiction writers like Philip K. Dick are astoundingly prescient in so many ways. Either that, or society seems to catch up to them making science fiction into science fact. (Personally, I really wish we’d catch up to Roddenberry. The world presented by Star Trek is my version of a utopia — I want to live in a future like that. Please Scotty, beam me up. Find a fold in the time-space continuum. I’ll even battle the Borg.)

In the episodes I watched last night, Season 1 eps 6-7, one of the characters Frank Frink, a part-Jewish man who unsuccessfully hid his Jewish ancestry and so his sister and her children were killed, meets with another Jewish man and his children. This family still practices their religion, which is forbidden (they live in the Pacific States, held by the Japanese) and they hold a Mitzvah for Frank, reciting the Kaddish, which finally allows him to surrender to his grief. At some point, Mark tells Frank that he is raising his children Jewish in defiance of the laws, because (I’m paraphrasing because I don’t remember it verbatim): This is who I am, this is who my ancestors were. You can’t live your life in fear. We were being murdered because we were less than human. We wrapped our weapons and buried them, vowing revenge, and ran. I’m raising my kids. Hitler, the Nazis…I don’t care how it looks. It won’t last. One thing about my people, we have a different sense of time. These may be dark years, but we’ll survive. We always do. You’ve just got to find something to hold onto. 

The bold part…that stuck with me. I’m not Jewish, not by religion. I wasn’t raised Jewish, I was raised Methodist. But on both sides of my family, I am of Ashkenazi descent. Both sides of my family have suffered as a results of WHO THEY ARE, because they were Jews. My mother’s paternal side: German Jews. My father’s paternal side: Russian Jews. The very idea that we survive, we always do rang out as if I was standing inside the Liberty Bell as it was struck.

Now the man was speaking about faith being what he holds onto. That’s not me. I have faith of a sort. But my Gods aren’t the kind that will comfort and protect me. I don’t have a book to look to for guidance or even a church/community to go to for words of wisdom. I’m the elder in some cases for many. I’m the one folks will often look to for comfort or guidance and shit, I got nothing right now. The High Priestess is just as angry and scared and utterly clueless as to how she’s going to manage to survive the coming storm, so yeah, I got nothing. Except a glimmer of hope from a reminder that came from a TV show that somewhere in my DNA is “we survive, we always do”.

It would probably be a lot more comforting if I knew the spiritual/religious rewards behind that survival. The “chosen people” and what that means but since I’m only ethnically Jewish but not a practicing Jew (nor do I plan to be – Yahweh hasn’t touched me but Lilith has…and I’m pretty sure Yahweh frowns upon that lol) it’s only my genetic makeup that will 1) cause me to continue to fight for survival and 2) be the reason that I HAVE to fight for survival should it come to the point where ethnic cleansing practices occur again. Because no matter how white I look, no matter how Gentile I can pass for…I have more than 50% Jewish blood. Plus you add in that whole “disabled, latinx, queer, pagan” thing going on.

These may be dark years, but we’ll survive. We always do. You’ve just got to find something to hold onto. 

Find something to hold onto. Whatever that may be for you … find it. Hold onto it. These are going to be some dark years, even if by some chance the election results are overturned and Trump ends up back under the rock he crawled out from under — his legions of white supremacist believers have been empowered and the fight against such darkness has just begun.

 

My Internal Struggle

As a Witch, I am used to being a person of action. We are those that Do. We create and weave the spells that Make Things Happen. Our Work is in connection with our feelings, or those for whom we are working for, so emotions aren’t suppressed or repressed but felt fully and embraced. Sadness, anger, happiness, love — all of them given equal reverence.

As a Witch, I can rage and scream and hurl curses and hexes if I so desire just as I can sing and chant and send healing and protection. As a Witch, my ultimate goal is balance – light and dark as One. There can be no light with darkness, no darkness without light. Together, they are Whole.

The Witch in me is raging. The Witch in me is still screaming. The Witch in me wants Action, wants to hurl curses and hexes or at the very least – DO SOMETHING.

The Buddhist in me seeks peace. The Buddhist in me seeks compassion and understanding and wants to find a way to look upon those that chose to harm me with that compassion. I’m *supposed* to love them, even though they hate me. I’m *supposed* to have compassion for their suffering, because their suffering is the reason they have no compassion for mine and why they are causing suffering to others.

The Buddhist in me wants to sit and contemplate ways to put more peace and love into the Universe in the hopes that it’ll fall where it’s supposed to go and light the way out of the darkness.

The Buddhist in me is crying. The  Buddhist in me is looking around and wondering, “how can I help, what can I do, why,”

The Witch in me is pragmatic, while the Buddhist in me is idealistic. Both of them ultimately hope and believe in love over hate, good over evil, giving more than taking.

Right now, the Witch side is winning. She is raging and angry, protesting and raring to fight back when threatened. She is telling my Buddhist side to sit down and shut up and let the Work happen that needs to happen.

I’m inclined to listen.

When I need to find peace and calm myself, when I need to find balance and quiet the storms — the Buddhist rises and drags me, occasionally kicking and screaming, to find a moment or two of Zen. So that I can rage again.