Saturday, October 17, 2009

Cultivating compassion

The Dali Lama teaches that through our thoughts and reactions we create our own suffering. That cultivating compassion for ourselves and others helps us to lessen this suffering so we can experience more joy. I had the opportunity for a little "aha!" about this teaching this week.

My little giggle box is often slow moving in the morning and needs a good deal of time, support, and at times cajoling to get himself ready. As our schedule for this week, at home and school, was going to be a bit taxing, I expected he would need more support. Therefore, I consciously planned that into my morning for the week.

On Friday, however, giggle box awoke very alert and seemingly moving at a good pace on his own. Consequently, and mostly unconsciously, I shifted my expectations. I began working from the perspective that he was perfectly capable of managing his morning routine without the extra supports I had been giving him. Didn't notice that big red flag waving in my face, so suffering ensued for all of us.

After a start of independence, giggle box began to struggle with getting things done. Since I had shifted my thinking about his needs for support, providing this support became an annoyance instead of an expectation. My preconcieved notion about his ability to manage his morning independently led me to perceive his behavior as a problem. Thus, I became frustrated and irritated without even realizing why. We muddled through our morning grouchily and I felt dumbfounded about what had made this morning so different.

Later in the day as I grumbled to my friend about our frustrating morning, the Dali Lama's teaching popped into my head. I realized that nothing about the morning had been dramatically different than any other day that week except for my perspective on what my giggle box should or should not be doing independently! I created my own suffering and frustration by the way I looked at the situation.

I also realized that I probably do this every day about many things. Creating my own suffering about all the situations that interfere with my plans and expectations. While I am working on this through my meditation practice, I am sure that most of the time I don't even notice how my thinking influences my reactions. Yet another reminder that this is what being present is all about. Feeling, thinking, doing, being in the moment, not from old patterns.  Consciously choosing how I will act and react. Noticing the old patterns of thinking that send me down that road of frustration and choosing a different, more compassionate path.

When we listen with our hearts full of compassion, we can respond full of compassion. It takes practice and attention and being present, but we can be successful one moment at a time. We will also fail and those are our opportunities to practice compassion for ourselves.


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