It is interesting how life can take you by surprise. Just when you feel like you have things figured out, and that you are finally moving forward and understanding yourself, life comes along and drops some stuff in your lap to review.
Wow, I thought I had worked through that stuff…..maybe not…..the fact that it is here means it is important to work on…..what is it asking me to do?!?
In my case, it was a lovely series of memories of my anger. Anger towards the ones I love, to those who could defend themselves and against those who could not. But most of all it was anger toward my own innocence. To my own sense of who I was, to my own inner being. The starkest memory was of a generous soul who taught me about unconditional love in the most in your face manner possible, my dog Paddy. He was a lovely German Shorthair Pointer that was found in the Oquirrh Mountains in Utah scratching for something to eat. Nancy brought him back to me as I was working at the weekend clinic on post and said, ‘Here, I found you a dog!’ and indeed she had.
He was a fantastic dog, loyal, humble, playful, and loving. As an owner I had my ups and downs, and one of my biggest downs was in the harshness of my training of him. That is the gem that life dropped into my lap, an opportunity to look back at the highlight reel of harsh training methods from my current perspective, and it was gut wrenching. However, it was the gut wrenching starkness of that review that led to the most profound healing. In looking at how magnificently Paddy continued to love me despite my actions I had a glimpse at the unconditional nature of love. As I reflected up on that unconditional nature of love, I was able to see so many others in my life who had loved me as deeply and as unconditionally in spite of my actions, they saw me as I was, deep inside, and looked past those aspects of me that were not bright shiny moments. The loved me beyond my actions and in spite of my glaring imperfections. They found me worthy of that love even when I did not find myself worthy of such love, and certainly did not have any for myself in that time.
In looking at these moments something becomes very clear, that in each of these moments I was doing the very best that I was capable of doing, and that if I could have done better I would have. It is this knowing, that is the ground for forgiveness. It is this knowing that even my worst was still the best I had at that time, in those moments, and if I had been capable of anything better at that moment I would have brought that forward. Forgiveness is seeing that aspect of every action and interaction, it is seeing that in every moment you do the best that you are capable of, and being gentle with yourself if that best appears awful. It is accepting and loving the one who could only do so much from the knowledge that in that moment, this is all they were capable of doing. It is looking into that moment and giving yourself that unconditional love as Paddy, and as so many did for me. It is looking into that moment and seeing past that action, seeing without judgment, seeing it for what it is, the best you had in that moment, and loving the one who could not do any better at that moment in time.
When you step into that space where you can love the ones who seem so unlovable, it is here that your compassion arises. In looking within, with compassion and knowing that you did your very best in every moment, you start to see those around you in the very same light. You see actions that look very much like your own, and realize, ‘they are doing the best they can, if they could do better they would’. You see people where they are, in their struggles, and realize they are doing the very best that they can, and so you can love them where they are for they are doing their best, if they could do any better they would.
So, as you sit and meditate, do not shy away from the gifts that life drops into your lap. They are brought to you for a reason, they are brought at the perfect time, and they arrive to further the healing of your soul. Love whatever arises, knowing that in any given moment, you are in fact doing the very best that you can, and that there are so many around you who see this, know this, and love you just as you are. In time, you become the one who loves yourself as well.
For a wonderful talk on compassion that touched my heart and resonnated deeply, see Matt Kahn's talk