When you look at those you love- what is your first thought, your strongest emotion? Love, caring, concern? Do you think about what you might hope for, wish for that person? Are you concerned for their well-being and safety- desiring more than anything to keep them healthy and free from pain or suffering?
Our closest relationships draw from a well of compassion and caring, a deep and abiding interest in the success and happiness of others. We often sacrifice and suffer ourselves to prevent others from experiencing this pain. We see the beauty and potential in others; the opportunity for ‘something better’ and we give and give of ourselves to help them nurture their growth toward that goal. It becomes our goal and accomplishment as much as it is theirs.
When you look in the mirror what is your first thought, your strongest emotion? Do you quickly look away- embarrassed or displeased at what you see? Do you quickly move to criticize or judge the person you have become or are you able look with some curiosity, pleasure and/or humor at how you are growing, progressing? Can you be considerate of this person and be empathetic with the fatigue, laughter, hurt and the joy you have experienced and how it plays out in your countenance?
Too often we reserve love and compassion for others. We act as if there if they are a rare and precious commodity that we have to dole out carefully. Perhaps in our own lives these qualities have been rare or even absent and we have learned to hold back nurture and caring. Perhaps life experiences have been so overwhelming that survival has seemed the only option. Care and nurture of oneself has seemed a radical luxury or has been deferred to that time when “things quiet down”- yet that time never seems to come.
We are not wrong if we think of love and compassion as a rare and precious commodity. There is enough evidence in a brief time reading the news or listening to the stories of hurt and pain all around us. But unlike gold or diamonds or other rare substances, love and compassion are an organic commodity. They grow and are renewed through nurture and attention. Like a garden at the center of our heart they thrive or perish by the attention we give them.
Begin in your own garden. Weed out those negative thoughts, trim back those overgrown memories and beliefs that threaten to choke out any other life inside you. Water, nurture, and give space to those parts which have not had the opportunity to grow. Recognize that not caring for yourself only means that you are carrying the seeds and weeds of anger, shame, and fear into all those other gardens that you are trying tend to and nurture. Let the beauty you create in yourself become the source for the beauty and compassion you wish to see around you.