The Art of Compassion

I have been experiencing constant waves of confusion and anger ever since Trump was elected. I haven’t been able to muster up the desire to write, but this morning was the exact motivation I needed.

This past week has been a whirlwind of emotion. I am currently dealing with visa issues and am now living in Indonesia illegally YAHOO! I was also homesick for the first time since arriving in Indonesia. My mom’s birthday was on Wednesday and of course Thanksgiving made me miss home even more. I just want to eat some pumpkin pie god DAMN! Finally, I just spent the past three days traversing Flores with 154 of my favorite 11th grade tourism students (my next blog post will be an elaboration about this wild trip I promise). I woke up this morning exhausted, hungry, and wishing I was in my bed at home.

Sometimes I swear my mother is telepathic. Within minutes of getting out of bed, I got a WhatsApp message from her asking to FaceTime. My cousins, uncle, and Oma were all at my house and they wanted to talk. This was exactly what I needed. As I was talking to my cousin Nora and my little baby Pooks (my brother Ian lol), close friends of my family started arriving at my house. My cousins were confused, my brother was confused, even my mom was confused.

Long story short, my incredible father threw my mom a surprise birthday party, a small but meaningful gathering with the people who mean the most to her. Even my life-long bff Max was there, my heart was full. I spent about an hour and a half FaceTiming with my crying mother, hungover brother, and about 20 other friends and family members.

It’s been a very long and hard year for my family, especially for my mother. Losing my Aunt Metta has been the most challenging thing that my family has had to endure. However, this surprise party proved something that I have always known: that I was raised by two of the best parents a girl could ever ask for in a town with an un-paralleled support network. Even 15,000 miles from home, I was brought to tears by people’s compassion and love for my mother and my family, and for me as well.

There is an art to compassion; one that I’ve spent my post-college years trying to understand. My Aunt Metta was the Queen of Compassion. She lived her life befriending and helping people of all walks of life. I’ve said this once and I’ll say it again: she was and always will be my greatest inspiration.

I’ve been reading When Things Fall Apart by Pema Chodron. This book was incredibly important to both my mother and my aunt when my uncle died. I’ve tried to read it numerous times, but have only been able to understand it now that I’m meditating. If you’re having a rough time, or if you’re even having a good time, I highly recommend that you read this book.

There is a chapter in the book titled “Widening the Circle of Compassion”. Coincidentally, I came upon this chapter two days after Trump’s election. Pema Chodron’s words summarize exactly how I’ve been feeling recently:

“Whether it’s ourselves, our lovers, bosses, children, local Scrooge, or the political situation, it’s more daring and real not to shut anyone out of our hearts and not to make the other into an enemy. If we begin to live like this, we’ll find that we actually can’t make things completely right or completely wrong anymore, because things are a lot more slippery and playful than that. Everything is ambiguous; everything is always shifting and changing, and there are as many different takes on any given situation as there are people involved. Trying to find absolute rights and wrongs is a trick we play on ourselves to feel secure and comfortable”.

Reading this provided me with some much needed solace. It summarized how I intend to live my life in a country run by Donald Trump. I will continue to be angered by his election, I will continue to be concerned for the future of my country, but I will also do my very best to understand where his supporters are coming from. I also here by swear to use compassion in my daily life as an ally to all those marginalized peoples who feel unsafe by Trump’s election. I believe that if we all practice compassion, things might not turn out so horribly after all. That maybe, just maybe, the United States can function as a peaceful place.

Working on mastering the art of compassion has been a saving grace for me this past year. I touched upon this in my blog post “Hard is Hard”. Practicing compassion has been and will continue to be crucial in both my personal and professional lives. Compassion helped me process my aunt’s death while continuing to be a supportive friend and contributing society member. Compassion helped me be a successful case manager while I was living in New York City. In addition, understanding and practicing compassion will be quintessential in my future career, especially if I become a psychotherapist. Most recently, compassion has been critical during my time in Indonesia; being compassionate with my students and friends here, while also being compassionate with myself.

So what is the Art of Compassion? I think it’s an understanding that we can never really understand the ins and outs of the world. It’s an understanding of the importance of being there for others in both times of trouble and in times of joy. It’s an understanding of love. Above all, it’s an overwhelming desire to help the world.


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