A Lesson in Compassion
I have to pee when I get nervous. I’m in the car driving to meet my husband’s mistress and I have to pee for the fifth time in an hour. Or maybe I just need to vomit. Probably both.
Nine months ago my husband of 23 years walked out on his family and into this woman’s arms. And now she wants to meet with me. I’ve run through every possible scenario in my head of what she could want. What ulterior motive could she possibly have? Of course, I’ve also played out all the vile and nasty, but very true, words I want to say to her.
“Why would you meet with her?” my friends have asked me. “Oh hell no! I’d tell that bitch exactly where she can go,” say others.
She has no idea the nights I spent holding crying kids who just wanted their daddy. She has no clue of the weeks of insomnia that sent me spiraling into depression, hopelessness and in my darkest moments considered ending not just my marriage but my life as well. She doesn’t deserve this meeting. I owe her nothing.
Inside, though, I feel it’s the right thing to do. There is a stirring within me. Perhaps I’m ready to move on, to let go of the hurt and the anger?
So I drive. And I breathe. Without realizing it I begin to recite the Buddha’s Lovingkindness meditation.
May I be safe.
May I be happy.
May I be healthy.
May I live with ease.
I repeat this the entire 20 minute drive. First for me. Then for my kids who are still hurting. Finally, I repeat it for the mistress. Yes, even for this woman who was a part of destroying my family.
It’s obvious she is as nervous as I am. So I sit quietly, just listening. There is power in silence. The quieter I am the more she talks. She tells me very little that shocks me and confirms much of what I had suspected. The more she speaks the more I begin to see the truth.
This is a woman who is also hurting.
“If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion.”
~ Dalai Lama
Yes, she was part of a decision that ruined my family. Yes, she is culpable and must live with her decisions. But, sitting in front of me is a woman with her own demons to wrestle with. I can scream and curse at her. I can cut her with my words. She is sitting close enough that I can reach out and strike her physically.
I choose not to.
Hurting her will not help me heal. If my yoga and meditation practice have taught me anything it’s that it’s not about her. It’s about me.
No matter how fledgling my yoga practice has been lately, if I am to truly practice yoga I must also remember to take what I have learned on the mat and apply it to my life off the mat.
I can choose to practice ahimsa. Ahimsa is more than just a lack of violence. Obviously I shouldn’t physically harm anyone no matter how much pain they have caused me. But ahimsa also means thoughtful consideration of other people. Although her karma is hers to deal with and my karma is mine, I can still acknowledge that she too is a woman awash in torment.
When choosing my words I choose satya. Yes, I am speaking the truth, but I am speaking in a way as to not cause further harm to anyone else.
As we get up to leave from our meeting, I look one more time at this woman. I don’t anticipate sharing lattes with her anytime soon. But I realize the universe has used her to teach me that no matter what negative choices she was a part of, I can choose to start living again. I can release the negativity that I have been holding on to. It no longer serves me.
Compassion has allowed me the privilege of finding happiness again.
“A moment of self-compassion can change your entire day. A string of such moments can change the course of your life.”
~ Christopher K. Germer
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Ed: Brianna Bemel