March 6, 2020

Compassion is Not a Limited Resource.

Compassion is not a limited resource.

I grew up in the “stiff upper lip” culture that so many of us did. Bear the burden and soldier on. Everyone has struggles, and mine are certainly no worse than anyone else’s—in fact, just imagine being [insert worst-case scenario here].

We grew up not admitting to struggles and learned that sharing them was a weakness.

We also grew up knowing that, if we were even having that thought, we better strongly and swiftly recognize that someone out there had it worse.

There’s nothing unique about your struggle, and there’s nothing to be gained by talking about it.

Then Oprah found her spirit. MRI machines started measuring the mental impact of stress, yelling, anger. Yoga steamrolled through physical and spiritual culture.

Enter Gwyneth. Hello, Brené.

Yet, I’m not convinced most of us can truly shake that stiff upper lip.

I see bodies in my studio every day that carry the deep burden of what a lack of self-compassion and cultural compassion does to our muscles, bones, and skeleton. We don’t need anything as fancy as an MRI to see the damage this begets.

I see bodies that are literally broken from a difficult life experience such as having cancer, and still feeling like it was not more difficult than someone else’s burden. I see bodies that are hurting from a soul that hates their job or struggles in their marriage.

I see tension, compression, and strain linked to the heavy burdens of life. Nothing more and nothing less is causing pain in those bodies.

Yet there’s an underlying fear of sharing that it’s difficult. Of admitting to anyone else that it is, let alone to yourself.

Because we think compassion is a limited resource. If we give it away, it’s gone. If we are self-compassionate today, we won’t be tomorrow.

It doesn’t work that way.

There’s a fear of being soft, so instead we can become so hard that we are brittle. Hard is a tree branch in the winter that snaps. Soft is one who holds no structure. A resilient branch bends in the wind, and has been fed with water and sun. Compassion is the water, and your body will snap without it.

Compassion also regenerates itself. It’s possible to be compassionate to someone else or to yourself and not take any other action. It’s possible to have supportive thoughts rather than criticism. It’s possible to just hold space in your body and your mind for a situation you can’t solve for yourself or someone else. It’s okay to simply say, “I see you” and not understand another person’s experience, or even how you arrived in your own place in life.

Compassion isn’t feeling sorry for someone else or for yourself. It’s observing and offering kindness.

We don’t need to withhold and only offer it in worst-case scenarios. We don’t need to be in dire straights to take a moment and offer ourselves or someone else a word of understanding.

Your body literally depends on compassion to survive and not break under the strains and stresses of life.

Trust that there is more. Trust that you won’t use it up or give it away.

Because compassion is not a limited resource.

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