I wish things were different...
True compassion has no judgment for how things are going. Compassion recognizes that things could be different and moves toward what works best for the whole.
Recently I had an experience that left me shaking. It involved people handling animals with a total absence of compassion.
I had to admit to myself that part of my shaking was an expression of post-traumatic stress. I've been in so many intense situations with people and animals. When there is no room in the interaction for listening, for starting over, for creating a relationship other than total domination, the cells of my nervous system start responding to the outcomes of my own history. I shake.
I wish things were different.
I wish things were different for the person I was interacting with and for the animal. I wish things were different for the organization that brought this interaction into being. I wish things were different for the state of humanity that finds itself ever waning in compassion for life of any expression.
One of the responses I tend to have is writing letters. It's easy for me to express my thoughts in writing. Typing on my phone, I started drafting a letter to management to illuminate my experience, to make a statement that I would not choose to engage again with the person I had just experienced. But the writing felt defensive, complaining, emotional.
Compassion is not emotional.
Drafting that letter did illuminate the experience for myself before anyone else would ever see it. What makes me shake is the residue of previous emotional debris left in my body and the judgments still carried about those experiences. The animal in this situation was stiff with fear and defense, and I definitely felt that communication as well. My emotional response was not about what was actually happening, it was about my judgment that what was happening was bad.
Compassion does not judge.
I will still bring this event to the attention of people who might make a difference for other interactions in future. The way I do it will now be different.
"I wish things were different...and I'd love the opportunity to show another way."
Compassion acknowledges the way things actually are with awareness of another possibility. Action toward another possibility is most potent when it happens in harmony with others involved. Many times in my life I've gone into a situation with awareness of another possibility and used my metaphoric machete to carve a way through those who could not see the same as me. Every time the result is isolation and defense on both sides. Harmony in action is the willingness to be a different possibility right in the middle of what is actually happening, offering the possibility of guidance into something new.
The moment I included "I wish things were different, and I know that there is stress involved for everyone..." I felt the tension in my back give way to a fluid strength. The truth is, I'm not out to make a point, not anymore anyway. I'm not out to prove someone wrong or explode a system.
The greatest force of shaping change on the planet is the movement of water - water never compromises its own nature, no matter what form it takes. Even if it takes on a new shape or form, it is still water. Human compassion has the same magnitude of ability to create change. Compassion moves like water through the densest rocks, purifying itself while opening new channels for movement. Vision on this level is not dependent on time - the planet is not concerned about carving canyons faster. It is concerned about what is required to generate a harmonious environment for all of life to flourish.
Our compassion for humanity and animals can be used as a weapon of activism, or it can be used with action as an erosive force that generates new roads.
I wish things were different, and sometimes I still have judgments and emotions about what I see and experience. I also receive the gift of awareness that the emotions are guideposts that invite me to either wave my machete and try to prove a point, or instead look for where the water of compassion might flow with grace, purify itself further and widen the path for others to see, if they wish.
Action and activism with true compassion erode old structures with the grace of nature. The time of fighting for change will come to an end when we simply claim the possibility of change, become the compassion that carves new corridors, and walk in a new way of being human.
"I wish things were different, my friends. It doesn't have to be this way. May I show you something new?"