Recently, my daily practice of meditation and contemplation has been set squarely on compassion.
It's not my first time contemplating this particular subject. 5 years ago, I spent 18 solid months on it.
It was some of the most grueling, rewarding, mental work I've done. I really found my bliss about loving other people from it.
I used to be a much angrier person back then. We lived in a rental house that had been built post-war, and had been really abused by its former tenants. It was maintained by a notoriously tight-fisted property manager, who in turn had issues with the property owner. We had so many maintenance problems, including a pervasive gas leak that had been there since we had moved in! That revelation and the comedy of errors around it caused me to lose my shit, mightily, in a scathing e-mail to the property manager, where I shamed him as a person, an inept manager, and a selfish human being.
It wasn't one of my prouder moments. Right around then, I came to the culmination of my contemplations about compassion. A few days later, I wrote him back, and apologized. He was much more diligent about attending to our needs in a timely manner after that. The place, and the situation, was still riddled with problems, and we moved out about a year later.
The really big thing I got out of my contemplation was this:
You've seen those pain-assessment-chart-faces things in hospitals, right? Like this one?
Well, having compassion for other people on that scale above, in terms of effort, is a 17. Having compassion for yourself on the other hand, that's more like a 37.
It's really. fucking. hard.
And what's more, you have to have it for yourself, before you can have it for anyone else. I was more mad at myself about living in that rat trap, and letting myself be taken for a ride, than I was at the purveyor of the rat trap.
Anyhow, great. Bells and whistles, found my bliss, all done. Right?
Not so much.
About a month ago or so, I realized I needed to get back to it. I've not been doing the best job lately at being compassionate to myself. I've been really hard on myself lately, in all sorts of ways, to a point that is unhealthy.
Cue bitter laugh. I often say that "Tao provides." Life has a way of bringing to me just what I need, just when I need it. Often what Tao provides really, really sucks. My mother-in-law's passing would be chief among the Very Great Suckage the Tao has conveniently provided me.
Watching your wife suffer and being helpless to do anything about it is among the worst of things I have experienced so far.
Along the way though, some really good things have come out of this. I spent about 20 or so hours in a car having pretty serious discussions with two of my thinky-est friends about life, relationship issues, and my return to compassion school.
They made it fairly plain to me that I'm a lot better person than I give myself credit for, and that I'm in a pretty good place in the areas of my life I've been giving myself grief for. They showed me to slow down, and take stock. It was a great benefit to me.
Then we talked about issues in their own lives - which I won't discuss here, because, they're private.
Self-esteem and self-improvement have been immensely on my mind lately, both for myself and for many people I care about. Yesterday, Tao provided again, because I found this amazing article by Steve Pavlina, about how to balance those two things.
It's dense, deep stuff, 200 level Contemplation School work. I'm grateful to be working on it.