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Joy in Compassion and Compassion in Joy

| Nirmala | Suffering

Joy in Compassion and Compassion in Joy

Published on
15 May 2016

A friend who is dealing with an extremely limiting and difficult illness recently used some of her very limited energy to contact me:

Q: I just started reading your newest book, Everything Is Included. I would like to share something with you and ask a question already! You have always been so generous over the years with your support and energy. You know my situation. I don't think I've shared much about the nature of my illness, and I won't say much now other than that it's neurological, and just directing my awareness can be a strain. Reading itself has become problematic.

Your first essay got me crying because I had the felt experience of oneness so spontaneously and often as a child, and then again as an adult ... but very seldom since ill. Your second essay is the one I feel most drawn to so far and it has already hinted at how I can relate to my present scenario differently, and I have felt some expansion.

However, I got really tripped up on the essay "You might as well Enjoy Enjoying yourself!" Very distressing thoughts came up with this sentence: "Whatever is happening is what you are creating right now, and that is what your being is enjoying immensely." First I have the thought that there're billions of us co-creating, and it all seems more mysterious to me than that. I didn't personally or solely create what's going on in Syria, or Trump as a presidential candidate, nor can I see how victims of genocide created those realities. Nor can I see how my friend's son who was born with a congenital heart defect created that for himself, nor the victims of Chernobyl, nor the Native American decimation from chicken pox, nor how the four teenagers killed by a drunk driver down the road from my house created that. You can see where this is heading. I could really get "into" self-flagellation if I go with the thought that "my" being created this illness. Did my caregiving parents also create their daughter's illness? Gangaji used to say some bodies are just stronger than others. And it also brings to mind Eckhart Tolle's (or was it Adya?) saying our first biggest mistake is to think of this as "my" life. To me, it's always felt more like a collective Beingness is creating the whole show.

Not that it's so black and white either. Obviously, there are aspects of my experience that I am creating. Ok, I think you can see the hole I tumbled down. And I'm undoubtedly writing to you before giving myself enough time with it! Thank you, as always, Nirmala, for your presence and compassion.

A: Thank you for sharing your thoughts. I am always touched when someone has a strong response to my books, as that means they are really considering the words I have written. And it is even more moving to me that you took some of your precious and limited ability to focus to check in with me.

As for the sentence that triggered you, I can completely understand why...especially if the sentence is considered all by itself. I agree with everything you said in response to that sentence, especially the idea that it is incorrect and lacking in compassion to take a statement about creating our reality and use it in any way to blame someone who is experiencing illness or tragedy. I did not mean it in that way and would not want to suggest anything like that.

My sense of this idea of how we create our reality is that it is a small part of the truth, and really just a very small part. All there is is truth, as truth is everything that exists. So small truths are still true and real. Even the illusion of a separate self has some reality...just not very much reality. As the essay you refer to put it:

My favorite definition of illusion is that it is something real that appears to be something other than what it really is. The smoke and mirrors that a magician uses to create an illusion are real smoke and real mirrors.So this illusion that appears as "you" and "your life" is not what it appears to be, but it is still real. Yes, it is a magic trick being done by the Being that you are, and yet the illusion is also made of that same Being. So the illusion is as real as the Being creating it.

So the you that appears to create your experiences is itself an illusion, but it does still exist. And so it does have some effect. As you said yourself, "Not that it's so black and white either. Obviously, there are aspects of my experience that I am creating." 

Anytime we put something into words, we unavoidably limit or reduce the truth. You just can't write or speak the whole truth.... especially not in a single sentence or even in an entire book. However, written or spoken words can serve when they point to a part of the truth that was not yet being seen. Then, even though the words are a small truth, they can still expand our experience of the truth overall. But if that small truth is then seen in isolation, it can once more limit our experience of the truth. And especially if a small truth is used to blame someone for their difficulties, that is an unfortunate use of the small truth. And if a big truth is used to deny that a small truth exists or can be a source of difficulty, then that is an unfortunate use of the bigger truth.

I also want to stress that my main point in this section of the book was to point to a very big truth: that Being itself really enjoys everything. This is a deep current of truth that underlies all human experience. However, it is also true that lots of experiences really suck and that in the moment it can be incredibly difficult to sense that deeper joy that is part of Being. In moments of pain, illness, and tragedies of all sorts, it is also more likely that a different aspect of our true nature would arise in response and that aspect is compassion. Compassion is a deep tenderness and space that can hold even extreme pain and suffering.

Now there is some joy in compassion and some compassion in a more direct experience of joy. They are two aspects of the same Being and so to some extent they are both always present, but again in an extremely difficult experience, it is more likely that compassion would arise. Emotional sadness and even despair are a limited egoic form of compassion, but they still have some of the essence of compassion in them. As we allow the hurt and pain, then sometimes the essential compassion will expand and contain more of the hurt. In a moment like that it becomes a lot easier to also sense the joy that is present in our Being, even in a moment of deep despair or pain.

But it is also true that the smaller truth of the pain and sadness is still true. It can be quite a shock when awareness opens more fully in a spiritual awakening to discover that you actually feel pain and sadness more than before. When there is no resistance to experience, then every level of truth is felt more fully, including the horrors and tragedies of human life. The different levels of truth are all true and they all are here to be experienced. There is no need to seek out painful experiences or perpetuate them in any way, but when they do arise, it can't hurt to also sense into your Being for any compassion and even joy that is also here. If there is any healing, or at least a more complete perspective that can allow and possibly even embrace the pain, is to be found, it will be found in the depths of our Essence. So why not include as much of the deeper truth as your heart can hold in this moment?

As always my friend, I send you immense love and tenderness. I cannot imagine all that you are experiencing, but I do know that it touches me deeply whenever I sense your spirit shining through in your words and your passion.


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