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Compassion within Awareness

by Rev. Jenn Shepherd 7 minute read

Awareness, unfortunately, does not come with an all-knowing magic wand. Those aware usually have had an experience or two which can be pointed to as ‘proof’ that there is more than us. The Holy Spirit, Divine, God, Universe, Source, Christ are all names, and many more, attributed to the Witness of the connectivity of humanity to both each other and a grander matrix.

None of us experience or interpret our awareness in the same way. If we did then there would not be as many names of all that is, different ways in which to pray, follow traditions, dogmas, viewpoints, or writings. Everything would be translated the same.

This is easy. We mostly understand this. There is a willingness to say that people are entitled to witness their relationship with Spirit or God in the way that is best for them to do so. We may have philosophical disagreements, and in the past and sometimes in the present some peoples are willing to go war over such ideologies, overall war is deemed much to strong a reaction to the way in which we express or not express a connection to Source.

The recognition and base understanding do not always traverse to other areas in our lives. There is an overreaching understanding that not everything, every point of view on a way of living is appropriate. We, as a human family, have come to some agreement on moral notions that are not usually up for debate when dealing with individual behavior. Rules condemning murder, stealing, violence, abuse, bullying, and those expounding the need for things like traffic rules are all recognized as necessary for the greater community. These are broader truths: items understood by most human communities as a way in which we further cooperate and still allow for individuality.

This is not easy. To conclude that some rules are necessary for everyone takes a willingness to cooperate.

Cooperation and communication are the foundation elements for a functional society.

This is not easy.

It takes a willingness to discuss our own fears and to work toward integrating a healthy relationship with those fears to fully cooperate.

I would never have imagined a year ago that there were many in any community, let alone the ‘spiritual’ one that would argue so fervently with each other about wearing a mask, reorganizing life as much as possible to support scientists and each other while getting a handle on a worldwide situation.

The more I listened to people the more I recognized the fears at play in the conversations.

· Change

· The need for safety for self and family

· Economic stability

· Being stripped of individualism

· Medical community

· People that think differently than self

· Disease

· Health of self and loved ones.

I witnessed name calling, shaming and blame come to the forefront of conversations and social media postings.

Fears butted against each other. Those fearing the loss of a loved one were up against those fearing a change of employment. Those fearing not doing enough to have a safe environment to have commerce and schools stay open against those fearing losing personal rights by being asked to wear a mask.

Lack of listening, lack of self-reflection to understand that fear and not compassion was and still is at the forefront of many choices.

Those who have been able to ride the experience well have been able to navigate their personal boat through the sea of change with a sense of opportunity and compassion.

We tend to put change into positive and negative categories. Yet, change at its root is an opportunity for choice. It is a choice for understanding, compassion, ingenuity, and listening or a choice to gripe, act angrily and cast blame.

This does not mean ignoring the issues inherent in change and having the hard conversations.

It asks that we be grown up in our approach. We identify with in ourselves what about the change we are most afraid and use both intuition and multiple sources of information (as opposed to multiple sources of opinion) to help us choose how to react, live, etc. beyond the fear.

I went back to school when I was 29 years old. I had a 4-year history degree and went back to obtain my political science credits and education certification to be a secondary socials studies/history teacher.

During my 4-year degree I was the only female history major on campus. In one class we focused on research and then presenting our viewpoint of the research/facts. We would listen to each other’s interpretations and offer counter points based on our own research. This was one of the few times in my life until this point that I was listened to and point of view not discredited because I was female. If there was a discussion it was because of the types of evidence, and our interpretation of that evidence. We disagreed, sometimes heatedly and yet, since we were taking time to listen as well as speak and present our evidence, we were able to attend lunch and other social functions with each other without animosity.

Fast forward to my experience going back to school. My first class was in World Politics. We were told by the professor that we would be split up into groups/countries. Each of these countries had a limited number of resources in which to deal with a worldwide issue of prosperity and safety, and people in this situation are considered a resource. The country with access to the most resources by the end of the simulation would take all, including all the possible ‘A’ grades. We were told that grades would be assigned based on the group’s rank at the end of the simulation, so the last ranking group would fail the assignment. Alliances and scheming immediately started. I was an ambassador for my country and as such I sent a note to every other ambassador inviting them to a meeting in which we could all meet each other and discuss an equitable solution to our combined ‘world’ dilemma. Not one ambassador from any of the other groups chose to attend the meeting. With the fear of death or subjugation of our simulated communities and the threat of a low GPA scheming, distrust, falsehoods, and anger permeated the simulation.

The simulated world imploded. With students unwilling to fully trust or compromise with each other populations died, resources became even more scarce and not even the country with the most resources at the end of the simulation was able to continue because the resources it still needed to survive were now trapped in decimated countries.

During the class debriefing with the professor, he revealed that only one class in all the classes he had run this simulation beat the seemingly no-win scenario. In this class, they did agree to meet outside the setting of the classroom and discuss their mutual dilemma. They decided to confront the professor on the ethical consequences of making it an all or nothing scenario. They worked together to say that they would not compete for grades, that the grades needed to be earned on the merit of the work and talent of each student, not an outcome of a simulation. They were not willing to draw strict us versus them boarders when it was unnecessary for the success of those participating.

Communication such as this starts with self. When we know self, then we understand our triggers, our boundaries, our fear tendencies and what we are willing to ethically accept.

The tendency to go to extremes on just about any circumstance seems to be on the rise. Hate, anger and fear all leave way for variations of extreme radicalization. A Washington Post article by Paulina Villegas and Hannah Knowles interviews those who are helping people find balance from extremes.

In the article Myrieme Churchill, the executive director of Parents for Peace says that people who have chosen “hate and ideology as a drug of choice to numb the pain underlying issues and grievances, and so we treat this the same as we treat addiction.” Parents for Peace help both those finding balance and their families reflect on the origins of personal views and focus on compassion in lieu of confrontation. Those family and friends that are willing to do their own reflecting work and learn to choose a less ‘self-righteous’ approach in dealing with anger, hatred, and violence in others. The emphasis in the program is ‘life after hate’ in a way not to “challenge the thought process or ideology but to help people challenge themselves.” Reflection, critical thinking, perspectives, and the use of multiple sources are taught. Compassion rules not name-calling, more hate or the old “you just don’t get it” approach.

It really is up to each of us to choose compassion, even in seemingly overriding huge scenarios that play out on a city, state, national and even global stage. Most people reading this live-in communities in which there are elected officials to manage and understand and make choices to allow others to live peacefully. In these communities there are avenues to reach these elected officials and express concerns, wants, likes, and dislikes about the choices and the process. This way of life was set up so that community people would have a place to go and not pound on each other for one view, question, perspective, outlook, etc. Then, if one does not feel heard or appreciated or respected by that official, the community members have a chance, to vote them out and replace with someone the community believes will do a better job. This has somehow been lost on many. We have moved from a society willing to listen, research, reflect and debate ideas and call out areas in which a more ethical approach is needed to a society willing to draw lines in the sand based on what may or may not have appeared in a social media feed and opinion-oriented channels.

Awareness, unfortunately, does not come with an all-knowing magic wand. It does, however, come with a challenge, and dare I say, responsibility to continually heal and grow in that awareness. We become powerful agents of Light and Compassion in this unfoldment and willingness to engage our fears, treating them also with Light and Compassion. In this power we inspire others to do the same and become a witness to their own awareness. We gain respect each other’s path in all aspects of life in this becoming without the premise that the perception we currently hold is a place for others that are not holding the same viewpoint to reach. Paraphrasing from Parents for Peace: The goal is not to challenge each other’s thought process or ideology, but to leave space and share enough compassion where we feel safe enough to reflect and challenge ourselves on our own to come to a more well-rounded Awareness, of which compassion is part.

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