When painful feelings arise, we have a choice to make. We can either go towards them or away from them. We can be open or closed to them. We can feel them or reel from them. When these feelings arise, we make the choice immediately, based on our habits. It is not really a choice when we don’t make it, it is a reaction. When we notice our reaction, then we make the choice. It can take seconds, months or years to notice our reactions. We can react to a single, painful event for our whole lives. We can also start fresh, every moment, approaching our pain with compassion.
Our general habit is to go away from pain, to close off to it, to reel from it. Sometimes that works and the pain passes on its own. Usually, the pain follows us. Even though we are closed to it, we feel it. It keeps coming back to us, forcing us to deal with it. When we notice that we have to deal with our pain, we can approach it with compassion. We can see that the pain hurts, see that we don’t want to hurt, remember that we don’t deserve to hurt, and in that way, approach our suffering with compassion. When we look compassionately at our pain, with openness and awareness, we can see its source, solution and actions we can take to bring about a resolution.
To practice a compassionate approach to our suffering, we begin by noticing our suffering, acknowledging that something hurts. By doing that, we let ourselves be present. We breathe with whatever is happening. If we are reeling, that compassionate breath can stop the spinning. Then we can look at the thoughts and beliefs that prop up our emotions. When we look from a place of wisdom, openness, and non-judgment, we can see into and through some false or harmful beliefs. We notice damaging ideas and habits. By noticing those ideas we change them.
Because these ideas and beliefs are supported by habits, they may come back. As we continue to practice a compassionate approach, we can improve our response times. We can approach pain in minutes instead of months. When we develop our habits and build a compassionate approach to our suffering, our suffering will not send us reeling anymore. When that happens, we can choose to use our compassionate habits to approach other people’s pain. Choice by choice we can heal the world.