A few days ago, I came back from a meditation retreat in the west coast of Ireland. I went there to take time off from the busy life but also to work on myself. It was a beautiful experience, surrounded by the amazing landscape, cliffs, the sea, kind people, nature, silence and myself.
For the past few years I have been submerged in permaculture, sustainability, conflict resolution and peacebuilding research. if there is one common argument among those fields is that in order to change a system you have to start with yourself. In permaculture this argument is often visualised in the ‘zones‘ or in the permaculture flower, and the central zone or starting point being yourself or your house. In peacebuilding, change starts from the individual by incorporating values like tolerance, empathy and nonviolence.
So this was the start of my journey working on my zone 0, to reflect on my inner self and cultivate more empathy and compassion for myself and for others. Only a few days of leaving behind my computer, my work and my comfort zone to explore how I can improve as a person and as a human being. While I was there, I took some time to write down some of the things I learnt. The following words are the reflections I made on compassion and letting go. This is the first time I explored what compassion meant to me and the perceived limitations I had on it, especially regarding being compassionate towards people that cause suffering. I hope this brings some light to what compassion is about.
What I learnt today April 17, 2017:
ABOUT COMPASSION, DETACHMENT AND LETTING GO -TOWARDS THE LOVED ONE
That people evolve and experience change, in their personalities and their ways of thinking. A person may have a specific behaviour or belief one day and change their mind the next one. Change isn’t intrinsically good or bad and people can change based on their experiences and context.
Sometimes change means that a person and I have gone in different directions, even if only in thought. Letting go and detachment in this sense, means accepting that possibility of change in someone and setting the relationship free of expectations of permanence.
But also setting ourselves free if the other person is detached from you in this manner so that there is no expectation in us or pressure to remain the same and not to evolve as a person.
ABOUT COMPASSION, DETACHMENT AND LETTING GO – TOWARDS THE NOT SO LOVED ONE
That people may act in one or another way because of their particular context and circumstances. They might be unkind with us and might be hurtful. They might not mean it or do it intentionally. Our hurt or anger can blur perspective and impede us from empathy.
Detachment from this is understanding that behind someone that hurt others, there is perhaps also pain experienced by that person. Anger towards that person or resentment would only hurt us more, therefore letting go in this sense is understanding that everyone experiences pain and many times that pain is projected in hurtful actions.
Letting go is also acknowledging that we perhaps have been hurtful at times either intentionally or not, we then become the not so loved one for someone hurt by our actions. Compassion shown to us might bring some healing to that hurt projected in unkindness.
Even when the not so loved has caused immense destruction and suffering in others, it is possible to see that perhaps it is reflecting the intensity of pain or emptiness that person experiences. By detaching ourselves from perceiving that person as the not so loved, we can set an intention directed to their suffering so that perhaps that person will heal and realize of how they are hurting others.
Compassion and letting go in this manner is not justifying or even forgiving their actions, it is avoiding more suffering to be created out of it and preventing a vicious cycle of hate and hurt.