Sunday, December 14, 2014

Idiot Compassion

I'm struck every holiday season by how easy it is to get caught up in the frenzy: rush around buying things, attend events out of obligation, spend money that we don't have for things that people don't need. Of course the holiday season isn't the only time we do things that move us away from peace.
Bow Head: This seems totally unnecessary
The efforts we make to keep others from being upset with us or uncomfortable is what Chögyam Trungpa calls idiot compassion, and we do this all year long. We might call these behaviors enabling. It happens when we act in a way that we know is not ultimately the best for someone, but taking the action helps us avoid our own discomfort. Idiot compassion is for us. It's the knockoff version of actual compassion, which happens when we're willing to hold our own pain, if necessary, to do what we know in our heart and mind is the "bigger kindness" to others and to ourselves. 

Life Coach Martha Beck suggests asking ourselves 2 questions (shackles on? shackles off?) to gain insight into why we accept or reject requests on our time, money, attention, and energy.

1. If I say yes, will I feel that I've placed shackles on myself? 
Do I suspect that the person will lay a guilt trip on me if I don't say yes, talk about me behind my back, get angry, and so on? Maybe their reaction will be more subtle, with the person pouting or bristling in some way. If I say yes to the request, will I dread doing it or feel that I've sold out? Am I saying yes because I'm afraid that the person won't think I'm nice, great, kind, and so on, if I refuse? If I could get through the guilt or anxiety of saying no, would I feel lighter?

2. If I say yes, will I feel "shackles off"? 
Will I feel that I've touched in on something heartfelt, or that fulfilling the request will ultimately energize me? Will I feel as though I've offered something more than a temporary fix to someone instead of simply avoiding disapproval? Would I want to do this even if I knew that it could turn out to be a lot of work and may not have the outcome that I want?
Shackles off: a precious time with my father
May we all take step after step away from what keeps our life too small for us.

Sweet Darkness, by David Whyte

When your eyes are tired
the world is tired also.

When your vision has gone
no part of the world can find you.

Time to go into the dark
where the night has eyes
to recognize its own.

There you can be sure
you are not beyond love

The dark will be your womb 

The night will give you a horizon
further than you can see.

You must learn one thing.
The world was made to be free in.

Give up all the other worlds 
except the one to which you belong.

Sometimes it takes darkness and the sweet
confinement of your aloneness
to learn

anything or anyone
that does not bring you alive
is too small for you.