Love prevails despite overwhelming evidence – thorns have roses, tears have heart and trauma has strength. You have incredible resilience to get back up after a setback, dust yourself off and keep moving forward with grace. In time you find that there is wisdom in wounds, perspective in pain and growth in grief. As much as you want to run, learn to stay with the pain. It is preparing you for a life of depth and compassion. Stand fearlessly in the flames of suffering with an open heart and a strong will.
The crucible of your life experience has fused you into the capable and compassionate person you are. This can’t happen without a few cracks and scars. The only people who get through life unscathed are those more interested in self preservation than genuine connection. You carry your burn marks as a reminder that you have stood in the middle of suffering, your own and others, without shrinking back or hiding the pain.
The time that I had to hold my two year old son down while doctors performed a lumbar puncture is seared on my brain. He looked at me with such betrayal. It broke my heart to hear him scream, but hurt even more to see his confusion that the people he thought he could trust most in the world were in this moment his torturers. They might as well have stuck that needle in my spine and twisted it the way I felt that day. And yet here we are a decade later. He has incredible empathy, and we have an amazing connection of trust and understanding. Many parents know the agony of watching children suffer and being unable to remove the pain. It’s a universal experience, at least for anyone who dares to get close enough to another to care. Every time you stand by them, your connection becomes stronger.
Compassion is a bodily reaction that leads to a deep desire to alleviate suffering. It isn’t a surface response, like “isn’t that awful”. It is a passionate sense of being burdened by suffering and wanting it to end. Compassion comes with powerful feelings of oneness. You feel pain as if your own. It changes you.
Science reinforces the same idea. Neurons fire in your brain when you perform actions. Mirror neurons fire when you see someone else perform an action, giving your brain the sense that you are performing the same action. Mirror neurons explain why you smile at someone who smiles at you, or yawn when someone yawns. Mirror neurons explain why kids pick up the same mannerisms that they have spent years mocking their parents about. And most importantly, mirror neurons explain empathy. When someone is suffering, it’s more than metaphor to say “I feel your pain.”
People everywhere are suffering; whether they are mourning the death of babies, the loss of lovers, the end of dreams, or the inability to solve the largest of human dilemmas. It often seems like there’s not enough room in the world to hold all the pain. And yet the space in our collective heart is larger than any pain, if we break open to each others’ pain rather than closing down to protect ourselves.
There is so much wisdom in the tough times. There is so much growth emerging from grief.
Don’t fight the tears. Let them flow. Eyes shed tears to find focus. Tragedies remind us all to recommit to our highest values. Beyond the finger pointing, pause in compassion for innocent victims of violence and confused perpetrators of violence. Feel the pain, then let this felt pain turn into compassionate action. When you hold this compassionate space, everyone and everything becomes a mirror, reflecting a universal love that holds all pain and all joy in absolute and unconditional embrace.
May all people dwell in peace and loving kindness, beginning with me, beginning NOW. My heart is open. It’s been bruised, burned and broken. But it’s still beating and has greater capacity for love than any amount of pain or hatred.