The concept of compassion is not usually connected to wellness, however, practicing compassion can lead to improved health.
Compassion is an element of those old rules from Kindergarten: "do unto others as you would have them do unto you". If you see a loved one debilitated with fatigue, in pain, or having cognitive issues, ask yourself – if I were in that position what would make me feel better? What would lift me up? What would help me?
Of all the acts of compassion – extending compassion to a loved one is the easiest to do. It may come naturally as an expression of love such as a hug or simply just listening. Most of us find it fairly easy to be compassionate to a friend or loved one most of the time. If our friends or loved ones aren’t compassionate toward us, we don’t keep them in our circle for very long!
Harder then showing compassion to a loved one, but even more powerful, is showing compassion to someone who has wronged you. (Yes, this can be a friend or loved one). Compassion in this situation may be simply to admit to yourself that this person just doesn't know any better, or that they have their own issues which likely have nothing to do with you. This type of compassion can be practiced in your head. I say "practice" because you may have to practice compassion for this person daily or even hourly. Practicing compassion for an enemy actually leads to forgiveness in a natural progression. Nothing is more liberating or powerful than forgiveness. When you are chronically angry with someone (even if you haven't spoken in years) it affects every part of your life – including your health. Forgiveness frees your soul and allows you to take back your power. This type of healing is essential for wellness.
Once your compassion leads to forgiveness, you will sense a feeling of lightness about your soul. Again, remember, it is normal to have invasive thoughts pop into your head trying to stir up old feelings of anger, resentment or sadness, but you will choose to practice compassion over and over again and forgiveness will come each time over and over until finally one day it just clicks!
The person whom you are forgiving need not ever know. This forgiveness is not about condoning an action or a behavior. It doesn’t need to “understand” why someone did or said what they did or said. It is not about understanding why, it is more about accepting that someone hurt you but that it is the past. They can never hurt you again unless you allow it. This is you keeping your power.
Truly unforgivable behavior may require for you to leave that person out of your life for good. But hanging on to anger, bitterness, sadness and resentment only hurts you; and it really does affect your health. Do yourself a favor and practice compassion towards someone who wronged you. Mentally send that person love and light and pray for them to be well and happy. You will be amazed at what that can do for your health. Do it every night and then just let it go.
Perhaps the most difficult person to show compassion to is yourself. Those of us that are chronically ill with an autoimmune disease, Chronic Fatigue Immune Dysfunction Syndrome (CFS/CFIDS) or Fibromyalgia, have more to forgive ourselves for then most people. We have the normal disappointments and make the same mistakes as our "chronically well" counterparts. But in addition, some of us deal with feelings of being "a loser". These feelings can stem from the financial hardships caused by illness. Some of us feel as if we let everyone down each and every time we had to call out sick from work or back out of a social engagement. For those of us disabled from work, that feeling culminates into the biggest failure of all: without proper income most of us are unable to give our families the life we think they deserve. Gone are the vacations, the shopping sprees, the mother/daughter “mani-pedis“. Becoming unable to work, a two-pronged financial landside ensues Our medical expenses skyrocket at the exact time our income plummets! The Coup De Grace? Financial ruin or bankruptcy. Few can recover from the nearly two year process of applying for (and being denied initially) Social Security disability benefits. Just try to keep mortgage payments prompt under these circumstances!
Compassion for ourselves is the only weapon we have to combat the depression. Until we can forgive ourselves for the situation that we are in, our stress levels will continue to go through the roof. It is in this time that we must speak to ourselves as though we were a dear friend. What advice would you give to your best friend if she were to become so sick that she could not work? What kind and loving words would you use to comfort this dear friend? How would you try to help? What would you say? I'm sure you would console her in the best way that you knew how, reminding her that none of this is her fault, that she did not ask for this situation, and that there was nothing that she could have done to prevent this. Now, turn these sentences in word towards your self. Remind your self daily and perhaps even more frequently, that this is not your fault, that you did not ask for this, and that there is nothing that you could have done differently to prevent this. When you finally believe down in your core that this really is not your fault, you will find forgiveness for yourself and let it go.
I'm not suggesting this is easy. No! Nor is it fast. Many of us need the help of a trained, licensed social worker or therapist. And the journey can be long. However, the pay off is huge. Once you can shake off the shackles of hate and judgment, you will be free to enjoy the life you have, to set new attainable goals, and see a real future in which you are a productive member of society.
Once you have extended compassion to friends, loved ones, enemies, and ultimately your self, your soul will be healed and your body will surely follow.
Until next time, be well my friends.