“Compassion becomes real when we recognize our shared humanity. Only when we know our own darkness well, can we be present with the darkness of others.” ~Pema Chödrön
What is darkness? And what do you think it means “To know your own darkness?”
Is darkness good or bad? Righteous or Sinful? Is it just the abscence of light? The balance day and night or Yin and Yang? I sense, for this discussion it must go much deeper…
Could it just be that the darkness within each of us are the unrecognized parts of ourselves, the unconscious feelings, behaviors, perceptions and motivations that have not yet been acknowledged? Possibly, it is the pains of our youth, the conditioning of our environment, the programming of our culture and family, attitudes and thoughts that are not our own. Could it be the karmic wound we came into this life with, or our ancestral wounds past down through generations through the epigenetic code of our DNA? The definition is inconsequential, the recognition of the existence of this aspect of ourselves is what I sense matters. Do not turn away from the uncomfortable unknown. Let’s know it and ourselves more deeply!
Our darkness might be guilt, shame, or something more esoteric. Yet, to feel it, be with it, allow it and to know it, is to transform it and live a more fully integrated life. I am not speaking of dwelling in the dark. Let us not deny that the darkness in all of us, exists. I am also not trying to ‘get rid’ of it, as possibly… it exists to make our lives richer and more balanced. For me, it has been my teacher, and by that it is our teacher as a whole.
Chiron, in Greek Mythology, was the father of the Medical Arts and without him their would be no medicine today. He is know as the Wounded Healer due to an accident where he incurred a wound by a poisoned arrow. The wound caused him great pain and was incurable. Chiron was an immortal. He decided to renounce his immortality as this wound caused him great suffering and death would be his only relief. Chiron embodied compassion and selfless acts, as he taught man medicine, became a teacher of teachers, and gave man the art of healing. His wound that would not heal, became the catalyst for great change and enlightenment. He surpassed man in justice, conscientiousness and dilligence. Our wounds may be our darkness, and as in Chiron’s case, our wound may not heal. The suffering or wound may be the soft spot where we can share in our humanity, remain humble, empathic and compassionate in our lives. To sense and know this in ourselves is a beautiful thing.
Pema Chödrön encourages us to “recognize our shared humanity” and maybe, it’s time we drop the lines of separation and look at the suffering of others. If we can observe the suffering of others, we can also look within ourselves, in our own lives, and see where we are suffering in kind.We all have different stories, beliefs, opinions, yet we are all living this life together. No one has lived a life free from pain. This we have in common.
During these volatile and disturbing times, drawing lines, polarizing and barricading our hearts, homes, and families with fear and guardedness may be instinctive, yet it may not be the way. Our World is indeed troubled and full of disturbing acts – all by wounded people. Can we see through the acts to the core wound? Can we have compassion for it?
Observe these places of receding into yourself, places of contraction, isolation, confusion, avoidance, disturbing emotions, or diminishment of hope for yourself or humanity at large. It is only ‘one’ reality. Trust, love, generosity, wisdom, healing, support, and peace are ALL still right here. Have compassion for yourself, take good care of your hearts, love one another, reach out, forgive and avoid separation at all costs. Right now, we need one-another more than ever.
In the spirit of sharing, I invite you to share. Please let me know how you are doing, coping and what tools you use to help yourselves during these difficult times.
With great gratitude and compassion.
By: Melinda D. Alexander