Take the random nature of the universe, add Amtrak, and read an amazing CV, bingo I am now taking an eight week course in self-compassion and mindful meditation.
Back to the start. I was on an Amtrak train retuning from PAX Boston and got a seat across from a young woman. It was the quite car but we chatted on and off for a couple of hours. I am the old black humored widowed guy so any attention I get from a woman is surprising. Part of our chatting was about course she was teaching which she noted may help with the grief. We did what all the cool kids do, we friended on FB.
Switching to my stalking mood I looked up her profile and the course she was teaching. In my mind there was this connection, no not to her, to the course and where I stand, sit, rest, and hate about my life. I said to myself, ‘Self this may be a chance to look deeper at your life and your goals.’ I signed up for the course. Today I am six classes in.
This video lecture by Dr. Kristin Neff is the essence of the course. There is much there to untangle and consider. Overall it speaks to ideas that may help us as we navigate life. Of course there are quite a few questions about this that I am still sorting out and how I will integrate it into my world. Overall, as with anything worth doing, there is a positive attitude one should have before casting it aside. More on that after the course is completed. Right now this course is a friend with yet to be determined benefits.
AA vs. Self-Compassion
This course takes place at an austere Tibet Center. So the mood is perfect. The course is taught with a mixture of lectures (reading stuff at you), meditations, homework, and discussions.
The discussions are generally done in the “Tell us what you feel about xyz?” Which opens the floor up to the following:
‘I find that I am able to clear my mind and think about flowers.’
‘I hurt my ankle and when I meditation it seems better.’
‘I have more compassion for others who I normally wouldn’t.’
All and all these are benign statements in the universe like so much detritus, yet important to the speaker, so credit given. I found myself wondering if this was the depth that would benefit me upon reflection to learn and grown? And then my mind went to past friends from who were in AA and shared their feelings.
‘I got so blackout drunk that I woke up in the backseat of car in Atlantic City with one shoe missing.’
‘One Thanksgiving I tried to beat my dad with a turkey drumstick.’
‘My family abandoned me after I took all their savings and spent it on booze.’
Those AA shares are raw emotional statements that tell a life story from those fighting to return from the brink of profound loss and suffering. Both sets give the listener a place holder to examine life their own lives because that is what sharing does create reflection points. The later set is raw and opens wounds. The prior are statements are observational and ricochets off of the depth of self. The listener needs to dig harder in one to find meaning while the AA stories are cringe worthy they encourage reflection, deep reflection.
Then last week this sharing story exercise reveled an AA type moment where I may need to consider my harsh analysis of the sharing in this course.
A woman in answer to the lecturers question on compassion for others shared this:
‘I was with my eight year old daughter for the day and we went to YMCA to use the pool. She was being and eight year old and it was frustrating me to no end before, during, and after being in the pool. As I was drying off I notices a disabled child with her dad in the pool and thought about the love of a parent for a child and what we do. When the child and dad exited the pool I saw that the disabled child was leading the blind father to the locker room. I realized the compassion I have for myself, my daughter, and others.’
Optimism or Pessimism
This raises to the level of AA and opens up the entire compassion moment and a depth of insight. I am reminded of a joke about how to identify and optimist.
Two boys age eight are selected to determine who is the optimist. One at a time they are placed in room knee deep with horse poop. The first boy freaks out and is cowering in the corner crying. He is taken out. The second boy is put in the room and he immediately begins to dig and dig in the poop. When asked why he says, ‘With all this horse poop there must be a pony in here.”