The other day a friend asked, “What is compassion for you, and how is your experience of it different with others and with yourself?”
My mind instantly reached for all the definitions of compassion I’ve heard and used before, but they weren’t there. Something about the last part of the question had jammed the gears of my mind. I tried to think of the many beautiful ways I’ve heard compassion described, and I couldn’t remember them. I could feel it, but I couldn’t find any words, so I took a deep breath and listened as others in the group offered their perspectives.
As I continued to feel into the question, I didn’t like what I felt. It’s always been easy for me, in most situations, to have compassion for others. A couple weeks before, a teacher I respect had asked in a group, “What is your goodness?”
“I see the goodness in people” was my reply, and that has always come easy to me. But what about myself? Seeing my own goodness is a lot harder, and sometimes I get so damned frustrated at my own inability to live up to what I know.
And with that thought, I suddenly knew my answer to my friend’s question. “For me,” I said, “compassion is presence, without any agenda.” I talked a little about how much easier it is with others than with self, but suddenly that sounded hollow, like a limitation that no longer applies. It was one of those moments where Soul spoke, and everything changed. And suddenly I knew how to be in compassion with myself.
It’s so simple! Compassion is presence, without any agenda.
My mind keeps wanting to say, “Compassion is being present without any agenda,” but that’s not it at all. Being present, for me at least, is the mind’s substitute for presence. It is the mind attempting to focus in on this little dot of time and space and experience, and that is very different from simply being in presence.
Presence is another word for awareness. Presence is what happens when you stop and take a deep breath. Presence is what happens when you let go of your mind’s focus and agendas, and simply be with the experience you are having. Presence automatically includes both the soul and the human. Presence, by its very nature, has no focus or agenda. It simply is. Presence is the I Am.
You could say that compassion and presence are one and the same, and that would be very true. But then we have a high spiritual concept that the human has no idea what to do with in everyday life, so it just goes back to trying to get through life in the only way it knows how: through power and manipulation and a great deal of frustration and self-doubt.
Many of us have reached a point where the mind knows it is losing its primary place in our lives to Soul, and it wants more than anything to cooperate and to be a constructive part of the process. But the mind is oriented toward action and focus, so it helps a lot if it has something simple and clear to do. When I say, “Compassion is presence, without any agenda,” my human jumps up and down for joy! My human gets that. It doesn’t like the no agenda part, but it’s so tired of all its agendas and the frustration they bring that it breathes a sigh of relief anyway. As scary as it is, taking a deep breath and letting go of agendas is something the human can do.
Compassion is presence, without any agenda.
I’ve experienced it so often with other people. When I’m coaching someone, I’ll often start to feel despair as I listen to their story, for my human has no idea where to go with it or how to help them. But I learned a long time ago to take a deep breath, drop my agenda of helping them, and just keep listening. And then, invariably, my soul shows up, and Soul knows exactly how to cut through all the stories and bring the heart of the issue front and center for the client to see. Often I hang up the phone after a session in absolute awe at what just happened, and I know it is because of my choice to drop my agendas for the client and simply be in presence with them.
But what about me? I’ve always found it a lot harder to have compassion for myself, partly because I’ve never quite known what it meant. It’s relatively easy to be in presence with someone else and let Soul speak to them about their life. But when it’s my mind screaming about all the things I’m getting wrong in my own life, it’s a lot harder to find that place for me. I’ve come a long way in being able to see myself from Soul’s perspective, where all is well and I am truly okay no matter what I might be struggling with. But for it to be real the human needs to be able to participate, and for that it needs some way to understand what it means.
Compassion is presence, without any agenda.
When I read those words my human breathes a sigh of relief, for that’s something I can do. It’s not easy to drop my agendas to be a better person, to get rid of the lack, to fix my body and to release all the painful symptoms of the transformation I’m going through. It’s not easy to let go of my agenda when I make a mistake or want something I can’t afford, or when I want to hurry up and bring more money or love into my life, and on and on. But letting go of an agenda is just a choice, and I can do that.
I can take a deep breath, and in that moment of presence I can drop my agenda for whatever it is that’s bothering me. I can make that conscious choice to be in my life, just the way it is, instead of trying to fix it or change it or push through all my agendas for it. I can make the conscious choice to see the goodness in me, no matter what, and to find something to enjoy in my life right now, just the way it is. I can choose to turn all my problems and issues over to my soul, even though it just smiles and brushes them off with a wave of its hand, for Soul knows they are just human agendas.
More than anything, I can choose to be in compassion—presence with no agenda—with my own mind as it screams about how irresponsible I’m being and about all my many seeming failures, and then as it weeps in relief as it feels my presence and begins to understand, just a little, that everything is going to be okay. And that, my friends, is where magic happens in my life.
Dropping my agendas doesn’t mean denying my desires. Right after I had this realization about compassion I realized I wanted to write about it, and in the days since I’ve started several times, only to give up in frustration as the words wouldn’t come. I had to completely let go of it, even in my knowing that it was going to happen. Then I woke up two hours earlier than usual this morning and felt the words coming, but to let them out I had to give up my agenda for more sleep and for all the other things I’d planned to get done this morning. I also had to give up my agenda for all the great points I wanted to make and how I wanted it to sound, so the true message of my soul could come through.
I find that everything in my life works like that, when I let it. When I come into compassion with myself, when I release all my agendas and simply be in presence with myself, just the way I am, then everything flows in ways I never imagined it could.
As I look back on my life I see that the things that truly worked, the really wonderful things in my life, all came as surprises, and not because of any agenda I had or any energy I expended. They were just there, at the exact moment I needed them.
Compassion for self is being in presence, without any agenda. And that, I can tell you from experience, is what opens the door to synchronicity and seeming miracles in every part of my life. And guess what?
Allowing, which many teachers say is the key to everything, is presence, without any agenda.
Love, the greatest love ever known for self or other, is presence, without any agenda.
How simple is that?