Compassion and the Five Earth Touchings
Thursday, June 25, 2009
I have recently been contemplating our earlier dharma discussion a few weeks back about compassion, and our understanding of the act of having compassion or empathy for others and how the act is connected to forgiveness.
When we had the discussion earlier this year, in many ways it focused on the personal and the political. We talked about torture and political positions and points of view. Many of us, as we invariably do in our sessions, related family connections and close relationships, and how compassion is often rife and intertwined with anger and, again, forgiveness.
Well that discussion has not left me. The Touchings of the Earth are rooted in our connections to our family, our teachers and mentors, and yes even to those for whom we have disdain. Sometimes the lines between all of these connections become blurred, and those we love and look up to the most are inexorably tied to our disdain as well.
One personal story comes up for me within the context of compassion. As we all know, business in this tenuous economy has been, to say the least, bad on many fronts. My work has been no exception. My work is based on winning contracts primarily from municipalities, and business has been slow. A traditionally “ebb and flow” business is ebbing to the max right now. The president of my company who is smart, at times arrogant, an intellectual, and in many ways a mentor, has been under a lot of stress.
Recently, after asking me to write a proposal for a major RFP, upon his review he stormed into my office and rather uncharacteristically gave me an excoriating review and dress down much along the lines of Patton slapping soldiers in the frontline hospitals during WWII for being cowards, but in this case, I was an “incompetent” rather than a “coward”.
I do not suffer unwarranted dress downs easily. I defended myself and my approach, but he would have none of it. He was incensed, and so was I. I felt disrespected and marginalized, and I was angry. I strategically told him to take over the project himself which he did, at which point he took me completely out of the project, took over the writing, submitted the project, and a month or so later, we lost the bid, despite his “intervention”.
But the damage was done. As a result of that incident, I had turned a corner. Despite indirect entreaties from him, and visits to my office as if nothing had happened (apparently to try to patch things up), I had moved away to another place in our professional relationship.
Not long after this, however, I learned that during our downturn and on top of it, my boss’ wife had become seriously ill, coupled with some serious personal issues.
One day the same man came into my office and humbly told me of his problems, at one point on the verge of tears. He felt the urge and trust to do so.
So this mentor, this brilliant mind, the object of my anger needed compassion. My personal disdain had clouded my point of view. My anger did not allow me to see HIS suffering.
The Five Earth Touchings evoke, call out, and acknowledge our mothers, fathers, grandmothers, grandfathers, teachers, mentors, children, grandchildren, spiritual ancestors, partners, etc. who undoubtedly have caused all of us suffering, and pleasure as well.
The Touchings speak of anger, hatred, pain, hardships, resentment as well as happiness, joy, transformation, love and, yes, compassion and forgiveness.
We all have memories and stories like mine (I have many more). I invite you to share them on Thursday at our sitting and to perhaps work toward clearing the clouds of anger that blind and bind us all, caressing that anger like a baby, and transforming it into compassion.