Life forces us to interact with people that at the very least get on our nerves. They are fingernails to our chalkboards. They are completely lacking self-awareness, and uh, sometimes they annoy us for more vague reasons. Maybe the freckle to skin ratio is high. Unforgivable noses or voices or, or uh, curiosity. I’ve found myself wanting to scream, “Look can you just be how I want for today, for these five minutes, just mold to my preference! Damn it.” When this happens our egos convince us to flee the culprit’s presence. If completely honest, we even feel a little superior over the whole thing. That person is an energy vampire. Removing myself is self preservation. It’s a boundary thing.
Compassion, however, is tricky. We must practice it, because it asks us to bring down walls. It asks us to stop that very spiritual practice of focusing on our own growth, and it begs us to grow by helping someone else. A while back I was surrounded by the energy of Avalokitesvara, a bodhisattva that embodies the compassion of all Buddhas. I didn’t know this at the time. I was feeling this glorious energy, sitting on my sofa, and clairaudiently hearing about “rope burn” as part of this practice. Avalokitesvara works to help all sentient beings, and the Dalai Lama is considered an emanation of this diety. One of the attributes is a noose, and it brings the ignorant mind to enlightenment. Now that tugging to do the right thing, and that rope burn makes sense. It isn’t always fun, but we are also so unaware of how much good our grumpy little selves can do.
The alchemy of compassion is taking somebody else’s struggle and turning it to gold. You find this soul in their uncomfortable room, one that their discernment of life has created, and you paint it a different color. If your discernment is of a higher vibration, you are a skilled alchemist. You point out the charming light fixture when the ceiling has caved in around it. You put weight on the the glimmer of light through a leaky roof rather than the water damage. To do this, however, you have to be open. You have to take a breath. Bring the energy of presence rather than escape to the situation. You’ll learn things in the process (Shhhh, this is secretly about the annoying person AND you. Remember this the next time you are the annoying person.).
Yesterday, a woman came into work. She was a customer I’d helped a few times before. She was late picking up some grasses a coworker had put on hold. Her dog of nine years, a dog I had met only three days before, a dog whose warm breath and cold nose had brushed my face so recently, was dead of a ruptured spleen. The doctor couldn’t transfuse blood fast enough, and the friend who had survived surgery died during transport afterward. What would have happened if she’d gotten him there sooner? What could she have done differently?
I stood listening to this and considered the trouble she had, a few minutes earlier, deciding which pot of grass was the healthiest. I considered the time it took to choose the right credit card from her wallet. I considered all of it as I loaded purchases into a car filled dog toys and a really soft blanket, and even the slight scent of an animal no longer with us. It got me thinking about time, and my son who’ll be five. Everything moves so fast. The love we find is grace, pure grace.
“Don’t blink, as my mother used to say,” the woman smiled. Her heartbreak was in her eyes. As I helped her with the final plant, she told me about how she had visited her deceased dog in the examine room. His eyes were open, and the doctor explained that was typical. She placed a warm blanket between his face and the cold metal exam table. She stroked his head and said, “Go to sleep, baby.” He was already gone, but his eyes, those eyes of his, had stayed open for everyone else. “I closed them, and they stayed closed,” she said. “It was a little miracle. I felt it: this energy go poof.” Her hand moved from her chest upward.
Many cultures, I pointed out, see a lot of beauty in death and the rituals that surround it. Oh, and I reminded her that her dog was probably with her mom now.
“She never liked dogs,” my customer told me. A hint of amusement surfaced.
“Well, I bet she just got a big kiss on the face,” I chuckled.
“Thank you,” she said.