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There’s a beautiful older woman who sits on the steps on a building by the water, where I run several times a week. She’s beautiful in the way the light shines off of her, and in the way she radiates that light back to others. She has this way of taking the sun in the sky, and sort of transmuting it through her heart and shining it back out to others who walk by. And yet, in the physical sense of beauty, she’s probably not what you’d expect. Her disheveled look, however, makes no difference in the beauty she gives off. She’s homeless, and yet, when I look at her, I feel beautiful; and I can see that the feeling comes from how beautiful she knows herself to be. She connects with the essence of the people she sees, and acknowledges them for who they truly are. She sees what important to them, recognizing it’s reflection in herself. I often think that the city of San Diego should pay her, as she’s doing a service to both the locals and the tourists passing by; she’s showing compassion for no other reason than to love.
As I continued running, I allowed my thoughts to come back to a disagreement I had had with someone in my life. I deeply and truly wanted to forgive this person, but recognized that I was having trouble coming to a place of compassion. All of the energy I could muster up from within had me feeling sorry for him, instead. And it didn’t feel good. It was that gnawing feeling that comes when anger or sadness that are directed at someone is still present. That feeling that makes neither you, nor the “other” involved feel better. And that’s the difference between compassion and just “feeling sorry” for someone. When it comes through the lenses of what we know to be right for ourselves, what we have, or what our experience has been, it’s not necessarily true compassion. When it’s rooted in our individual experience of what’s right, disregarding the larger perspective or essence of what’s truly perfect and whole, it actually belittles the person. We end up feeling sorry for them, based upon our own belief about what we think they should know, what actions we perceive would benefit them, or what way of being we make up to be ideal.
But we must begin somewhere. And when on the road to forgiveness, we may actually be better off feeling sorry for someone than focusing on anger, or hatred. But feeling sorry must be a choice, as choice comes with an awareness that there is, indeed another option. So in making the choice to feel sorry for someone, instead of feel true compassion, we recognize that there IS indeed a larger picture outside of our individual, and maybe even selfish perception of the world. And hopefully, if we’re careful to stay with the possibility that the beauty and truth of compassion will ultimately arise, we can sooner or later let go of that selfish perception of the world, and begin to see those who have hurt us through true eyes of love.
And in the mean time, whether it takes two more days, or two more years, I’ll continue to route my runs so that I may witness the beauty of compassion that this sweet woman has bestowed upon my city; as true compassion doesn’t come from being “above” anyone, but from being by their side.