Compassionate Abiding


Recently I watched an online interview of Pema Chodron, a Tibetan Buddhist nun. She spoke of pain, suffering, discontent and suggested a means of gentle meditation called “Compassionate Abiding” in dealing with it.

Sit quietly and just breathe. Breathe in and embrace the pain, take it in, open the heart and allow it to fully experience the pain. Do it again and again, fully breathing it in and fully breathing it out. And, as you breathe, know that all of us, everyone, experiences this pain and discontent at some point in our lives. So begin to take that realization in, not only for yourself but for others, too. Take in their pain, feel the community of pain, our oneness, our common humanity. This is “compassionate abiding.”

It’s what Christ did on the cross. Christ took in all our pain, for all of us. He embraced it all. Not only for those living in his time but for all humanity in all times.

This is the first time I have ever really understood the value and true meaning of what Christ did on the cross, the event we call Good Friday. It finally, truly spoke to my heart. It wasn’t so much our sin that Christ took on himself. It was our pain, our discontent, those negative feelings and perceptions we all have in our lives. For I believe that we are all basically good, we are perfect as we are. Pain and suffering is something that is manifested when we step away from our true selves – the self we were born as and were meant to be. Christ took all that pain and embraced not only his own, but ours, too. He identified with us. He felt a deep compassion for us. He wasn’t afraid of it, not only his own pain but all of ours.

Pema Chodron suggests we all are capable of doing this. We all experience pain, suffering and discontent in our lives. By dealing calmly with the pain, accepting it and embracing it, rather than fighting it and living in fear, we can move that level of understanding to our own communities outside ourselves. Yes, the pain is real, it is there. But we can sit quietly with it, accept it, and go beyond ourselves and realize that we all will experience this at some level. We’re in this together. Time will pass and the pain may stop for us, but there will be others who may need our compassion and understanding in dealing with their pain. Because we have suffered we can identify with others’ suffering. This is empathy, kind-heartedness, love, compassionate abiding.

Dealing with Grief and Loss

Grief is only one repercussion of a great loss. When we can’t accept a loss, of any kin086-001d, we suffer emotionally. With grief may come, doubt, anger, blame, regret, fear, shame, and guilt, all forms of self-flagellation that can occur when we have lost someone or something very dear to us.

How do we move on?

#1. Embrace the pain. Turn and face the lions.

Embrace the pain, the grief, the shame. Fully own it, fully feel it, let it have its way. Don’t be afraid of it. Our emotions have a natural flow to them and we have to let them have their own natural ebb and flow. It’s like telling a kid, “Grow up!” They can’t just yet. They will get there, but it is a process.

So look it in the face. Then cry, wail, pound the walls, suffer. Give it its time. These feelings are natural and valid feelings after such a loss. But don’t wallow in it. Don’t bury yourself in it. Stay open to the possibility that time will ease the pain and move slowly toward that day.

When you are ready, and you will know when you are ready, then you can move to #2.

#2.   Let it go. Let go and let God. Release it. Free yourself.

Give it up to a higher power. You don’t even have to fully believe in a higher power or fully understand it, just accept that there might be such a thing and give up all that crap you’re carrying around. It’s like vomit that roils around inside us. Puke it up. Get rid of it.

If there really is no higher power than what have you done, really, but throw that negative energy out into the ions of the atmosphere to float around out there instead of gathering like a cess pool inside you?

We seem to be able to accept cyber space, cyber clouds, satellites, and fax machines without fully understanding how they work or seeing the energy that makes them work.  We can’t see it, but we know it works. Why can’t we accept that maybe God or a power greater than us exists as an unseen power that can actually have some effect on us or around us?

We may not understand how he/she/it works, but it does. Life is full of miracles or, at the very least, amazing events that boggle the mind. Babies grow inside their mother’s womb, a caterpillar forms a chrysalis and emerges as a butterfly, a tiny seed falls to the ground and splits open to become a full-grown oak tree.

#3. Accept yourself. Love yourself.

Love your perfection and your imperfection. Accept it all. Accept that we can change, or not change, and move on. This is self-love.

#4. Make amends.

If possible, try to right your wrongs. Ask for forgiveness. It might be too late. If you are trying to make amends to someone else for the hurt you are a part of, know that your attempts might not be accepted, or reciprocated, but at least you have tried. You have forgiven yourself. Move on.

#5. Keep growing. Celebrate you.

Celebrate you! Love yourself. Heal yourself. Give yourself pleasure. Reward yourself for small achievements. Celebrate the ordinary. It’s the little things in life that can mean the most.

#6. Service to others.

Give to others. Why? Because you have been given to. Because you can empathize with their pain. Because you are more than just yourself.

You are part of a greater world, and whether you know it or not, everything you do or say has a repercussion somewhere. We are all connected. Even if you do nothing there is an effect. Your lack of offering says something to the other, in itself. Even nothing is something. When we don’t say “I love you” our lack of it, our remiss, sends a message of nonlove or, at the very least, doubt of your love. “The universe is my palette. I paint a glorious picture and step into it.”  (Alan Cohen) We can choose to not paint, but then there is only a white, empty canvas in front of you. And that emptiness carries its own message. Paint a beautiful picture with your life by giving to others.

Let your positive actions contribute to the world. Be forthright. Be bold. Be clear. Be generous.

#7. Keep growing. Seek answers.

Keep asking questions with self-study and communication. Ask why? Ask how? Dig for the answers to a better life. Read, write, view, talk, pray, travel, contemplate others’ wisdom and experience.

Build your knowledge in layers of wisdom, spiralling higher and deeper.

Broaden the frame, the box, the way you see life. Let your vision, your perspective grow in positive ways.


All of this is a cycle – go in – go out – go in – go out – to self – to God – to self – to others – and back to self. It is a constant healing movement, the breath of life.

And remember – all of this takes time. It is an emotional journey. It can’t be rushed.