Transforming the Sacred Wound Part 8: Cultivating Compassion

The real gift we have to offer to others is our compassion. Likewise, the real gift we have to offer ourselves is compassion. The place we often go to when we feel the pain of our wound is "beat-up." We often let our self-sabotaging voices run the show. We think, I feel this pain and then decide, "Indeed, I am stupid, ugly, or worthless." The etymology of the word compassion is 'com-' with or together 'passion-' to suffer. So when we feel compassion, we suffer together.We’re all taught that we should feel compassion for others. And if we had any religious training, we’re taught to feel compassion for others’ suffering. For many of us, feeling compassion for others’ pain is relatively easy. The compassion, we’re talking about here, though, is not compassion for another’s suffering. We’re talking about compassion for our own suffering. The way we do this is by offering ourselves compassion, warmth, goodwill, and kindness.

When we begin to have compassion for our own suffering, we short-circuit the self-sabotaging voices. How could we possibly agree with them when we offer ourselves a kind of warmth or a quality of kindness. That’s what compassion for self is. It’s a positive regard for self. When we offer ourselves compassion, on some level we are saying, “Yes, I have pain, but that pain isn’t me. It’s simply the pain that gets to be transformed into genius." And what's required is simply meeting it.

Making Friends with the Wound

Compassion for ourselves is really a sort of unconditional friendship with ourselves.  It is much more common that we disapprove of our wound and denigrate it.  It is about beginning to make friends with the wound.  It’s not about thinking that it will come from the outside, from other people, from spiritual practice, from meditation, jogging.  We look all over the place to make us feel good about ourselves.  Affirmations are all about that.  You proclaim, “I am smart.”  “I am worthy of being loved.”  And part of you says, “Yeah, sure.” How is this relationship created?  It has a lot to do with the way we meet our pain and difficulty.  The Buddha had a revolutionary teaching.  He said that in human life, there is pain and that pain is inevitable.  We all grow old, get ill, and die.  The more that you love, and loving brings wellbeing, then the more sadness and grief there is at the loss of that person.  If you put your hand in fire, it burns.  There is a lot of discomfort in life.  The fundamental teaching is not to struggle against the pain in life but, instead, to become intimate with comfort and discomfort, with pleasure and pain, with shame and success.  Happiness is beginning to live your life in a way that opens up: your mind and heart opens.  It includes victory and defeat, praise and blame, loss and gain.  Happiness is about being able to embrace it all.  That is the root of it all.  Struggling against the wound and getting it to come out “perfect” doesn’t add up to a sort of compassion for ourselves.

The point is to discover your own human-ness.  This is your connection with all people.  This is the shared-ness of the human condition.  It is about becoming intimate with that awful feeling of losing something that is dear to you, that part of you that wants to shut down.  It is to be intimate with what it feels like to be intimate with the whole catastrophe.  Our


In the exercises that follow, we will learn how to regard our wound with compassion.  The word compassion is regarded in two senses in the Western and Eastern perspectives.  In the Western perspective compassion means to suffer with. In the Eastern sense, compassion is translated as loving-kindness.  These two are very different, but both offer instructive ways to hold or regard our wound.

In the first Western sense, to be compassionate is to feel the wound.  It is essentially what we did earlier today when we met the wound directly, unadulterated by storyline.  We just felt it.  We just noticed it.  Nothing was added.  We experienced a direct relating and relationship with the wound. The Eastern sense of the word compassion guides us into the notion of bringing a quality of kindness that is wide open, gentle, warm, and healing to our wound.

For many of us, feeling compassion for others’ pain is relatively easy.  But what is it to bring loving kindness to ourselves, to our own wound?  That’s what this next activity is all about.


Click on this recording to learn how to bring some healing to your wound:

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Click on this recording to learn to how to bring loving kindness or unconditional friendliness to your wound.

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Transforming the Sacred Wound Series

This is one part in a nine-part series that explores ways to heal and transform your sacred wound. Be sure to check out the other posts!