November is the month for: Compassion.
Compassion could be described as a special combination of empathy and altruism – the gentleness of a petal combined with the selflessness of the breeze that carries it. It means not just considering the feelings of others but also desiring to help alleviate any suffering on their part. As well as being a fantastic foundation for good friendship and a caring society, practicing compassion also assists us as individuals to feel less stressed and more content in ourselves, allowing us to enjoy more meaningful, caring relationships that reflect compassion back into our own lives. And as we see the effects of being more gentle, empathetic and compassionate to other people, hopefully we will be encouraged to be kinder to ourselves, too. The focus this month is on showing compassion in all areas of your life – including in the way you treat yourself.
Affirmation of the month; “I treat myself and others with compassion.”*
I love this month’s theme and it may just be my favourite. While reading the introductory blurb, I did have my doubts as I thought it would be focused on compassion for others. Now, while I fully agree with giving yourself to others and being as selfless as possible sharing love, I also think that self-love and self-compassion is equally as important. So, I was very happy to read that we are also encouraged to reflect on how our compassionate actions to others may influence the way in which we treat ourselves.
I love the imagery of the gentle petal floating in the breeze. Where is this petal floating to? What are the weather condition in which it is floating? Is it a stormy, blustery breeze whipping it’s way through the dark winter streets, or is it a peaceful flowing breeze meandering its way across the valleys of hills? Everyone will interpret this image differently, and that’s OK. That’s the beauty of language; it allows for individuality and we are all right in how we may think.
Personally, the text conjures up restful images of a bright spring morning with blue sky speckled with tiny white clouds. It’s the sort of day that makes you smile. You’ll smile at your neighbour as you skip along the path and you say hello to the baker as you walk along the high street (maybe I’m being slightly over-optimistic here). The point is, you’re showing compassion to others as you go. You’ll stop to ask how their day is going, how they are feeling and sympathising with them. We won’t flip the conversation directly back to us.
Sadly, this is something that happens all too often, and we are left feeling lost, lonely and un-loved. We give, give, give but our ‘friends’ only seem to take, take, take. There is only so much we can give, and if we give it all out, do we have enough to give to ourselves?
Only recently was I talking to a girl-friend who broke down over lunch because she was worn out, exhausted by friendship. She was always the available one in the relationship where as her friend would only rely on her when she had no better plans. My friend would return from a hard day and her housemate would go on about her own worries, without asking how my friend was doing. As soon as her plans would fall through, she was on the phone to check my friend was at home waiting for her return. Now, my friend was annoyed at herself for always being available. She wasn’t showing herself the same compassion she was giving out. I encouraged her to see the situation this way, and instead of becoming annoyed inwardly at her friend, and to just approach the subject with her housemate. Not in a selfish way, not in a way that made her woes seem any worse, but just in a balanced way. Friendships work both ways and we deserve to receive compassion when we give it abundantly. I’m glad I could offer my friend a shoulder to lean on, offering up to her the love and support she deserves – the same affection she shows me. It is through this sort of two-way relationship that our friendship has grown from strength to strength. I honour our friendship and I feel nourished by it.
I only hope that the stormy breeze carrying her precious petal of life will calm and soon she will be meandering among the rolling hills.
When in doubt, show someone you love them with cake. I always bake for friends and this Carrot and Raisin Bundt Cake is a winner.
*Taken from “Every Day Matters 2018 Diary: A Year Of Inspiration for the Mind, Body & Spirit”, Watkins Publishing.