What keeps us separate from self and others? What leads us to put up shields or walls to defend ourselves from the deeper experiences of life, including not only pain but also joy? Yes, we have lost, we have suffered, we have been betrayed, we have been abandoned....but is not the price we pay for closing our hearts even greater than the other pain and loss we feel when our hearts are open to both our own struggles and the struggles of others in this world?
Embodying compassion means finding the internal strength and courage to hold ourselves and others with love and sacred respect, and to create the safety within and without to take down our masks. When we take down our masks we can see heart to heart, soul to soul. When we take down our masks we can both see others and be seen for who we truly are.
Authors Joel and Michelle Levey believe, "It takes courage to wake up, to open our wisdom eyes, look more deeply, see more clearly, and feel deeply into the subtle, complex, and profound interrelationships that weave the fabric of our lives and world."
They continue, "To the fainthearted, it may superficially seem easier to live in denial, mindless of the intensity of beauty, joy, and wonder, numbed to the sorrow, suffering, and pain in our lives and world. Aloof and semi-disembodied, we distance ourselves from the raw, vivid, intensity, and intimacy of our feelings and our visceral responses to the suffering of the world within and around us. Such self-protective strategies keep us distanced from our heart, our feelings, our loved, ones, yet sooner or later, most of us get cracked open, one way or another, by the raw intensity of the nature of our lives and world."
Joel and Michelle suggest that when we eat each day we have a perfect opportunity to bring together some of the qualities involved in embodying compassion: "gratitude, wisdom and dedication." If we eat three meals a day, then we can take a moment out of our busy lives three times each day to focus on embodying compassion.
They suggest four levels of awareness to focus on:
1. Set the intention to be mindful and compassionate as you eat. When we set an intention, we focus on mind, our energy and our heart. When we are conscious of bringing compassion to our meals, to our food, to each bite we take and to each moment, our energy flows accordingly. Compassion helps nourish us as we digest our food, and compassion emanates from us as the food becomes part of us.
2. From a place of compassion, think about where your food came from and what that means. The Leveys invite you to consider where your food came from, how wholesome that environment might be, how the food got to you from its place of origin and how those involved in getting the food to you were treated--be they plants, animals or people involved in farming or food production. The more consciousness involved in the created, harvesting and distribution of food, the more compassionate energy accompanies the food we bring to our table.
3. Consider your own food choices if compassion were a screen through which you would make choices. Is the food you are eating now the food you would choose if you looked at your choices through the eyes of compassion? Would you consider more vegetables and grains? Do you know how humanely any fish or animals you eat were treated? How pure are the foods you eat? Processed? Organic? GMO free? Does reflecting on these questions inspire you to take an action step today?
4. If you were to eat in a way that truly embodies compassion, what would that mean? Would you make more choices that are life sustaining and health promoting? Would you share this consciousness with friends, family and loved ones? Would this consciousness move beyond food alone and into other products you purchase or create?
Since we literally become what we eat, food becomes a great laboratory for embodying compassion!