“Love and compassion are necessities, not luxuries. Without them, humanity cannot survive.” ~Dalai Lama.
It wasn’t until my mother died that I was able to feel her love and have that mother-daughter relationship that I’d been craving all my life. It was not until she died that I was able to learn, and truly feel, compassion—for her and for me.
I’ve always known that compassion for others is a nice thing. We all know that. But it wasn’t until I truly felt it that I was able to create a deep sense of healing.
My mum and I always had a strange relationship. Abused as a child and never able to reclaim her power, she was a tormented soul, and she was unable to be the mother she wanted to be. I was empathetic with this; I took it on and was unable to be the daughter I could be. It was like there was a wall between us, and we were unable to connect as a regular mother and daughter.
I remembered all the times when her promises fell through. I remembered all the times when she yelled at me as a kid. I remembered all the times when she’d manipulate me in a big custody battle. I remembered some good times too, of course, but they were fleeting, and they passed all too quickly.
I remembered when she told me she only had six months to live; she’d been struggling with self-inflicted cancers from having drank and smoked all her life in order to cope with the heavy weight on her shoulders.
I remembered visiting her in palliative care and her seeming hopeful that she would be out of there soon, reunited with her dog.
I remembered seeing her two weeks later, on her final night, and wondering what she was thinking, wondering what she was feeling with that final breath, knowing that relief was finally coming her way.
The waves of grief hit me harder and harder, until, over a year later, I found myself crying for almost forty-eight hours straight.
I felt for her never being able to live the life she could have lived. I felt for her trauma. There wasn’t much sadness of my own. I didn’t miss having a mother who was never present. All my feelings were for her.
There were no words. The sadness I felt for her and what sadness I felt for myself had merged into a convoluted mess. My body was unable to process it all.
One day, as I was remembering a difficult time, I decided to tune into myself as a child. All I really wanted was to be understood and acknowledged. So, addressing the child version of me, at that point in time, I said to her: I see you. I hear you. I feel you.
And oh, the relief I felt!
I repeated that phrase to myself as a child over and over until I felt my body soften.
I see you. I hear you. I feel you.
I felt okay. I was safe. I was seen. I was heard. I was understood. I could finally let go and breathe.
But I realized, at that point in time, my mum also need to be seen, heard, and understood.
So I gave to her what I gave to myself.
I said to her: I see you. I hear you. I feel you.
I repeated it over and over and over again until I felt her soften, let go, and finally be able to breathe. We both felt lighter and freer than we’d ever felt before. The sadness, the heaviness, the darkness—it simply melted away.
I knew I was onto a good thing here, so I revisited various points in time, including my mum’s childhood when she was scared and traumatized, and including during her final days when she knew she was dying. I said to myself, and I said to my mum, this chant of compassion, which I found myself extending to the following:
I see you.
I hear you.
I feel you.
I honor you.
I love you.
As I said each phrase, I meant each word with every cell of my body. I truly felt it.
It was important to me to give love and to thank her and myself in those various points in time for the opportunity to expand my capacity for love and compassion.
I found that when I am in a state of ever-expanding love and compassion, I am able to truly feel free. And for that, I am truly thankful.
Extending our capacity for love and compassion toward ourselves, and those who have hurt us, also expands our capacity for love and compassion toward everyone and everything. I truly believe that if everyone were to proactively expand their capacity for love and compassion, the world would not only be a better place, but it would be the perfect place.
I have found uses for this beyond grief, beyond our own healing, and beyond healing for other people. I have even found using this chant of compassion helpful in dealing with guilt from anything and everything—for people suffering road rage, for the cruelly treated caged animals in this world, for the injustices of our governments, even for the murderers, rapists, and terrorists, for they too are suffering deep within.
I am now of the belief that the purpose of all hurt is to teach us love and compassion. For if we cannot grow from this, then there was no purpose for it. And if we can all grow from it, then humanity as a whole grows from it.
I know I am particularly fortunate in my white middle class upbringing, and I know it may seem very easy for me to say that compassion makes the world go round, but I’ve also known great mental torment and grief. I have felt it with every cell of my body. And I know that this one simple practice has helped me to soften, and to free myself from the dissonance between my heart and my mind.
If you are feeling loss, grief, hurt, or heartache, I encourage you to try this chant of compassion for yourself. Mean every word of it. Feel every word as you say it. Repeat it over and over, as often as you need, until you feel your body soften:
I see you.
I hear you.
I feel you.
I honor you.
I love you.
Say it to yourself as you are feeling now. Say it to yourself in the past. Say it to people who are hurting you. Say it to people who have hurt you in the past.
Feel yourself soften. Feel them soften. Allow yourself to expand your capacity for love and compassion. Give yourself this gift to set yourself free.