Day 6: Be Compassionately Fearless
How often on a busy day do you stop and notice what’s happening and how you’re reacting to it? Often we’re on autopilot, relying on our habitual judgments of people and events to inform our actions.
We all form judgements all the time. It’s normal. But mostly we don’t notice we’re doing it. Before we know it, we’ve decided that something is right or wrong, good or bad. And we may not be seeing the full range of possibilities.
The antidote to automatic judgement is to stay curious. To keep our mind open. And to ask the right questions, with fearless compassion.
For our pause today, join me in looking back over the past day or so to notice how you’ve been. Were you curious at all? Were you compassionate towards yourself or others? Were you judgemental? What were those moments like?
Hello and welcome to Day 6 of 7 Days on the Winter Mountain – a chance for us to pause together for a few minutes.
And today we’re in another hamlet, high above the village of Sixt Fer a Cheval where we live, and pretty much in the same place as one of the videos we shot last year in the 21 days series, which I think we called ‘Look at a Mountain’. I was further down the field, surrounded by goats, and today I’m not in the field because the snow is about a meter deep. I’m standing on the track just in front of it, and remembering what it was like last April. We haven’t been here, to this spot, for a while and it’s quite extraordinarily beautiful.
And as we were walking up here, I found myself noticing how I was looking at the world around me. I noticed that I was kind of receiving information if you like, through my senses. First of all noticing how cold it was, noticing my fingers – that take a long time to warm up, even in these thick gloves – then noticing the blood starting to pump through my body. So I was kind of getting an internal reference to the outside world if you like. And noticing, you know, what I was hearing, obviously what I was seeing, what I was touching from time to time. Stopping to touch the powdery snow. And what I was feeling. And this is happening all the time, usually unconsciously isn’t it? As we go through our day-to-day, we fall into a pattern of habitual reaction to everyday events, but quite often we do them, we start to do them over time unconsciously.
How often do we stop and assess what we’re doing? And when we stop to assess what we’re doing, do we do that with a totally open mind? I know I don’t. What I notice when I stop and assess whatever is going on around me, is that very quickly behind that there’ll be some kind of judgment: whether it’s good, whether it’s bad; whether it’s mean, whether it’s kind. And I’m judging other people or other events in that way. Listening to the radio, I’ll be forming a view on what I hear.
So much of what we do is unconscious and when we bring it, if you like, to a level of conscious awareness of what’s happening in the moment, what we may well find is that we’re judging it.
And that could be just what’s needed, but what it can also do at the point at which we make the judgment is – by definition – close our mind to other possibilities. Just think about it for a moment. That’s what happens when we judge. When we judge, we kind of say to ourselves this is it, this is right, this is how I feel. This is good, this is bad, this is right, this is wrong. That can happen. And what we might exclude in our mind is the whole pattern of grey in between those two extremes. And particularly in the world as it is now, which is increasingly polarized – or at least there’s a danger of it becoming increasingly polarized if we’re not very careful – we will miss out all the stuff in between.
And I speak to lots of people who have taken themselves off social media, because they’re aware of how they’re being fed more of what they already like. And they don’t want that, because they want to see the things that they don’t like. The difficulty there is that when we see the things we don’t like, it’s too hard.
So how do we counter all of that? How we counter all of that, I believe, is to remember to be curious. As soon as we notice ourselves judging something, summon curiosity. Ask ourselves: the judgment I’ve just made, where did that come from? Am I asking the right questions here? And as we ask questions, ask them with compassion. Remember that the person that we’re judging or the event that we’re judging may not be what he or she or it seems. It’s just our take in the moment. Remember that the person that we’re judging is a human being just like us. Remember that the behavior that we’re judging is only a part of who that person is and has been. And in our judgment we are putting them into some kind of a box that our mind will keep them in if we’re not careful. And if we do that, we’re closing down the possibilities. If we’re curious and compassionate, we open those possibilities back up in our mind.
And at a deeper, wider, bigger level, I think that’s how we might turn all of this around. If each one of us can show up with genuine compassion and curiosity, we might just enable this world not to descend into polarization: them and us; right and wrong; good and bad. That is not what this world needs.
So that was quite a big message today. And it all came from me walking up the hill and noticing what I was noticing.
For our pause today, let’s take a moment to notice what we notice. Perhaps think back over the last 24 hours, or the last week, and notice how your mind has been. What have you been noticing and how have you been noticing it? And see how many of those moments had any curiosity to them, or any compassion. And if you did have moments of curiosity and compassion, how did they differ from the moments of judgment?
So for our pause today, notice what you notice. Remembering our simple pause tool to bring us into this place of pause: pressing the pause button here (the solar plexus), bringing your awareness and attention into this place, breathing into the space behind your hand. And as you do so creating space inside in which to pause. Breathing in, know that you are breathing in, creating space. And breathing out, know that you are breathing out and consciously letting go. Please close your eyes or lower your gaze to help the pause, and simply notice what and how you notice…
When you’re ready, gently open your eyes or lift your gaze. Thank you for joining me here today. Please join me again tomorrow for our last day of this 7-day series.
Have a good day ahead.