“Strong boundaries are essential to loving and generosity.” – Brené Brown
I’ve been thinking quite a bit about boundaries and compassion lately. As a watery empathic Pisces, boundaries have been something I’ve struggled with my whole life. It is easier to feel other people’s pain and merge with it than it is to separate myself and figure out my own needs and wants. Compassion has been easy, boundaries have not been. Thankfully, my professional and personal life have forced me into continuously working on my boundaries. What I have come to understand, is that boundaries are an essential aspect of compassion, generosity, and loving.
I see now that compassion is always evolving. Many spiritual traditions say that service and compassion are the highest virtues. I don’t quite agree. I have found that serving from inspiration is very different than serving from a place of self-sacrifice or a belief that we have to give ourselves up to get to God.
Right now, I think how we do compassion is evolving. As humans, I think we are here to move from self-centeredness to compassion and then to what I call, “compassionate wisdom.” With compassionate wisdom, we are able to really know and feel that everyone is ok just as they are and that there is a higher loving moving through all people and the universe at large. With compassionate wisdom, we begin to see that we aren’t responsible for making the planet ok. We move from needing to save people, take on their burdens, and over-sympathize to realizing that everything is ok, exactly as it is. We may still be inspired to serve, but we do so in a way that feels aligned and energizing, instead of depleting and forced.
Below, is my take on how compassion has evolved in each of us through our soul’s history.
Stage 1: The Young Soul
We come into the world being totally self-centered, young souls, here to explore and taste and learn. In the process, we end up being a bit self-centered. We don’t really know what compassion is. We are still learning about love and what it feels like. Our thoughts and actions are primarily based on our own needs and wants. We jump without thinking. We’re impulsive and ready to experience anything. Through time, and many lifetimes, we start to learn that our actions have an effect on the world around us. We see that our choices have consequences. We start to see that some of our impulsive actions bring pain and suffering to other people. This is when we start to move into the second state.
Stage 2: Waking up to Compassion
As we move into the next stage of evolution, we start to develop this thing called “compassion.” We start noticing how other people feel. We’ve been through enough experiences at this point to know what pain and suffering feel like and that other people must also experience pain. We move from being totally self-centered, to developing compassion for other people and beings. At this point in the journey, compassion meditations, and actively seeking how to learn how to have compassion for others is paramount. We develop our “compassion” muscle and move away from self-centeredness towards seeing we are all connected. For the first time, we begin to see the “other.”
Stage 3: Waking Up to Self-Compassion
In the third stage of evolution, we move from having compassion for other people and beings, to compassion for ourselves. We start to see that we deserve the compassion that we are giving other people. This begins to wake up self-love.
Stage 4: Developing Compassionate Wisdom
In the fourth stage of compassion, we move into compassion coupled with wisdom. We start to realize that yes, we can have compassion for other beings and ourselves but that we also need the important values of discernment and boundaries to go along with that compassion. Old souls have a tendency to get stuck in Stage 2 of compassion. They can see exactly why other people are acting like they are acting, and accept their poor behavior. They may choose relationships in which they unconsciously want to save another, because they can see and have compassion for that person’s wounds and struggles. The task of Stage 4, is to simultaneously have compassion for another individual, while loving yourself so much, that you hold boundaries. It is about loving another, but loving yourself and your right to life, love, and happiness more than you love anyone or anything else.
Stage 4 is about letting go of saving people and fully entering into your own space of self-love. In this stage, we can see other people’s struggles, wounding, and gifts. We offer our loving and service to them when we feel called to, but we stop sacrificing our own needs and well-being to help them along their path. We stop trying to save people and save the world. This is the task of the Old Soul: Loving yourself so much, that you are ready to release yourself from the role of “savior.” This is the highest state of compassion on the planet so far. In this stage, we develop a compassion so deep, that we let people have their struggles and stop trying to save them. We see that sometimes, people need their struggles and it is not in their best interest to have us go in and save the day.
Compassion becomes so total, that we love and accept all things exactly as they are, knowing that each one of us is completely and totally worthy and lovable exactly as we are now. This is compassionate wisdom.
Questions to Develop Compassionate Wisdom
Can you trust that the planet is ok, exactly as it is?
Can you trust that a higher loving is guiding us through everything?
Can you trust that even when things look dark, that sometimes the darkness is what delivers us into the light?
Can you trust other people to the wisdom of their soul?
Can you let go of saving the planet and drop into your loving instead?