The Power of Compassion: The Mountain that Loved a Bird

We live in a culture that encourages us to try to feel good all the time.  We hear the overt and covert messages: Be happy! Overcome struggles! Look on the bright side.

What is the problem with such messages?

First, it’s not possible to feel good all the time. Telling ourselves the story that we “should” feel happy when actually we feel worried, or sad or disappointed tends to compound difficult feelings. Instead of offering ourselves compassion and soothing ourselves for how difficult it is to struggle, we instead shame ourselves for not feeling good. “Shoulding” ourselves when we feel down is incredibly unhelpful.

Another problem with consuming the message that we shouldn’t feel sad or lonely or disappointed, is that it directs us away from the healing power of self-compassion. One way to define compassion is holding sorrow or suffering (our own or another’s) in a tender, loving embrace. When challenging emotions are held with connection and love, our hearts and lives can be transformed in positive ways.

There is a children’s story that beautifully illustrates the healing power of compassion: The Mountain that Loved a Bird. Although this touching story by Alice McLerran is now out of print, a small group of children and I have created a play of the story. I highly encourage you to set aside a little time to watch the play below and allow your heart to be transformed.

The Healing Power of AND

If you are like me, you are on a roller coaster of feelings during this coronavirus time at home.  Sometimes, I momentarily forget about the virus while walking in nature or laughing with my kids, and then suddenly I remember once again. Hope, grief, sadness, joy and despair flicker in and out of my awareness.  I experience moments of awe at the way we are working together in community.  Other times I feel loneliness and worry about the physical and social isolation—both for myself and for others. 

During these challenging times, I remind myself again and again to create space for AND.  AND what? you might ask.  By AND, I mean allowing for both sadness and joy.  Loneliness and connection.  Despair and hope.  If we don’t create space for all of it, we run the risk of either anxiously clinging to positivity, or conversely, wallowing in despair.

Creating space for AND involves: A = Allowing the full range of emotions and becoming Aware of the present moment.  N = Nurturing—nurturing ourselves as we struggle, and nurturing a healthy mind that is also able to see what is good.  D = Discovering.  We can cultivate curiosity to move beyond our typical ways of responding and discover new and beautiful possibilities.  Allow, Nurture, and Discover (AND).

It’s not easy to open to all of our emotions.  Yoga, mindfulness, self-compassion and growing the good all help.  It also helps to journal and pick up the phone to call a friend to remember that we are not alone.  There are a lot of things that we cannot control in this situation, but practicing AND paves the way for a healthier emotional life and a more peaceful mind.