by Lea Seigen Shinraku
Together with awareness and self-kindness, a sense of interconnectedness is one of the core components of self-compassion. At a recent meeting of the Self-Compassion Circle, we talked about the ways that acknowledging what we love can lead us to a deeper sense of interconnection, common humanity, and community.
As a way to focus our discussion, we reflected on this quote:
Let yourself be silently drawn by the strange pull of what you really love. It will not lead you astray.” ~ Rumi
When you read these words, they probably impact you in a unique, personal way. When I read them, I’m struck by how Rumi points to the way that the self-compassionate act of acknowledging and letting our lives be guided by what we love connects us to a sense of belonging and interconnection; of what it means to be a member of the human community. I also believe that he offers tools and instructions for deepening our sense of connection. From that perspective, let’s look at Rumi’s lines more closely:
To “let yourself” means to meet this moment as fully as you can; to give yourself permission to be aware of what’s true right now, acknowledge it, and allow it to register. You can close your eyes and focus on a felt sense of what’s true, or you might name this truth to yourself internally, or on paper. This can just be your best guess about what’s true. Your truth, or your understanding of it, may change or become more refined or specific, so you don’t have to be rigid about this. It can be so easy to get caught up in “getting it right” which then often leads to feeling paralyzed and unable to let your experience register because you don’t have certainty. Give yourself space to experiment and continue to check in about what’s deeply true.
be silently drawn
Being silently drawn involves deep listening and attuning to yourself and what’s true. Maybe you’re used to attuning to other people ~ your partner, child, family, friends, colleagues, customers, clients. If that’s true for you, perhaps you notice that you tend to lose touch with yourself. See if you can focus on what’s deeply drawing your attention right now. You might turn your attention to your heart. Underneath the words that you might be trying to apply to this situation, what else is there? Notice what comes up when you rest your attention on your heart and your experience.
by the strange pull
When you attune to yourself and notice what the “strange pull” seems to be, you may also notice that it does not make sense rationally. If it did, it wouldn’t seem so strange. At the same time, listening to the strange pull is probably not the first thing you think of when you’re at a major or minor crossroads. When faced with a big decision, many of us try to think our way to the “right” choice. Maybe we make lists of Pros and Cons, or we look at the numbers, the different scenarios of how things could go – searching for the air-tight answer that will ensure that we won’t make a mistake or fail. But even with the best planning, there are no guarantees. And while facts and figures are useful, they can only take us so far.
That’s when it’s time to give attention to the strange pull ~ the inner compass that’s not necessarily rational. It springs from embodied experience, intuition, and a willingness to experiment with trusting your best guess. I see cultivating self-compassion as a way of becoming more skilled at hearing and heeding the strange pull. When you pay attention to your experience, you become more accustomed to asking before you act: What actually feels most deeply true right now, and what is the appropriate response?
of what you really love.
What do you really love? It can be hard to acknowledge this aspect of what’s true. For some of us, there’s a fear that naming what we love exposes our vulnerability, and that can make us feel unsafe. There may also be anxiety that stems from a belief that when we identify what we love, it can be more easily taken from us. At the same time, knowing what we love can give us crucial information about our values, and whether they are reflected in the choices we’re making in our lives.
In the Self-Compassion Circle last month, we did an exercise that helped people to connect with what they really love. I asked everyone to find a partner and to decide who would speak and who would listen. Then, each speaker said, “I really love __________ .” Every time the speaker named something she loved, the listener said, “Thank you.” And then the speaker named something else that she loved. This continued for five minutes, and then speaker and listener switched roles. Sharing in this way seemed to help each person feel more connected to herself, and to others in the group. In particular, this practice seemed to support the group in connecting to a feeling of gratitude for the love in their lives.
If you’d like to experiment with this practice, you can ask someone you know to try it with you. You can also try it on your own. Simply write “I really love…” in a notebook or blank document and see what comes out. Then do it again and again. Try filling a whole page by just writing continuously.
It will not lead you astray.
When Rumi says that recognizing the truth of what you really love and letting it guide you will not lead you astray, he doesn’t say that your path will be pain-free and smooth. You will probably experience deep joy and satisfaction. And you will probably also find yourself in difficult situations for which there is no map or blueprint, unsure about how to proceed or whether you’re capable of meeting the challenge. These are the times that may make you doubt your choices and wonder if you’ve made a mistake. When you find yourself doubting, know that this experience is both deeply human and deeply heroic. Anyone who has attempted something outside of their comfort zone has experienced this. It’s part of what you meet when you set out on your unique path.
It is by going down into the abyss that we recover the treasures of life. Where you stumble, there lies your treasure.” ~ Joseph Campbell
Letting yourself be silently drawn by the strange pull of what you really love will not lead you astray. It will show you what it is to be human ~ the ease, the joy, the challenge and the grief. And with that knowing, your capacity for compassion – both for yourself and for others – deepens and expands. This is how knowing what you love can give you a deep sense of community, interconnectedness and common humanity.