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forgiveness, empathy, compassion

As a child I was taught to take care of myself first. don't ask questions. Just act. Nevertheless, I never felt good about not considering the effect my actions have on others. As a martial arts teacher I have struggled with the idea of teaching others the skills needed to hurt maim and kill. And yet I tell my students that they may think that is why they are in my class but the reality is that the lesson is one of do no harm, how NOT to to hurt maim and kill, a crazy way to teach others a way of being compassionate. I am haunted by an incident that occured when I was a child. I was with my best friend who is african american, we were in a swimming pool where there was a kid who was being a bully towards my friend and was calling him all sorts of racial insults. Rather than try to reach out to the bully and make friends, or just leave the pool to get away from him I just hit him as hard as I could. He began to bleed and the pool water became red with his blood. I immediately felt really bad and knew I caused harm to another, so, where was the compassion here? Was it tò towards my friend that was being bullied, being called horrible racist names? where did I go wrong? Compassion, forgiveness. Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us. I struggle with this concept everyday, perhaps being aware, even mindful of that struggle, one of trying to live with empathy in order to understand others struggles. Having empathy can be a path to forgiveness which leads to compassìon. As a transgender woman, I forgive the people that are looking at me and commenting about me under their breath, forgive them for they not know what they say, they do not know who I am, they do not see my humanity, only my exterior prescence. Remove the veil and have a clear vision of what presents, the veil is the mind in this case. Forgive them for they not know what they see. When I am in need of empathy from others is perhaps when I need to show empathy, my own needs are not being met so my reservoir is empty. Takahashi Sensei was born into the Samurai Class of Japan. Even though the way of the sword (kendo) gave way to the ever encroaching modern world, the family's time honored tradition of Katori shinto ryu kendo was passed to him in order to maintain the family spirit of the legendary Samurai. . Sensei had a student named Jinsuke who had been a student of Takahashi since he was six years old. When Jinsuke became a young man at the age of seventeen he felt he needed to test his skill, he needed to know how sharp his sword was and wanted to see if he could cut with it. This was expected by Takahashi as almost all his students needed to know if what they were studying actually worked. Not only that, but also since he is a student of the warrior arts; Budo, he should be able to hurt maim and kill with a single stroke of his sword. Or so he thought. Sensing Jinsuke's desire to have his skills tested, even challenged, Takahashi Sensei knew it was time for the next lesson. Takahashi Sensei asked Jinsuke to gather his sword and take a walk with him down to the stream where the current gently flows. Takahashi had his student place his sword standing straight up in the water with the tip down and the cutting edge facing the oncoming current, he was instructed to wait patiently which Jinsuke did without question, yet he was filled with curiosity about the unusual lesson. Eventually a breeze picked up a leaf from a branch above and it gently fell to the water where a slow current washed it toward the blade of Jinsukes sword. As the leaf came into contact with the blade it was cut in half. My sword is sharp and cuts easily thought Jinsuke, proud of himself and expecting Sensei to praise his skill. Takahashi Sensei just grinned and said to observe compassion in action while he placed his sword in the water, upright, tip down and the cutting edge facing the oncoming current. As with Jinsuke, a leaf was let loose by a breeze and fell to the water where the gentle current carried the leaf towards his blade. As the leaf approached the cutting edge it diverted around the blade and remained intact, then continued it's journey to the sea. Takahasi explained that the ultimate goal is to be the sword that does not take life but in fact gives life. How is this compassion in action? The sword that gives life sounds like a contradiction of the swords purpose and the Samurai's intent when yielding the sword. Nevertheless, the swords purpose is indeed to take life, but not randomly and always with reverence to the life it is taking, but most importantly the lives that are being saved by those intending harm can be free to continue the cycle of renewal and hope. Empathy, forgivness, compassion. All life deserves these concepts. As Takahashi believed that the spirit that moves through all things so does he also believe that all things deserve compassion. How does all that relate to my understanding of compassion is a very good question. Do I really known what compassion is or I am I self aware enough to know whether or not I have any compassion in me at all. So back to my friend Bernie. Bernie sèemed unfazed by the negativity of people, his entire family was that way, they had true forgiveness and empathy, he forgave the bully, and he forgave me for doing harm on another. That will be with me forever. I seem to keep coming back to thè times when I was the least compassionate, these are the times that I feel shame for my lack of kindness and outright cruelty towards another person. Re-living the memory of occurances that I regret having been responsible for is hard to do, I cannot escape from the truth and I do not want to either. It is reflections such as this that opens ùp the heart in order to have self examination. The blessing of forgiveness is granted upon me as well as I work to learn forgiveness. I asked my Pastor about forgiveness and help with understanding how to be able to forgive. She said I did not need to forgive othèrs, leave that up to God, for that is Gods job. I do not know how to how to or even if that is what is right. Practicing forgiveness is more than just forgiving oneself . Forgive us lord our sins as we forgive those who sin against us. There is a saying that goes "they are taking up space in my head but not paying rent:" I believe this is what occurs when forgiveness is not practiced, the negative takes the place of a space within ones heart and mind ( esentially the soul) that could and should be otherwise occupied by love. That little bit of love can fill a large void of negativety.

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