Thursday, January 23, 2014

Not My Problem Mentality vs. Compassion

Having spent more time in brutal winter weather zones this year than I have since I bolted out of Illinois in 2005 for my nomadic life under the HEAR US banner, I am getting the reality therapy that millions of others regularly cope with during these blasts of winter.

I haven't forgotten what it's like to gasp at the subzero temps that get bolstered by north winds. Well, I sorta forgot, but my trip to MN in early December cured my amnesia.

What lingers in my frost-bitten head, however, is the awareness that I have so much when it comes to options for escaping winter's brutality, and so many have so little.

My house-on-wheels, aka Tillie, is a fine way to live small, except for the extremes of heat and cold. Though I'm parked at my sister/brother-in-law's house in the mountains of western NC, I'm still sleeping in Tillie, Maybe it's just a meager attempt at solidarity with the freezing masses. I could sleep inside. But the discomfort of the cold mornings when I have to crawl out from the warm down comforter keeps it real for me.

I find myself wondering about the millions of households struggling to pay for heat in its various forms. I know even more households have scant protection from the various forms of "polar vortexes" that vex us. And then we have the millions of kids and adults with no place to call home. Sigh.

Solidarity breeds compassion. And for sure we need more compassion. How do we get that? Well, this recent post, Cultivating Compassion, offers suggestions. One in particular that I like is mindfulness:
Fortunately, we also have the skills to reconcile the old brain with the new. One of them is a technique that we call mindfulness—moment-to-moment awareness of thoughts and feelings. That is, we have the capacity to be aware of awareness, and to simply observe and become familiar with the tricks our minds play on us.
Take the cold as a practical example. Can mindfulness bring the realities of others' sufferings closer to our hearts? I'd like to think so. And it leaves plenty of room for action--whether it's donating gently-used coats to a local shelter, sharing soup with an elderly neighbor, paying a family's heat bill for the month, or being nice to a worker who spends too much time in the weather. On our HEAR US website, we have a Compassion Epidemic  section with all kinds of suggestions for extending compassion beyond your doors.

I'm more than anxious for winter to take a hike. But I'm trying to "woman-up" to the reality that chills my bones. I'm not suffering, but many do. My challenge--what am I going to do about it?