A Torch On My Path

If anyone strikes my heart, it does not break, but it bursts, and the flame coming out of it becomes a torch on my path.

–Gayan: Gamakas
Hazrat Pir-o-Murshid ‘Inayat Khan

In my previous post I joked about how bourgeois I’ve become. For many years I struggled financially, working at meager-wage jobs while getting my undergraduate degree. Throughout that time, I also battled major depression. I’m certain impoverishment and limited opportunity increased the symptoms; likewise, being depressed didn’t do much to help me advance more quickly. I plugged away at my goal despite the circumstances and eventually achieved it; then I set more and continued. Gradually my life circumstances improved; when I met my fiancé, they did so dramatically.

As a child I was incredibly, exquisitely, and often painfully sensitive to other people’s feelings and moods. I intuited the atmosphere and responded accordingly. If trouble was brewing, I would anxiously try to appease the parties involved. Or I would retreat. When my brother was born, I was eight. I remember being so identified with him that when he cried, I felt pain and cried. This I experienced into his todder years.

At some point, my brain equated economic with emotional struggle and skewed my thinking. Pain became a virtue, but not a healthy one. I felt existential angst which overwhelmed me. I equated being spiritual with being deprived. I gave of myself and my funds not only because I was kind, but because I wished someone would give generously to me. Wishful, magical, childish thinking. A refusal to grow up, on some level. And I called it compassion.

Emotions are not compassion. Compassion for others may evoke feelings, but it is a disposition separate from them. As my lot in life has improved, I’ve had to reconsider what it means to be compassionate. I’m materially comfortable. With that ease has come apathy masquerading as detachment. What I’m trying to say here is that I need to remember to be compassionate now that my economic situation has improved. Comfort has a way of teaming up with complacency to seduce one into forgetfulness. On the other hand, I don’t need to be broke, to suffer, in order to extend caring for others. Such ingrained beliefs are difficult to transform, but it can be done.

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3 Comments on “A Torch On My Path”

  1. Betty Says:

    Hi Kathryn!

    I can relate, being an HSP myself. It seemed only time and experience taught me that I’ll be happy when I’m happy, not I’ll be happy when THEY’re happy.

    Hey! I haven’t been to your blog in a few weeks and I didn’t even know you were moving! Now you’ve gone from violet to spring green and Austin to Santa Clara! Wow!

    I enjoyed reading your Foray into Counseling post too. I’m always inspired when people find their perfect self expression and career in the same package. I think you’d make a great coach. You could meet people for lunch for the initial face to face (usually free) and then follow up with phone sessions. I know some coaches who work that way. Good luck! I’ll be stopping by more often!

    Betty

  2. elck Says:

    This is very deep. I’m with you: emotions are not compassion. And poverty is not virtue. I’m with you, also, in trying to transform my understanding of these issues into something better than what I carried around for many years.

    Thanks for a lovely meditation.

  3. orangeguru Says:

    Ahhh, tempting faith with a big sacrifice – only to find out that neither Go nor the Universe really cares. Bugger! 😉

    It’s pretty hard to be a saint and be without fear.