[You may wish to read Part I first.]
A few weeks ago, a friend wrote: “I find it so hard to let the past be the past. It can churn away at my heart.” I wondered what he meant but we didn’t have a chance to talk about it. I sent him a piece by Leo on why we have regret.
His reply was a beauty: “Regrets stem from my refusal to accept myself as I am. A fundamental quest, puzzle. Do I accept myself as I am, and by implication, the rest of us, all of my past and all of my future? … I wish I could engineer grace?”
Now, this man is deeply compassionate and loving. He does good work in the world. He is a fine father. He cares. He is unfailingly affirming of others.
Kristin Neff asserts that there is a correlation between being compassionate towards others and lacking compassion for oneself. It may be true that we demonise others with the things we cannot accept in ourselves. It is also true that some of the nicest people forgive in others what they cannot forgive in themselves.
Before you are ready to ’embrace the whole world’, you must focus on yourself. Begin by drawing on the warmth of friendship that you know exists potentially in your mind and direct it to yourself. Notice how much peace, happiness and benevolence you possess already. Make yourself aware of how much you need and long for loving friendship.
I have said this before. You know what love and kindness and friendship feel like. You have felt it often towards those you care about. You know what it feels like in this body, perhaps a warm, open, embracing in your heart.
Extend this feeling to yourself.
[See Part III.]