Last week, I led a pair of goddess workshops focusing on four of my favorite celestial ladies: Quan Yin, Lakshmi, Persephone, and Isis. It was a lot of fun, and not the kind of teaching work I usually do, but I found that I really enjoyed it. While journaling about Quan Yin during the workshop, I started thinking about what it means to be compassionate, and I had a light bulb moment as I considered Quan Yin’s story.
She was on the brink of enlightenment, ready to become one with source and leave the earthly realm behind her, when she pulled back. She opted to remain on earth until EVERYONE could reach enlightenment, and that act of love is often cited as sacrificial proof of the deep compassion she has for all living beings.
However, as I realized last week, there’s another way to read this: it isn’t necessarily about self-sacrifice. Quan Yin’s story tells us that we must continue to exist if we are to help. Think about that for a moment; so often, when I think about compassionate acts, I think of things that are greater than myself, things I can become lost in in service to the greater good. But, if Quan Yin’s example is to be believed, I will be of more use if I hold onto myself and serve in the most human ways I can.What if we were to re-frame the idea of compassion not as an act of self-sacrifice, but as an act of self? Loving and living in the unique way that only we can is, I think, more powerful and potentially healing for ourselves and our world than any act of sacrifice. Think about His Holiness the Dalai Lama, who is said to be the current incarnation of Quan Yin; even his virtual presence in an image on the Internet is enough to open my heart and bring a smile to my face. Would his grace and power be as effective if he locked himself away from the world, or if he weren’t so open to human emotion?
Compassion comes in many forms, but I’m going to try to remember the lesson of Quan Yin the next time I feel the desire to subsume myself in the name of compassion; to really give of myself, I have to remain myself.