Guides and community make a huge difference in how successful you are. It doesn’t matter if you’re talking about athletics, finances, or relationships. You need guides and community.
This is even MORE important when talking about living intentionally from love.
Compassion – often called “lovingkindness” in Eastern traditions – takes energy and effort. This is not something a person can do in a vacuum. It’s possible we could institute compassionate, loving habits by sheer force of will. Some people MIGHT be able to do that (I haven’t met any, but MAYBE one or two exist…).
For the rest of us, we need guidance to direct our steps. We need community to hold us accountable and encourage us on the journey.
The Empath’s Defense (Or My Journey to Lovingkindness)
A friend once said to me, “I’m a total bitch until I open my mouth.”
She meant that she was cruel to others in her head, but was polite when she spoke to people.
For a long time I was that way. I was angry and sad. Honestly, I hated people. I raged. On a regular basis I actually studied people until I knew their weaknesses and could exploit them. My husband has said my insults are more painful than any physical torment.
There’s a reason. It’s because I know people. Not only do I empathize with people, but through clairsentience, I can feel their feelings. Because of this, I know exactly the worst pain I can inflict.
There’s a twisted satisfaction a person can reap from such ability. When a body has been violated in the most intimate way – when there isn’t the physical strength to fight a person – there is always the heart. There’s always the soul.
It’s a false psychopathy, this defense mechanism, that only the most empathic people understand because it is the only way many of us have walked through life. Having this ability somehow softened the other side of things… the physical pain felt on behalf of another.
When I walk down the street it used to pain me just to see a homeless person on the sidewalk holding up a sign asking for anything. I felt the weight of their story, without knowing all the details, in my gut. My whole body tensed. My mouth became a desert. Unable to bear it, I ran past – as fast as permitted in the circumstance.
It wasn’t that I didn’t see them – it was that I saw them too clearly.
Building Blocks to Love and Tearing Them Down
Being unable to bear the pain of seeing another in pain caused me to feel ashamed. It caused guilt. I built my false psychopathic wall to try to spare me the pain, but it just increased my guilt and shame.
Even though I felt the pain, I purposefully ignored it. This involved a horrible level of self-loathing and sky-high levels of guilt and shame.
But I don’t do it anymore. I got rid of my cold calculating mask. Getting rid of it was a gradual process, like everything on this journey. The final shift came when I realized there always something I could give to people. There was always something I could do to show them I cared.
I rarely have food or cash on hand to give someone I pass on the street. On the face of it, it seemed like I had nothing to offer. But that wasn’t true.On the face of it, it seemed like I had nothing to offer. But that wasn't true. Click To Tweet
When I don’t have food or cash, I can always “pray for” or send positive energy to people. Sending positive directed energy has great benefits – clearing away negative energy, fostering relaxation, and even giving a little energy boost.
This is basically what Reiki, Chi Kung, and Pranic Healing are all about. From purely anecdotal evidence, I can say these modalities do amazing things for the body (and I was a TOTAL skeptic). The nice thing about energy work (or positive directed thought) is there are benefits, no downsides, and no matter what, I can ALWAYS do it!
Now, any time someone cuts me off on the road, I can always send them good thoughts. Any time I see someone begging, I can pray for them. Any time I see someone angry on the internet, I can send them good thoughts.
This blog (and all my work) is an extension of this practice. But I didn’t get there on my own. It took a lot of guidance and community.
I meditate daily, read holy, and contemporary texts. Online, I’m part of a variety of communities, as well as attending a church in real life. I also have lovely friends who keep me honest, gentle, and loving.I didn't get here on my own. It took guides and community... Click To Tweet
It’s All About Choice
This seems like a pretty quick change considering how awful I seemed, but the reality is once you decide to change, things can happen pretty quickly.
It all starts with the choice – deciding you want to live an intentional life based in love. You just decide one day, “I’m going to be kind – to myself and others.”
But after you make the choice, you need to have a standard to measure your acts and journey through life. You need to know what steps to take. That’s where guides come in.
Three Guides to Be More Loving
There are several kinds of guides you can use to help you live a more intentionally loving life. These are textual, educational, as well as one-on-one mentorship.
Guide 1: Read a book (or watch a video!)
Text guides can be any text that gives guidance on the subject of love in action. When I say text, I’m thinking specifically of passively receiving the information. This is where you don’t interact with the guide but just take it in. A textual guide can range from ancient sources such as Buddhist sutras and the Christian Gospels, to things like this blog, and The Compassion Letter. Usually there will be some story or illustration of a concept, as well as practical tactics and tools to implement love in action. Pro tip: It doesn’t have to be text, but could be video or audio. The key with this kind of guide is it’s passive nature.
Some examples of this kind of guide that I love are:
- Check out #1000Speak for Compassion for all different perspectives on compassion, generally focused on a monthly theme.
- Access to Insight is a translated database of Buddhist texts that can definitely help you focus on being more compassionate to yourself and others.
- I also love the positive work of Reba Linker, whose self-love work is a wealth of positivity and light.
Guide 2: Take a class!
Educational guidance could be courses or workshops. These are more interactive than a text guide, but they’re not personalized to your life. It’s learning in a community which has very specific benefits – you get the lessons from a text guide, plus built in community, AND get to address different learning styles (not everyone can read a book and get a handle on the info!).
A good example of this kind of guide are the programs developed by The Compassion Crew, where participants may experience guided meditations or role play, as well as go over specific habits that can be implemented to encourage love in action.
You could also do an online course, like The Heart Unboxed: How to Love the Unloveable. Online courses like this one give you the comfort of your own home and schedule, but also access to an intructor AND a community of students in the classroom.
Guide 3: Get a mentor!
Mentorship might be studying with a spiritual leader, like a rabbi or swami, but it could also involve working with a life coach, intuitive, or a principled leader in the community. What shape mentorship takes will depend on the specific habits and needs present at that point in the journey. [Note: If you’re looking for a mentor, or just want to see what it’s about, schedule a FREE breakthrough session here!]
The Journey Requires Community
In order to make sure new habits stick, it is helpful to have community in place to hold ourselves accountable (and lend support on the journey!). Community comes in a variety of forms.
Community 1: Check out the local “church”
I know a lot of us have steered away from religious institutions, but the community there cannot be over-stressed. It is powerful, supportive, and frankly transformative. Small groups, Sunday school classes, and special events often combine the benefits of guidance (as mentioned above) and accountability. The routines of faith communities help to normalize compassionate action – like tithing and volunteering.
- These days I attend Cambridge Drive Community Church which is theologically progressive, has contemporary music, sermon talk-backs, volunteer opportunities, educational events, and small groups. This is a diamond. It takes research to find diamonds.
- My friend started a group in Santa Barbara County called The Way Collective which is focused primarily on practice (with a major tenet being compassion) as opposed to belief.
- I love the Vedanta Society, and find the teachers there to be positively delightful (for another kind of community!).
Community 2: Join a club!
In-Real-Life Clubs can function in a similar vein as faith communities, but without theology. There are so many clubs that hold semi-monthly meetings providing an opportunity for members to connect, as well as gain guidance (often clubs like the Rotary or Optimist International clubs will have presentations at their meetings).
Note: In general, clubs are suffering from low turn-outs these days (especially along generation lines), so if you do go to a club meeting, you may find a small group of loyal people or quite a lot of white hair. I’d urge you to stick with it AND to bring friends next time.
Community 3: Get online!
Online Groups cannot be written off either. They can help provide structure to engage in compassion, as well as offer guidance. This is especially true in spaces like the Facebook Group function, where members can engage in various threads related to the group. Here are just a few places I really love:
- I adore #LinkYourLife. The founder and host, Shawna Ainslie is a wonderful human being who creates a lovely space to connect with others in a loving way. Check out their tag on Twitter to see the kinds of things going on there! Note: The group is discerning – members get vetted and need to actively participate in order to be added.
- And of course there’s also my Spiritual Creatives group that has daily prompts focused on spreading love and light! This space is a warm fuzzy, but the prompts also hold you to thinking about how to hold your focus on love (and continue building an intentional life!).
Get Started with Guides and Community!
From here there’s a pretty clear path of what you can do. Here are some easy first steps:
- Build your guidance library (you can always have more guidance as this is a life-long study). Get books. Bookmark some blogs. Follow some channels. Whatever works best for you!
- If you really want to level up, schedule a FREE breakthrough session here.
- Find community that resonates with you and holds you to a compassionate standard. There are so many options! Just reach out!
I think you’ll agree, guides and community make the difference. It did for me!
- Between Chaos and Order: The Need For A Middle Way - June 18, 2018
- Spiritual Mamas: Intuition, Spirituality, and Motherhood - June 4, 2018
- Neither Selfish or Selfless – Only Loving! - April 30, 2018