About six months after the October 2017 fires, I received Stanford’s Compassion Cultivation Training (CCT) from Sylvia Dolce. I was most interested in learning the difference between Empathy and Compassion. I already knew they accessed different parts of the brain, and I learned that Thupten Jinpa, one of CCT’s main gurus, says “Empathy focuses on the problem and Compassion focuses on the solution ‘What can I do?’.”
About a year later, Sylvia Dolce taught Restorative Self Care specifically for fire and trauma survivors. In one of the exercises, she gave the students a circle of paper to take home and asked us to draw what we needed for self care. In my drawing, Compassion is the river. Dr. Dan Siegel says that all mental illness can be categorized as Chaos or Rigidity. The riverbanks of tangled underbrush signify Chaos. The rocks signify Rigidity.
The dense thicket on the banks tries to trap me in chaos,
but I will never get anywhere if I stay on the shore.
I pick my way out to the Rocks of Resentment
Rigidly clinging as the water rushes by.
"Look how hard I'm trying!"
I barely notice that I am stuck.
The sunshine of safety warms up my courage.
I release the Resentment and slip out into the flow
of the River of Nourishment,
Buoyed by the Bounty of the Goddess.