We are present to your pain, but we don’t take it on.
I agree: that would be exhausting. I told her that while I am present to each client exactly as they present themselves, I don’t take on anything of theirs. I don’t make other people’s suffering my own.
As I consider how this works, I think it’s mostly me staying out of the way. I tune in to the person I’m with. I offer whatever hands-on skills might help soothe their nervous system. I allow you, my client, to be as you are without resisting reality or trying to fix it.
My daily meditation is a keystone. Every day, I include a practice of metta, or loving-kindness. If I’m understanding my insight meditation teachers and peers, metta arises from two characteristics: equanimity and compassion. Equanimity means I aim for the clear-sighted open-mindedness to see all sides. Compassion means that when I see suffering, I lean in with care and explore how I might help.
Balancing equanimity and compassion prevents indifference (seeing without caring) at one end of the spectrum and burnout (caring and giving too much) at the other end.
I’m grateful for this career that harmonizes with the practices helping me abide in my own human condition. And they help me help you in ways that are good for me too. Because compassion for oneself is as important as, and exactly the same as, compassion for others.
I wish an end to your suffering. I wish an end to my suffering. I wish an end to suffering for all sentient beings.
Intending conscious kindness to all promotes the kind of treatment I want to provide. Metta promotes the kind of world I want to live in.