There is no greater power than the merciful heart. Even the word mercy has a healing influence. At a Stephen Levine workshop, a woman at the microphone spoke from the pain in her life, but she shared it from that place of hating it, hating herself and hating the world. The energy in the room began to contract the longer she shared. When Stephen began to gently but repeatedly say, “Mercy; have mercy; have mercy on yourself,” the room transformed from reaction to response. There is not one of our challenges, drawbacks or difficulties that can withstand the power of a merciful heart. And there is not one person in this world who is not deserving of this.
A dear friend was in a major transition time. An important relationship, her job and her home were all changing. These are the times where our deepest grief can slip through the cracks of our vulnerability. On the way home from a particularly trying day, she witnessed a family of ducks heading onto the freeway directly in front of a speeding bus. Because there was a fence between her and the freeway, there was nothing she could do. She pulled over to the side of the road and sobbed a river of tears. Instead of being cleansed by this upwelling, she found herself caught in confusion, panic and self-judgment, hating herself for her vulnerability.
Sitting in misery in front of her fireplace that evening, a memory from her childhood surfaced. She saw herself sitting on a stool in a warm and cozy kitchen, while her favorite aunt made her cocoa and toast. She was filled with the care and tenderness of that act. This moved her into the same level of tenderness and mercy with herself. She said that the transition was so dramatic that it was as if all of the heartache and despair of the past few weeks had been a dream and she was finally awake. The ability to meet herself as if she were a beloved child, even in the most vulnerable of places, transformed her experience.
Just as with kindness and compassion, the most powerful place we can learn mercy is with ourselves.
from Belonging to Life: The Journey of Awakening, Second Edition, p. 200