Elucidated by deep personal stories of racial confusion and a heritage of oppression, JoAnna Hardy offers enriching wisdom on the nature of compassion.
This talk is from the 2018 Insight Meditation Society People of Color Retreat. This year the Insight Meditation Society will be hosting their Online Retreat For People of Color June 18th through June 22nd (Thursday to Monday). You can register online here.
Balancing Compassion & Wisdom (8:09)
Compassion and wisdom balance each other. We need both. The heart that only has compassion can get quite exhausted. The heart of compassion, if out of balance, can lean towards pity, shaming, burn-out, and sorrow. It becomes draining when we get into the ego aspects of what we think compassion is. Wisdom brings in the aspects of grounding, settling, stabilizing, knowing, and self-caretaking that are crucial to true compassion.
“The heart has all the space it needs for compassion, but the ego doesn’t.” – JoAnna Hardy
Find compassion and wisdom amid chaos on Ep. 10 of Sufi Heart
From Self-Abandonment to Self-Compassion (13:27)
How can we hold ourselves? For some of us it means pulling back. It might mean sitting down instead of standing up. We can get so used to pushing forward, that sometimes self-compassion means it’s time to take a break if your body, mind, or heart are tired. Other times, self-compassion means moving forward, taking the awkward step and trying. Very often we reject or abandon ourselves for feeling a certain way. Instead we can take this as an opportunity for self-compassion where we can learn to hold ourselves, no matter the external circumstance or internal state.
“One of the things I notice in a really big way around self-compassion is when I have an experience, an emotion, a thought that I don’t like, that I don’t want to be there; how I reject myself, how we can abandon ourselves, how we can do exactly the thing that we hope other people don’t do to us, and we do it to ourselves…There are times that I am talking to myself in ways that I would never let a friend talk to me. Where’s the compassion? Where’s that dear heart?” – JoAnna Hardy
Tap into a self-compassion practice from Ram Dev Ep. 26 of Healing at the Edge
Racial Confusion & Heritage of Oppression (18:00)
JoAnna shares stories about growing up in a state of racial confusion. She was born to a Black mother of very light skin color who was born in Harlem during segregation, where she experienced interracial hatred from all sides due to her complexion. To evade this, her mother moved to Los Angelos and pretended she was Portuguese. It was there she met a Sicilian man who would come to be JoAnna’s father. Throughout JoAnna’s childhood, her mother kept up the story that they were Portuguese, until one day finally sharing with JoAnna that she was born into a heritage of oppression. This freed JoAnna to finally fully be herself, immersing herself in literature, music, and history, but this also sparked a great deal of racial confusion for her.
“My heart didn’t know what to align with. It didn’t know where to go. It didn’t know what to be forgiving of. It didn’t know what to accept. It didn’t know what to reject. The sad part was I wanted other people to know me, accept me, and see me, but I couldn’t. I didn’t know how. I was too confused. So, I spent a lot of time working on that. That was actually what introduced me to spiritual practice, really just engaging with; [the questions] what is this being, and the world, and how do we associate with each other?” – JoAnna Hardy
Compassionate Action, Sacred Resistance (39:15)
How do we find compassion for the world? Closing with a brief meditation, JoAnna reflects on the difficulties and atrocities that we face as human beings, including: immigration policy separating families, school shootings, toxic water supplies, land-stealing of from tribes for big oil, the school-to-prison pipeline, what the me-too movement is showing, white supremacy, gender inequality, homophobia, transphobia, climate change, suicide rates, drug overdoses, the prison-industrial complex, the immigration-industrial complex, and the list goes on. The ego can’t hold it, but the heart can. The equation is: Metta + Suffering = Compassion. We can do this together.
“Checking in now to this space: What is compassion? What is our practice? When we look at practice as wisdom, we know when to move in, when to move back, when to take care of ourselves. Compassionate Action; Sacred Resistance: That’s the practice.” – JoAnna Hardy