Over the Christmas holiday I received a statue of Kuan Yin along with Kuan Yin oracle cards as a gift. I’ve come to see that there are no coincidences in my life, and as such I took note of this gift and began to wonder what was in store for me. There is a collective tendency to view Kuan Yin and other goddesses associated with love and compassion as sort of, one dimensional, or saccharine. Ah yes love, beauty, compassion, written off because it isn’t as heady as some of the other attributes of other goddesses. What could the goddesses of love really teach us?

When Hekate first came to me in my adult life I mistook her signs and thought she was Aphrodite. Hekate has almost always presented to me in a form that radiates love, though there is a collective of people who would bristle at this association. I’ve come to see that Kuan Yin has come to me as an ambassador of love and compassion on behalf of Hekate, to drive home what I need to embrace and release in myself. Kuan Yin is a bodhisattva who heard the cries of the people and decided to stick around and provide help. I would be lying if I said I was even remotely open to relating to this when she came into my life last month.

As I’ve grown to know Kuan Yin in this short period of time since she has come into my life, my resistance has been palpable, but I try to be open to my teachers. The word “healer” in relation to me has come up repeatedly, and that word has so many connotations that I despise. But then, so does “love,” at least on the face of it. When I would think of the word “healer,” my general response would be that it is synonymous with “untrustworthy,” or “false.“ For some reason, people who refer to themselves as healers engender immediate distrust from me.

But when I pondered this further, I realized that I recognize healing as an energy that can and does flow through each of us if we allow it to do so. To heal is to make whole, or sound, to rehabilitate, reconcile, cleanse. A true healer is someone who catalyzes and directs this movement of energy for these purposes. And I suppose it could be said that I do this through my vocation which is sacred listening, empathizing, and guiding. People come to me with their deep pain and I hold space for them to be seen and heard, and help them to find their way.

Now let’s talk about love. Ugh. Ok. I still personally bristle at this. Just typing it, I feel my jaw set and a rock forming in the pit of my stomach because clearly I have more work to do within myself. What passes for love in modern day society isn’t exactly kind to empaths, or most people in general. I’ve spent the last ten years learning what it means to set real boundaries, to face into trauma and the reality of that trauma, to release the illusions that helped me feel normal, whatever normal is, and to make decisions that are actually loving toward myself after being exposed to what passes for love in our world today (hint: if you’ve ever read ”The Giving Tree” by Shel Silverstein, what that tree does is not love).

It has been necessary in many ways because as an empath I could literally lose myself in the compassion I feel for people. In fact I’ve been through hell at the hands of others, but my compassion for them overruled my sense of self and my boundaries. It was incredibly unhealthy, and it eventually led to a physical ailment because when our minds and hearts wont say no, often our bodies will as a last ditch effort to save us from the ways we betray ourselves. I still have that compassion and deep empathy, it comes out for the monster in just about any monster movie I watch, but I have reigned it in quite tightly otherwise. I can literally see everything that leads into a person being the way that they are, on screen or in real life, but at one point I decided that the why didn’t matter to me anymore, these people (in real life) need to take responsibility, and I shut down. Then Hekate, and Kuan Yin by extension, were telling me it’s time to move past this and into a newer understanding of compassion, love, healing.

Every day I still have to extricate myself from the energy of others because I can tap into the collective unconscious as naturally and automatically as my eyes blink. It’s actually super easy to build up resentment when this is what life is like because it feels very difficult to find yourself in it all, and when you do it feels like there’s no room for you to live your own way. There are about a million different ways to be codependent when you’re an empath, and it can feel like a minefield. There’s a common misconception that empaths are light and fluffy people, perhaps overly emotional or soft. I hide my vulnerability behind steel and dark humor, and I have been known to cause deep discomfort by my presence alone in people who try to hide things about themselves. It is actually quite alienating to be an empath. And after a lifetime of conflict management and counseling others, coupled with the work I need to do for myself, sometimes I’m not feeling super interested in the Kuan Yin way.

But through my work with Kuan Yin I’ve been learning more about the many facets of love, and digging into the Greek concepts of love has immensely changed my perception about what love is. Starting with what it looks like to love myself has given me a clear basis of what love should look like when I share it with others, with the added benefit of not sacrificing myself for anyone else. Most people have to learn self-love from the outside, turning in, by thinking about how they wouldn’t treat their best friend like garbage so maybe they shouldn’t treat themselves that way either.

Learning to master yourself and surrender to love, to healing, to compassion, is not for the faint of heart. It is difficult, sacred, multifaceted work that has to be rooted in trust to really take. Part of the healing process is to really feel your pain and rage and give space for it, but it’s important to know that it’s not the destination. It’s easy to get stuck there, or to want to stay there because it’s easier to stay there than to be vulnerable and to grow. I’ve long felt that karma is a state of being, that our inner world is our karma, and we can change it by changing ourselves. Kuan Yin is showing me how.

I’ve found myself in situations where I’ve wanted to verbally eviscerate someone and instead I’m asking Kuan Yin to help me have compassion for them and for myself, because I can either add to the pain or I can be a salve for it. I had to do the work of facing and feeling my pain, to create that hard shell within, so that it could give me the space to heal and eventually break down for me to grow out of it into someone who knows what true compassion is. Every aspect of the work I’m doing with Kuan Yin is helping me align my actions with my truth and better equipping me to serve my community. The Divine Feminine in all her forms is anything but weak and saccharine.

I know it’s not glamorous to admit that I have been a rage-fueled woman for a good portion of my life. For some it may even be off-putting. And the strangest thing is that when I’ve been in service to others I’ve always been able to set it aside for them and provide them with whatever I had to give that they needed. The boundaries of the session served as a safe space to shine by setting myself aside and making sacred space for others. The healing Kuan Yin has brought allows me to assimilate my experiences and be this compassionate person with proper boundaries in and out of session, this person who has suffered greatly but is no longer marred by it, because what was has been transformed. And the truth is, it takes the goddesses of love and compassion and beauty to bring us there. A hard hand doesn’t help a heavy heart.

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One thought on “Working with Kuan Yin: Learning to Embody Compassion

  1. Hekate has always appeared to me full of love, as well. Like you, I know many would bristle at the thought od Hekate presenting this way but like you I have also been through my fair share of traumatization at the hands of humans: perhaps Goddess approaches each of us the way She sees fit. Kuan Yin was a bodhisattva who, in addition to her association with compassion, was associated with children. It is little wonder to me that she and Hekate, a protectress of children, would reach out to women like us, called to heal the adult resulting from a traumatized childhood.

    Learning to extend the compassion we freely share with those who seek to find healing can be so challenging when it comes to self-compassion. I think your friends had great timing with that statue and Oracle.

    Thank you sho much for sharing part of your story. Thank thou for holding sacred space for others.


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