Maybe it's because I've gone to the places that scare me. Years ago, I actually bought Pema Chodron's book twice without realizing it, and then stashed each copy on my bookshelf, unread, after the first chapter scared the wits out of me. The power of the unconscious is humbling!
I finally did read her book about a year ago, but it hasn't been until this summer that a sense of peaceful connection with others has blossomed. Where has this come from? Why now?
Forgiveness (of myself and others) has something to do with it. That's taken a long time. As has allowing my anger -- really feeling it and the heartbreak beneath. I've found a way to my bodhichitta, that soft, tender, vulnerable spot in my heart. The pain I used to run from is no longer unbearable or terrifying, but rather a pure and profound connection to others who suffer.
Another key is discernment. There's a big difference between compassion and enabling or co-dependence. Having over-invested in many relationships, I left myself naively vulnerable to both being taken advantage of or, taking advantage of those who came to my rescue. Yes, discernment and accountability are in the mix here.
And what about my Fire? According to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) of which I'm a big fan, we are now at the height of Fire in the annual five-element cycle. Fire is about the Heart, center of compassion and joy. My guess is that my Heart Protector (what a great name!) has finally been properly activated under the skilled touch of my acupuncturist.
One last thing. Staying open to, while not forcing or faking my compassion is a piece of this. Arriving on its own terms, I welcome this state of being with a strong heart and open arms.