I don’t often share my experiences of meditation with people. I feel shy and the experiences feel so profound that I usually don’t have words for them.

And if I’m honest, I also don’t want to come across as crazy.

But I’m feeling bold today so I’m going to try to de-mystify or perhaps re-mystify meditation, starting with lions.

Think about everything you know about lions.

Their shape and size.
Where they live.
Random facts about their speed, their prey, their prides, their nature.
Everything you learned from that Discovery Channel documentary.
The stories, myths and symbols you grew up with.

Now. Armed with this knowledge, would you know what it felt like to walk a mile in the soft, velvety pads of a lion? Maybe?

What if you could know that feeling? What if in one moment you could cognize everything there is to know about a lion? You would have lion knowledge galore, but you would also feel what it was like to BE a lion, to exist in the skin of a lion. Your understanding of a lion would forever be changed. You would know the essence of a lion.

This is the power of meditation.

I had this experience recently, but rather than knowing the Lion, it was cognizing Compassion, a word that I have sorely underestimated. I’ve often grouped “compassion” together with “nice” and left it to a dull and boring fate. In fact, even as my meditation started to unfold, I had the thought, why couldn’t I see more about lions instead? But I didn’t. So, let us pretend that compassion is a like a lion. It has a living, breathing essence to it. It carries mystery, intrigue, rulership, and heart.

My initial experience in meditation was as if compassion was running through my veins, taking me over. Me becoming compassion. I could feel its immensity and grace. I was frankly awe-stuck. This was not the simpering look, wringing hands, compassion I had a prejudice about.

This Compassion had magnitude. As the meditation went deeper, I felt compassion in a way that was unlike anything I had previously considered.

Compassion lives and breathes at the moments of big transitions – of rock bottom, of rough times and of heartache and loss. When life takes you down, compassion is waiting for you at the bottom. It’s there for you on the way down, but it kicks into high gear at the bottom. It is the force that picks you up off the floor. It gently helps you turn your head away from the abyss, towards hope and life. Compassion sits at the intersection of what is and what can be. It holds sway over how quickly you pick yourself up, dust off and start walking again. It is at the crux of your recovery throughout the challenges in your life. Stiff arm compassion and you prolong your time in the swamp, you unnecessarily expand the time you stay at the bottom.

Compassion meets the interface of grief, loss, pain, suffering and hardship head on. It bears witness and tells us we are not alone. It helps us gather our reserves so that we can push off the bottom.

This gift can come from friends, family, and individuals, but it also exists independently. It is a force unto itself, woven into the fabric of our consciousness. It’s in our religions, it sits in backdrop of faith and spirituality. It can reach us even when it doesn’t come from a person. I think that is so remarkable.

People often come out of hardship stronger and wiser. They find faith. They share how the hardest times brought the greatest graces in life. Compassion can be the unseen force in the background, holding us so that we can find these ladders and rungs out into our own light.

The more Compassion moved through me in meditation, the greater my sense of awe and wonder. It is a force for peace in the world. It is the lion.