Cultivating Cultures of Compassion
As you experience the many currents of energy passing in, around and through the local and non local space we all live in; are you aware of how much separation, alienation and disconnection there is in our global village? On the other hand, are you also aware of the interconnectivity, commonality and community that’s drawing us together? Compassion is the definitive agent in our consciousness that dissolves the separation, heals the divisions and awakens the participation needed to realign us all.
Compassion comes from the Latin cum + pati which literally means to bear with or to suffer with. . . It’s a sympathetic consciousness with another’s distress along with a desire to alleviate it. It recognizes the deep interconnectivity we share with life and the intense emotion that compels us to action. It’s an innate part of who we are and yet we can repress this emotion through cultural conditioning and objectification. When we create fear and anger toward others we stop seeing us. We see separation, objects.
The whole idea of compassion is based on a deep awareness of the interdependence of all beings as part of one another in the web of Life. What we do to one, we do to all. It’s part of the sacred unity of the Great Creating. To quote Chief Seattle from the last century: “Humankind has not woven the web of life. We are but one thread within it. Whatever we do to the web, we do to ourselves. All things are bound together. All things connect.” When we objectify each other and creation, compassion is only about me.
Sharon Salzberg speaks to us from another tradition: “Compassion challenges our assumptions, our sense of self-limitation, worthlessness, of not having a place in the world, our feelings of loneliness and estrangement. These are narrow, constrictive states of mind. As we develop compassion, our hearts open.” And from the Fourteenth Century we hear from Meister Eckhart: “You may call God love or goodness. But the best name for God is Compassion.” Compassion is all inclusive. It’s the cradle of LIFE.
As I listen to the news from around the world these days I hear lots of talk about fighting for change, for gun control, for peace, for our way of life, for nature, for liberties, for justice and even for the right to fight. Somehow this doesn’t seem to fit with the necessary compassionate conditions for bearing with and suffering with. Fight implies contention, opposition, conflict, winners and losers, destruction and objectification. Isn’t this the opposite of compassion? How do we let go of this fight?
When contemplating compassion this past week, the image of unconditional love came into view. In that reflection I saw a conversation with a colleague from years ago about unconditional love. He said he didn’t believe in it because he’d never seen it. I reminded him that we don’t believe what we see, we see what we believe. He didn’t believe that either. The scene changed and I saw a mother with her newborn child. She’d given up everything to have this baby. There were no conditions, no complaints, no disconnections; just unadulterated, unfettered, unequivocal, unconditioned love.
In compassion, unconditional love, all sense of separation dissolves. For the moment we experience a unity with our Oneness and awaken to the reality that it’s always here even when we’re not. The addiction to our selfish opinions is revealed and the self serving dualisms fall apart. Our egocentricity abates and we discover the criticized qualities in others are also in us. Within this awakened moment we clearly see our own hypocrisy, fear, woundedness, self centeredness, arrogance and enslavement.
From this self reflective vantage point we awaken to the need for acceptance and mercy for ourselves and others. We recognize our interconnectivity with the whole human family and in our humility, again wake up to the reality that we must keep growing, changing and rearranging. Moment by moment we bring compassion to our separated and integrating selves. We give thanks for the insights, pick up our baggage and move on to again awaken and fall asleep until we cross a threshold from the land of either/or to the land of both/and where we keep growing, changing and compassioning.
- Go back to the quote at the top of the article and read it again. Do you have a new appreciation for love and compassion now? How would you explain compassion as the necessary radicalism of our time? Write it in your journal and share it with a trusted companion after you’ve taken it into a soulful space within. . . .
- This exercise is about creating new cultures within. As you do this, you’ll be able to create new cultures wherever you are. This project is a deeply internal one that will require a complete reorientation in your self awareness. Stay quiet with it. Work on it over time and in silence. Let it be an inside job for the highest good.
- Meditate on and practice dissolving all sense of separation with your environments. Allow yourself to know the interconnected nature of your being by simply holding space for others; fully present and absent at the same time. Play with this paradox of Self and self. It’s about remaining within while going out. . . .
- Remember to remember that you are never separated from your Essence which is also the Essence of Life. Remember the Holographic Universe where the Whole is greater than the sum of its parts and each part contains the Whole. When you believe it you’ll perceive it and receive it. It starts with compassionate self reflection. . . .