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Remember: Compassion

Image: The Good Samaritan (after Delacroix) by Vincent Van Gogh, 1890

Richard Rohr’s Daily Meditation

Compassion

Sabbath Meditation

Saturday, July 5, 2014


Remember
: Compassion

The True Self does not teach us compassion as much as it IS compassion already. (Sunday)

Only after God has taught us how to live “undefended” can we immediately stand with and for the other. (Monday)

The gaze of compassion, looking out at life from the place of Divine Intimacy, is really all I have, and all I have to give.
(Tuesday)

True prayer or contemplation is a leap into commonality and community. (Wednesday)

Compassion and patience are the absolutely unique characteristics of true spiritual authority. (Thursday)

The compassionate holding of seeming meaninglessness or tragedy, as Jesus does in hanging on the cross, is the final and triumphant resolution of all dualisms and dichotomies. (Friday)

Rest: Tonglen

Tibetan Buddhist teacher, Pema Chödrön, shares the practice of tonglen as a way of holding suffering and awakening compassion:

“In order to have compassion for others, we have to have compassion for ourselves.

“In particular, to care about other people who are fearful, angry, jealous, overpowered by addictions of all kinds, arrogant, proud, miserly, selfish, mean—you name it—to have compassion and to care for these people, means not to run from the pain of finding these things in ourselves . . . . Instead of fending it off and hiding from it, one could open one’s heart and allow oneself to feel that pain, feel it as something that will soften and purify us and make us far more loving and kind.

“The tonglen practice is a method for connecting with suffering—ours and that which is all around us—everywhere we go. It is a method for overcoming fear of suffering and for dissolving the tightness of our heart. Primarily it is a method for awakening the compassion that is inherent in all of us, no matter how cruel or cold we might seem to be.

“We begin the practice by taking on the suffering of a person we know to be hurting and who we wish to help. For instance, if you know of a child who is being hurt, you breathe in the wish to take away all the pain and fear of that child. Then, as you breathe out, you send the child happiness, joy, or whatever would relieve their pain. This is the core of the practice: breathing in others’ pain so they can be well and have more space to relax and open, and breathing out, sending them relaxation or whatever you feel would bring them relief and happiness. However, we often cannot do this practice because we come face to face with our own fear, our own resistance, anger, or whatever our personal pain, our personal stuckness, happens to be at that moment.

“At that point you can change the focus and begin to do tonglen for what you are feeling and for millions of others just like you who at that very moment of time are feeling exactly the same stuckness and misery. Maybe you are able to name your pain. You recognize it clearly as terror or revulsion or anger or wanting to get revenge. So you breathe in for all the people who are caught with that same emotion and you send out relief or whatever opens up the space for yourself and all those countless others. Maybe you can’t name what you’re feeling. But you can feel it—a tightness in the stomach, a heavy darkness, or whatever. Just contact what you are feeling and breathe in, take it in—for all of us and send out relief to all of us.

“. . . [You] can do tonglen for all the people who are just like you, for everyone who wishes to be compassionate but instead is afraid, for everyone who wishes to be brave but instead is a coward. . . .

“Breathe in for all of us and breathe out for all of us.

“Use what seems like poison as medicine. Use your personal suffering as the path to compassion for all beings.”

Adapted from “The Practice of Tonglen” by Pema Chödrön,
Shambhala.org

Gateway to Silence:
May I see with eyes of compassion.

 
 

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The Cross as Compassion

Image: The Good Samaritan (after Delacroix) by Vincent Van Gogh, 1890

Richard Rohr’s Daily Meditation

Compassion

The Cross as Compassion

Friday, July 4, 2014

Each worldview has its own folly and its own form of wisdom, and Paul says the cross has challenged both and comes out with the best and most honest answer—precisely because it incorporates the tragic (the irrational, absurd, and sinful) and uses it for good purposes. The Christian perspective can absorb and appreciate paradox—which is order within disorder, redemption through tragedy, resurrection through death, divinity through humanity.

For Paul, therefore, the cross and its transformative power is his summary symbol for the depths of divine wisdom, which seems like mere “folly” to the “masters of every age” (1 Corinthians 2:6). The compassionate holding of essential meaninglessness or tragedy, as Jesus does on the cross, is the final and triumphant resolution of all the dualisms and dichotomies that we ourselves must face in our own lives. We are thus “saved by the cross”!

Paradox held and overcome is the beginning of training in non-dual thinking or contemplation, as opposed to paradox denied, which forces us to choose only one part of any mysterious truth. Such a choice will be false because we usually choose the one that serves our small purposes. Who would ever choose the cross? Yet life often demands it of us anyway. Would anyone will or wish their child to be born with a mental or physical disability? Yet how many such families rise to very high levels of love and compassion? Paul offers a new wisdom that challenges both “Jews and Greeks” (read: religious conservatives and secular liberals) in 1 Corinthians 1:22-25.

Conversion, therefore, is not joining a different group, but seeing with the eyes of the crucified. The cross is Paul’s philosopher’s stone or “codebreaker” for any lasting spiritual liberation. God can save sincere people of faith inside of any system or religion, if only they can be patient,trusting, and compassionate in the presence of human misery or failure,especially their own. This is life’s essential journey. These trustful ones have surrendered to Christ, very often without needing to use the precise word “Christ” at all (Matthew 7:21). It is the active doing and not the correct saying that matters.

Adapted from Eager to Love: The Alternative Way of Francis of Assisi,
pp. 75-76

Gateway to Silence:
May I see with eyes of compassion.

 

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True Prayer Leads to Compassion

Image: The Good Samaritan (after Delacroix) by Vincent Van Gogh, 1890

Richard Rohr’s Daily Meditation

Compassion

True Prayer Leads to Compassion

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Although the universally available paths to unitive consciousness are great love and great suffering, conscious inner prayer will deepen and maintain what we momentarily learn in love and suffering. But the mere reciting of prayers can also be, as St. John Cassian (360-435) called it, a pax perniciosa, or a “dangerous peace.” This early Christian monk, who brought the ideas and practices of Egyptian monasticism to the early medieval West, saw that even the way of prayer can be dangerous if it never leads you to great love and allows you to avoid necessary suffering in the name of religion.

Those who fall into the safety net of silence find that it is not at all a fall into individualism. True prayer or contemplation is instead a leap into commonality and community. You know that what you are experiencing is held by the whole and that you are not alone anymore. You are a part, and now a forever-grateful part.

Real silence moves you from knowing things to perceiving a Presence that has a reality in itself. Could that be God? There is then a mutuality between you and all things. There is an I-thou relationship. Martin Buber said an I-it relationship is when we experience everything as commodity, useful, utilitarian. But the I-thou relationship is when you can simply respect a thing as it is without adjusting it, naming it, changing it, fixing it, controlling it, or trying to explain it. Is that the mind that can know God? I really think so.

Adapted from Silent Compassion: Finding God in Contemplation, pp. 15, 26‑27

Gateway to Silence:
May I see with eyes of compassion.

 
1 Comment

Posted by on July 2, 2014 in Quiet Time, Sermon Seeds, Uncategorized

 

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Compassion

 

Image: The Good Samaritan (after Delacroix) by Vincent Van Gogh, 1890

Richard Rohr’s Daily Meditation

Compassion

God-in-Me Loving God

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Last year I had the honor of representing the Christian tradition at the Festival of Faiths in Louisville, Kentucky. Leaders of many faiths, including the Dalai Lama, came together to talk about the role of compassion in our spiritual practice. The following is what I shared from the Christian perspective:

The Christian who has gone to his or her own depths—not all of us, I am afraid—uncovers an Indwelling Presence, what might even be experienced as an I-Thou relationship (to use the language of the Jewish philosopher Martin Buber). In Christian theology this would be described as the “Holy Spirit,” which is precisely God as immanent, within, and even our deepest self. Some saints and mystics have described this Presence as “closer to me than I am to myself” or “more me than I am myself.” Many of us would also describe this as the True Self. It must be awakened; it is never “created” by our actions or behavior, but naturally “indwelling,” or our inner being with God.

Much of culture and religion encourages us to cultivate our False Self or reputation, self-image, roles, and possessions. It is only as this fails us, and it eventually does, that the True Self stands revealed and ready to guide us. The True Self does not teach us compassion as much as it IS compassion already, and from this more spacious and grounded Self we can naturally connect, empathize, forgive, and love all reality. In Christian language this is “God-in-me-loving-God.”

The False Self does not know how to love in a very deep or broad way. It is too small and self-referential to be compassionate. The True Self also does not choose to love as much as it IS love itself already. Loving from this spacious place is experienced as a river within you that flows of its own accord, as Jesus promises us so beautifully (John 7:38).

Adapted from Silent Compassion: Finding God in Contemplation, pp. 46‑48

Gateway to Silence:
May I see with eyes of compassion.

 
2 Comments

Posted by on June 29, 2014 in Quiet Time, Sermon Seeds, Uncategorized

 

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