737th Week: Embracing Compassion and Insight
I post a daily inspirational quotation and nature photo each morning on Facebook and on the Devadana Sanctuary side of my Portal to Multidimensional Living that keeps coming back to me this morning, so I’d like to share it here, along with some resources that have inspired me recently. Here’s that quotation. It’s a long one, but it has two elements in it that will be the basis of this week’s practice:
“So in this time, the Shambhala warriors go into training in the use of two weapons. The weapons are compassionand insight. Both are necessary, the prophecy foretells. The Shambhala warriors must have compassionbecause it gives the juice, the power, the passion to move. It means not to be afraid of the pain of the world. Then you can open to it, step forward, act.
But that weapon by itself is not enough. It can burn you out, so you need the other you need insightinto the radical interdependence of all phenomena. With that wisdom you know that it is not a battle between “good guys” and “bad guys,” because the line between good and evil runs through the landscape of every human heart.
With insight into our profound inter-relatedness, you know that actions undertaken with pure intent have repercussions throughout the web of life, beyond what you can measure or discern. By itself, that insight may appear too cool, conceptual, to sustain you and keep you moving, so you need the heat of compassion. Together these two can sustain us as agents of wholesome change. They are gifts for us to claim now in the healing of our world.” ~ Joanna Macy
I’ve written many practices on the subjects of compassion and kindness, so this one will emphasize insight. For me, insight is enhanced, or even prompted, by information, by being open to, and curious about, whatever it is that has captured my attention that is a concern, or that begs for a solution. I find that what works best for me is either to dive into a book that relates to my concern or to search out videos on YouTube or one of the many websites I visit as sources of both inspiration and information. With information, insight into challenging situations becomes more possible.
For this week’s practice, please choose an issue that currently concerns you—perhaps some element of our current social, political, cultural, or global distress. As you focus on whatever it is you’ve chosen, take a moment to notice the quality of your physical, emotional, and mental responses to bringing your awareness to this issue. Then, take a breath and, as you exhale, travel all the way down to the bottom of the breath and hang out there for a bit. Some people like to imagine that they are traveling down the out-breath into a large, open bowl that rests on their pelvic floor. If this appeals to you, notice what it’s like to pour your awareness into this bowl just a bit more with each natural out-breath and then to take some time just to rest there. As you do, notice if and how your body, emotions, and thoughts settle a little and perhaps become softer and a bit quieter.
As part of this practice, I recommend that you look for resources that can offer you new information about the issue you’ve chosen, that can expand and extend your understanding of what contributed to the situation and that may be able to offer some options you hadn’t considered. It may be that some of this information will make you uncomfortable, as you encounter what may be new ideas or new ways of seeing things. Developing a practice of knowing when and how to ground yourself can be very useful, as a brain that feels threatened has a hard time taking in, and considering, new information.
In the service of tracking and supporting being grounded, it’s helpful to become familiar with your felt-sense, with the sensations of constriction or relaxation that you may experience in your body. When we feel threatened or uncomfortable, it’s often automatic to become tense or to clench. It’s useful to be able to notice this response so that you can take a moment to bring your awareness to the lower portion of your body—your legs and feet, for example—and to take some time to settle into a “softer” stance.
As with all these practices, it’s helpful to bring along curiosity as your constant companion. Curiosity opens, while fear constricts. You might play with noticing your experience when you have curiosity in the foreground of your awareness compared to when you don’t. Also remember to pat gently on the head any judgments that may arise, allowing them to move on through without your having to do anything with or about them.