Week Thirty-Nine Summary and Practice
Sunday, September 26—Friday, October 1, 2021
Much of the early work of contemplation is discovering a way to observe ourselves from a compassionate and nonjudgmental distance until we can eventually live more and more of our lives from this calm inner awareness and acceptance. —Richard Rohr
If the heart of divine mystery is turned in compassion toward the world, then devotion to this God draws persons into the shape of divine communion with all others. —Elizabeth Johnson
A spiritual leader who lacks basic human compassion has almost no power to change other people, because people intuitively know he or she does not represent the Whole and Holy One. —Richard Rohr
In choosing to be compassionate, we are yielding to the compassionate nature of God flowing through us, in and as our compassion toward our self as precious in our frailty. —James Finley
We already know this law of compassion, because it is written on our hearts. We contradict our own good common sense when we seek ritual purity or any kind of moral superiority instead of loving who and what is right in front of us. —Richard Rohr
Compassion honors our experience; it allows us to be intimate with the life of this moment as it is. Compassion makes our acceptance wholehearted and complete. —Tara Brach
Loving Kindness, Discovering Compassion:
Activist and author Rev. angel Kyodo williams was a presenter at CAC’s 2017 CONSPIRE conference. Raised in a Christian home, Rev. angel ultimately found her calling as a Zen Buddhist priest engaged in the pursuit of radical justice.
Compassion seems like a nice buzzword, and we all want to have it. But compassion isn’t an idea that can be taught. You can’t pick it up at the bookstore. Compassion has to be felt. It’s one of those things that reveals itself without your having realized that it was at your disposal all along. You can’t manufacture what was always there, but you can create the condition in which it is most likely to thrive. 
Rev. angel offers these suggestions for ways of developing compassion for self and others:
[Make] a practice of being open. Practicing being intimate, getting close. Not just to the people that you already feel love for and want to be close to, but to everyone. Open to the dentist, the bus driver, the clerk. Little by little you open up more and more. Open to Republicans if you’re a Democrat. To the Liberals if you’re Conservative. Your capacity to appreciate difference deepens. Open to white folks, Asians, Latinos, and East Indians. You accept the whole world with open arms not because you have been told you should, but because you realize in your heart that we are all ultimately deserving of love and compassion. Open to the poor and homeless, the sick and dying.
There’s no magic involved here, and it isn’t nearly as impossible or distant as it may sound. The way to get to this place of openness and compassion is to practice opening more and more to yourself. All of yourself. The rough, unrefined parts as well as the areas you are proud of and like to recognize. The practice of meditation helps us call on the gentle “watcher” inside us who views all the contradictions that make us who we are without judging any of it. When you are sitting there counting your breath and a thought comes up, acknowledge it for just what it is . . . a thought. . . .
There are no good thoughts or bad thoughts. When you name them like that, they all end up just the same. . . . Each [thought] gets a name and is then allowed to move on. . . . Through meditation, every bit of us gets to be seen and acknowledged, rather than forced into a corner. We gain our sense of wholeness from that self-acceptance. . . .
Armed with the open mind and open heart that come from self-intimacy and self-acceptance, you can begin the very possible task of truly accepting others. When you practice accepting yourself in many different forms and moods, you naturally develop an ability to see your own self in other people. As you learn how to accept yourself, you learn how to accept them. That’s the true meaning of compassion.
Experience a version of this practice through video and sound.
 angel Kyodo williams, Being Black: Zen and the Art of Living with Fearlessness and Grace (Viking Compass: 2000), 152–153.
 williams, 146–147, 151–152.
Image credit: Manuel Alvarez Bravo, El ensueño (detail), 1931, photograph, Wikiart.
Image inspiration: What is she thinking? How do you feel seeing her? If you could, what would you say to her? Would you notice the weight she’s carrying?
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