John Lennon – I am the Walrus
Compassion – This reaching out and recognising that we are all one – and ‘all together’
suffering with others Com Passion – having the willingness and the capacity to ’suffer with others’ (and not everyone is capable of that, let alone willing) – yet how amazing and ultimately transformative it can be.
I love the fact that the first part of the word compassion is ‘compass’ – a tool by which to navigate one’s path in the world. There’s even a rose associated with the compass – the face of a compass is called a rose – because of all its rays of direction emanating like petals from the centre.
“Let the way of the Heart, Let the Way of the Heart,
Let the way of the Heart shine through x2
Love upon love upon love, All hearts are beating as one
Light upon light upon light, shining as bright as the sun”
When I was a young boy at school in Birmingham, and walked to school, we passed the Church of the Sacred Heart and it had picture of Christ with his chest splayed open and his heart exposed. I used to find that image quite shocking – as if he had been cut open in an operation or by a passing army.
Now I view it differently, not least because of my own life experience.
Inevitably in life we are each broken in some way – our pure ‘baby selves’ cannot survive exposure to the world of duality and reality without becoming influenced and thus absorbing those impressions of the world which we each experience.
I think it was Hemingway who said ‘All men are broken; and some grow stronger in the broken places’ . Not just men. All of us.
I’d like to share my own experience and strategy for ‘opening into life’ and negotiating the sometimes tortuous route forward. It is really only with the benefit of hindsight that it becomes clear – and that is one of the advantages of age – and offers a perspective on what has gone before.
This is only my experience and I can hardly claim it to be either unique or right or new. I’d be interested to know what your own experience of compassion is as your life unfolds.
My own heart has been broken open repeatedly – as it must be for anyone who is remotely sensitive and caring – I see that in keeping it open; in daring to ‘open the heart’, even when everything is screaming that its too painful and to ‘run away’, it is at those times that daring to ‘stay open in the heart’ is what is most beneficial and healing. That by staying true to the pain of the experience, that it somehow transmutes and is turned into something extremely peaceful and harmonious.
It seems to involve a sacrifice of some kind – and I know that not all of you will agree with me on this – a giving up of (ego) self in order to open into (greater compassionate ) Self. So it has seemed.
No doubt I’ve been influenced and perhaps deluded by aspects of my Catholic upbringing. However, stripping as much of the dross away as I can, it seems to me that when it boils down to it – when push comes to shove – then it is in almost counter intuitively ‘keeping the heart open’ that I not only stay true to my essential core nature, but more than that, I honour and even help enable and fulfil ‘ that which is bigger’ ‘that which is beyond’ ‘that which is greater than me’.
Its also interesting that it is through addictions that each of us is able to seemingly ‘dim the pain’, only to discover over time that the relief is temporary and illusory – the deeper connection and healing comes from ‘staying with it’.
“It takes so much to be a Human Being
That there are very few who have the love and courage to pay the price.
One has to abandon altogether the search for security
And open up to the risk of living
With both arms.
One has to embrace life like a lover”
Here is poem I wrote as a young man, reflecting the way I have always felt and still very much do. Later it became a song….
A passion for this earth I feel
Compassion which is so so real
My blood flows through earth’s laval veins
My tears reflected in her rains
The winds which circulate the earth
Breath in and out of me from birth
The cyclic rhythms of her tides
Are matched by how I feel inside
Yet most remarkable of all
Open your heart to hear the call
The essence which I know is me
Is here in everything I see”
Let compassion be my compass then.
It is said in some spiritual traditions that compassion is the Law of Laws – I can equate with that. Here’s some clue from wisdom tradition which might help.
“How can there be bliss
When all that lives must suffer
Wilt thou be saved
And hear the whole world cry”
It comes from the beautifully named “Book of Silence’ and is a favourite quote from one of my favourite authors – called bizarrely and beautifully – Christmas Humphreys. He writes:
‘Compassion is no attribute – It is the Law of Laws, eternal harmony, a shoreless universal essence, the light of everlasting right, the fitness of all things’
Knowledge in acton is wisdom. Love in action is compassion.
He goes on to quote a great Zen teacher – Dr Suzuki
‘Knowledge used without reference to compassion, may utterly destroy humankind’
- Meditation on the nature of compassion – settling into an attitude of loving kindness where the capacity to feel love for all that is, becomes paramount and of second nature. We imagine ourselves as separate yet that is at great personal cost – it isolates and compartmentalises each of us in a bubble of selfishness. Liberation and transformation – both within and without – comes from breaking through that illusion into the true nature of being – the selfless, the embodied warrior of the earth rather than a warrior of greed.
Another Song/Poem of mine.
“The ocean refuses no river
The sky refuses no cloud
The Leaf refuses no sunlight
The Heart refuses no wound
The mountain refuses no eagle
The lake refuses no swan
The stream refuses no heron
The heart refuses no song
The field refuses no raindrop
The flower refuses no bee
The heart refuses no healing
Let love unfold unto thee”