Ah, how painful and shocking the reports from Arizona have been and how we rejoiced yesterday with the news that Gabrielle Giffords has opened her eyes and squeezed her husband's hand. Unfortunately, the deep grief known by the families and friends of those who died will not lessen any time soon, but also, unfortunately, such events will happen again. We experience violence over and over again and wonder publicly and privately what we can do. Yes, we should express our desire for a change in the gun purchasing laws and we should hold our politicians and media professionals accountable for what is said and written, but I know I have deeper inner work to do; the work of developing a broader, more encompassing, more accessible compassionate heart.
The other morning while I was working out at Curves, the topic of worry was discussed. One woman knows she is a Big Time worrier and another said she is at the other end of the worry scale. She stated that she is able to accept people and situations as they are. I congratulated her, but she wondered if she lacks empathy. She is not often judgmental, but on the other hand she says she lacks compassion.
I try to be aware of when I am in a judging mode--and we hear a lot of that when there is a human tragedy that upsets and startles us. Why didn't someone...? Shouldn't they have...? How could this have happened? My hope, instead, is to decrease the amount of top of the head judging I do so often, and my assumption has been that if I can just be less judgmental I will automatically be more compassionate. I haven't thought enough about how to activate the compassion I know is in my heart; how to cultivate compassion as my standard operating procedure. I do believe, however, that by eliminating the prison of judgmental thoughts, we make more room for compassion, but it is then up to each of us to develop the skill of being compassionate.
Here's what Joyce Rupp in Open the Door, A Journey to the True Self offered me during one of my morning meditation times this week:
The further we enter our authentic self, the greater the contribution of our presence in the world. Within the confines of our inner sanctuary, fuller love arises and keener awareness grows of how intimately connected we are to all that exists. We become a nonjudgmental, listening, caring presence. Rather than engendering fear or animosity in us the vast diversity of people with whom we engage enlarges our compassion and broadens our enthusiasm for the complex and mysterious nature of humanity.
She further encourages me to "anoint the world with your love." My prayer is that we all become students of compassion, extending it especially when it is hardest to give.
Artwork by Jan L. Richardson