Saturday, April 12, 2008

A day thinking about compassion

Today I had the good fortune to go to two events from the Seeds of Compassion organization. The first had three panelists talking about the impact of teaching compassion to youth, and what are obligations are in that regard; the second had, as its primary speaker, His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama.

The Dalai Lama tells funny little jokes, and then laughs with gleeful mischief at his own jokes. He is slightly self depricating, saying "I'm just one man, and there are 6 billion people....I'm just one in six billion, not so special," and he even answered one question with, "That's a very big question. Hmmmm. I don't know!"

It is impossible not to love him. They say that babies can tell the intentions of those who care for them, and I would say that those around the Dalai Lama are babies in his watchful care, and we can tell he loves us, and we're ready to respond with delight.

I have a lot of thinking to do about what I saw and heard in the past two days. It can not be summed up with a pithy little quote, though there were plenty of quotable quotes (my favorite of which is "War is outdated," - think about that one for a while). The most important part of the events was not what occurred, it's what is to occur next.

The event was about bringing compassion into action. The word "action' came up over and over and over again. What am I to do with my love of compassion? How can I make it more active in my house? How can I be patient with Tessa when she is feeling her emotions all hot and angry, so that treat her with compassion instead of frustration? How can I communicate my needs to Ryan in a way that is compassionate of his needs instead of demanding? How can I practice compassion in my community? How much of my "self" must I give to this worthy cause?

I'm not sure, but I think the answer is "all." All of my self. 100%.

I've heard a quote a few times lately that goes something like this. "If you want to help someone, help them. If you want to help yourself, help someone." Today the Dalai Lama said that it is "wise selfish" to give compassion to others because in the end it makes the world a better place for yourself. We can be compassionate out of selfishness - we wish to live in peace and harmony and so while we may be compassionate to others, we do it for ourselves.

If this is the case (and I can't see any flaws in the logic to indicate otherwise), then I must give all of myself, in an effort to save myself.

And lest you think I'm about to become some crazy martyr lady, let me remind you that compassion toward self is part of this. The "program" if there even is a program involves time for self-care. It encourages friendship. It places great emphasis on family, on community. It allows for religious faith (of course!), for education, for reflection and meditation. All of these things are things I want for myself, of course. If I could feel peace, and ahve those things too, well, I'd have to say that I had it made.

So I'm ruminating on it. What is my role?

Is it work to cure breast cancer?
Is it building for Habitat for Humanity?
Is it creating a compassion program at Alki Elementary (our family's new "home" for the next few years)
Is it work within WSUU?
Is it writing for breast cancer survivors?
Is it "merely" being an agent of peace within my own household (which, frankly, is a lot harder than those other things on the list...!)?

I'm grateful to have the opportunity to reflect on such things.

I'm grateful that Qwest Field was filled with others who also walked away ready to have these discussions. This is not work to be done alone, and I think that the time has come to do it together now.

I didn't spend my time at Qwest feeling the pain of my chest (yes it hurts. Yes, I had to take an Aleve while I was there. But while His Holiness was speaking, I could only see and hear him...not feel pain.) I didn't walk away feeling sorry for my surgeries, for my disease. I walked away feeling hopeful.

So tonight I reflect with gratitude on this opportunity.

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