of Compassion: Meditations for Caring for the Self and the
WEEK 1: Learning to Follow Your Rhythm of
by Gail Straub
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The time for contemplation is the spring that feeds our action,
and our action will be as deep as the spring. We need time to
allow the spirit to clear the obstacles--the clinging debris
and mud--that keeps the spring from flowing freely from its clear,
deep source. And we need time for the spring to overflow into
insightful and compassionate action. —Thomas Merton
Week One, Learning to Follow your Rhythm of Compassion, lays the
foundation for the rest of the journey to build upon. The first
set of meditations, “Nurturing Your Spiritual Practice,” focus
on daily spiritual practice as the strongest foundation for compassion.
It is in the stillness of your practice--be it meditation, prayer,
yoga, or time in nature--that you can hear your rhythm breathing
in and out, and find the spaciousness to hold the complexity of
suffering. To further build a solid foundation for compassion the
next meditations, “Confronting the Trickster Busyness” and “Belonging
to Your Place,” guide you to clear away the busyness and unneeded
aspects of your life to make room for what really matters, and
to create a strong sense of place where you live as the literal
grounding for your rhythm of compassion. Finally, in the last section
of this part, you are introduced to the friends of compassion--imagination,
discipline, and support--to help make compassion real in your daily
Nurturing Your Spiritual Practice
The fruit of silence is prayer,
The fruit of prayer is faith,
The fruit of faith is love, and
The fruit of love is silence.
* My particular rhythm of compassion tells me when it’s time to
breathe in caring for myself, and when it’s time to breathe out
caring for the world. I commit to creating the conditions in my
life that allow me to honor my rhythm.
* In order to hear my rhythm I dedicate myself to a spiritual
practice that helps me reconnect with my spirit, quiet my mind,
and open my heart.
* I take time to find the practice that works best for me--sitting
on a meditation cushion, kneeling in prayer, breathing with a yoga
posture, reading a spiritual text, or spending quiet time in nature.
I choose my practice and I nurture it daily.
* If needed, I seek a teacher or class to guide me in finding
the spiritual practice that suits me best. This guidance helps
me dedicate myself to my practice. Like me, many people need support
in finding and dedicating themselves to their chosen practice.
* Today I recommit to creating the space in my life for connecting
with my spirit, quieting my mind, and opening my heart. Even if
a few minutes of quiet are all I can find, I have planted the seeds
of my commitment. A few minutes dedicated to spirit go a long way.
* Nurturing my spiritual practice is a gift not just to myself,
but also to all the people I care for in my life. My family, my
colleagues, and my friends all benefit from my growing peace of
mind and open heart that come from practice.
* As I quiet myself today I focus on Meister Eckhart’s beautiful
words “There is nothing in the universe that resembles God so much
* My spiritual practice is the quiet space from which I listen
to my rhythm. This time of silence and solitude is the very heart
beat of my rhythm of compassion.
* As I learn to listen to my rhythm of compassion I find my balance
between caring for myself and caring for the world. I am learning
to balance a rich inner life and a passionate engagement with the
* Right now, I stop and breathe in the quiet. Right now, being
present to this moment is the possibility for my awakening
Confronting the Trickster Busyness
The rush and pressure of modern life are a form, perhaps
the most common form, of innate violence. To allow oneself to
be carried away by a multitude of conflicting concerns, to surrender
to too many demands, to commit oneself to too many projects,
to want to help everyone in everything is to succumb to violence.
The frenzy of the activist neutralizes his work for peace. It
destroys her own inner capacity for peace. It kills the root
of inner wisdom which makes work fruitful. —Thomas Merton
* Constant busyness is a form of violence. I acknowledge that
too much busyness steals my capacity for compassion toward both
myself and others.
* In the stillness of my practice I hear my rhythm of compassion
breathe in and out. I hear the call to help teenagers, or protect
the whales, or sit with the dying. It’s time to rest; I’ve done
enough. Busyness is eating me up, I need to stop and take a retreat.
* Today I focus on Jacob Needleman’s powerful words, “The time
famine of our lives and our culture is in fact a symptom of metaphysical
* I confront the trickster busyness as I eliminate the life activities
that drain my energy and leave me feeling empty.
* I clear away what I don’t need in my life: too much work, television,
the Internet, and stimulation; complaining and self-absorption;
unnecessary dates and constantly doing for others.
* I make room for what really matters to me--family and friends,
good self-care, creativity, and contribution to my community
* When I am alone driving in my car I use this as quiet time;
I empty out, I pray, I remember what I am grateful for, I am quiet.
* I ask my family for their support in giving me a half an hour
of alone time each day. This is my sacred time: I light a candle
and pray; I sit quietly and listen to music; I read my favorite
poems or sacred passages; or I do nothing.
* I have the courage to clear away the social engagements that
I really don’t need, or the ones that leave me feeling empty and
unfulfilled. I make space for what nourishes me.
* I make room for long forgotten and deeply felt dreams: a dance
class; doing yoga; hiking and time in the natural world; playing
soccer with my kids; volunteering at the local recycling center
or at the hospital.
* This weekend I unplug the phones. I turn off my computer--enough
e-mail and Internet. I hike with my family, we read together, or
just hang out enjoying each other. If I am alone I take long walks,
cook my favorite meal, listen to my favorite symphony, or have
the luxury of longer time for meditation and prayer. I come home
* I make room to hear my rhythm of compassion.
Belonging to Your Place
We have forgotten what we can count on. The natural
world provides refuge.... Each of us harbors a homeland, a landscape
we naturally comprehend. By understanding the dependability of
place, we can anchor ourselves as trees. —Terry Tempest Williams
* I put down deep roots where I live. I belong to my place, this
is the very grounding for my rhythm of compassion. This helps me
belong to myself.
* To create my sense of place I begin by becoming intimate with
the particulars of my home landscape: the plants, creatures, stones,
trees, buildings, landmarks, and people.
* I create my sense of place as I walk every inch of my surroundings,
feed the birds, or plant indigenous herb gardens.
* Today I practice mindful intimacy with my place as I stop and
notice the subtle details of the sounds, sights, smells, and textures
that surround me.
* This week I study the maps and history of my region. I am falling
in love with my place. I write a love poem to my home landscape.
* Over time I fall in love with the light and shadow of the days
and the cycles of the seasons. As I learn to live in harmony with
the cycles of my place, I begin to live in harmony with my own
seasons and my own light and shadow.
* Today I focus on Terry Tempest William’s wise words about place,
“Each of us harbors a homeland, a landscape we naturally comprehend.
By understanding the dependability of place, we can anchor ourselves
* There are few things in life as steadfast as my place. It is
my ground for meaning. As I belong to my place, I belong to myself.
I am rooted in my rhythm knowing when to pay attention to myself,
and when to focus on the world.
Cultivating the Friends of Compassion: Imagination, Discipline,
It is compassion that removes the heavy bar, opens the door to
freedom, makes the narrow heart as wide as the world. Compassion
takes away from the heart the inert weight, the paralyzing heaviness;
it gives wings to those who cling to the lowlands of self.
* The qualities of imagination, discipline, and support are the
friends of compassion helping me find and sustain my rhythm.
* Today I follow my imagination as it guides me towards my unique
ingredients for balancing inner and outer. My imagination asks
me what forms of self-renewal most nourish and renew me? What forms
of service are calling to me and asking me to open my heart?
* Following my rhythm of compassion is a rich creative process.
My imagination guides me as I experiment with different kinds of
self-renewal and new forms of service to my community until I find
the right fit.
*Today my imagination gets me out of the box and shows me how
to combine quality of life with service to others. For example,
my family volunteers together at a soup kitchen or planting trees;
or my co-workers and I set up a recycling program at work, or volunteer
to mentor teens.
* Discipline is a friend who helps me clear away space for what
matters to me and take a stand for my quality of life. Discipline
is my rhythm with a purpose.
* Today my discipline helps me eliminate at least one unnecessary
activity--a phone call, meeting, errand, e-mail, an item on my
to-do list, or an obligation to someone else. I protect this time
for some form of self-renewal.
* With the help of discipline--my rhythm with a purpose-- I commit
to clear away at least one unnecessary activity each day for the
next month. By taking one step at a time I learn to make space
for the things that matter to me.
* To care for myself and others I need support. It is my highest
priority to build my support network through friends, family, colleagues,
therapists, mentors, or support groups. I understand that this
support is what fuels and sustains my compassion for both myself
and the world.
* I know that I can’t grow alone. I need the reflection of those
who support me in order to see both my light and my shadow.
* The next time I feel stressed or overwhelmed at home or at work,
I reach out and ask for help. I remember I don’t have go it alone.
I remember compassion involves many hands and many hearts.
Gail Straub is the co-author of the best selling Empowerment:
The Art of Creating Your Life As You Want It, and the author
of the critically acclaimed The Rhythm of Compassion: Caring
For Self, Connecting With Society, as well as Circle
of Compassion a book of meditations. Considered a leading
authority on empowerment, she co-directs the Empowerment Institute
a school for transformative leadership. The Institute’s certified
graduates from cultures as diverse as Afghanistan, Africa, Russia,
and Asia are implementing the empowerment model in education,
business, health, hip-hop, and social change. Over the past thirty
years she has trained thousands of people worldwide in empowerment,
engaged spirituality, and the wisdom of the feminine. Her latest
book is the award winning feminist memoir, Returning to My Mother’s
House. Gail was raised Catholic and today considers herself a
Christian Buddhist as her spiritual practices include both meditation
as well as a passionate prayer life.
For Further Support
For more extended meditations and for the fullest understanding
of the ideas in this journey we recommend Gail Straub’s book
The Rhythm of Compassion: Caring for Self, Connecting with Society
available through amazon.com or
For further information on Gail Straub’s trainings and
Empowerment Training Programs
West Hurley, New York, 12491
Web Site: www.empowermenttraining.com