Compassion: Meditations for Caring for the Self and the World
WEEK 2: The In-Breath: Caring
for the Self
by Gail Straub
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Friend, hope for the truth while you are alive.
Jump into experience while you are alive!
Think.....and think....while you are alive.
What you call “salvation” belongs to the time before
If you don’t break your ropes while you’re alive,
do you think
ghosts will do it after?
It’s surprising how many of us don’t take care of ourselves. We’re
too busy working; or taking care of others is always first and
we’re always last; or we might feel that saving the world is too
urgent and there’s not really time for self-care. But the truth
is without self-care we can’t sustain high quality work, take care
of our families and loved ones, or make a lasting difference in
the world. The in-breath of caring for self is the doorway to true
mature compassion. The next meditations guide you to claim self-care
as an essential aspect of a spiritually vital and socially engaged
life. They invite you to fearlessly heal yourself because when
you face your own suffering a genuine compassion for all of life
awakens within you.
More and more people are tired of the fast-paced, frenzied
“information age” and are interested in higher-quality lives--lives
in which they have more time for themselves and their relationships,
more energy to invest in their emotional, physical, and spiritual
well-being. —Cheryl Richardson
* Caring for myself is essential for my physical, mental, emotional,
and spiritual well- being. I claim self-care as central to a spiritually
vital and socially engaged life. My in-breath of self-care is a
time to empty out; a time to find fresh perspective; a time to
dream, reflect, and reprioritize about what matters to me.
* Right now I stop, I breathe in, I ask what can I do to take
better care of my self?
* This month I make time to I explore the forms of self-renewal
that most nourish me; poetry or dance, silent retreat, time in
the mountains or by the sea, long distance running, reading or
solitude, singing in a choir or playing an instrument.
* A small dose of self-renewal goes a long way in restoring me.
This week I take an afternoon of silence and solitude; a day of
hiking in the earth’s beauty; some time to share deeply with dear
friends; or an evening of music.
* During my in-breath of self-care I nurture the spiritual values--patience,
loving-kindness, courage, and strength--that sustain me and empower
me to move skillfully into the world.
* My in-breath of self-care is the doorway to true mature compassion.
When I care for myself I am preparing the ground to care for my
family, my work, and the world.
* Today I focus on this simple truth: To be kind to another I
need to be kind to myself.
Healing Yourself: The Heart of Self-Care
A man has many skins in himself, covering the depths of
his heart. Man knows so many things; he does not know himself.
Why, thirty or forty skins or hides, just like an ox’s or a bear’s
so thick and hard, cover the soul. Go into your own ground and
learn to know yourself there.
* The deepest level of my self-care is fearlessly facing all the
parts of myself and making a commitment to heal my wounded and
* I begin healing myself with this commitment to tell the truth:
I confront my fears; I find where I am defended; and I face the
pain I am hiding from.
* Today I focus on Marion Woodman’s words as she gives me courage
to fearlessly face all the parts of myself; “In finding our own
story, we assemble all the parts of ourselves. Whatever kind of
mess we have made of it, we can somehow see the totality of who
we are and recognize how our blunderings are related. We can own
what we did and value who we are, not because of the outcome, but
because of the soul story that propelled us.”
* When needed, I seek help from a therapist, teacher, or support
group to guide me through my healing journey. I know that healing
myself is a balance of solitude and support from others.
* Today I take Thomas Merton’s wise words into my heart: “The
truth that many people never understand until it’s too late, is
that the more you avoid suffering, the more you suffer.”
* I learn to embrace my difficulties as spiritual challenges that
shape me and make me deeply human. I learn that when I can go towards
the things that frighten me, then I am free.
* Today I see that my fears, inadequacies, and pain are the very
feelings that connect me to the heart of the world. I see that
my tears are part of the lacrimae rerum, the tears that are in
things. I see that there is no need to hide these parts of myself.
* I understand that by facing my own suffering I learn true compassion.
As I face the difficult parts of myself a genuine compassion for
all of life awakens within me.
Entering the Deepest Waters of Self-Compassion
Being human and ordinary, we will often fail to love the
whole, the dark and difficult parts. We will always try to avoid
something. We will tremble. We will be blind. We will be uncertain.
We will continue to hurt one another and miss the essential.
We will always need mercy and compassion. —Gunilla Norris
* With time my healing journey takes me into deeper waters asking
me to learn compassion for the darkest parts of myself: my false
mask that I use to hide my true self; my core wound that keeps
me stuck in self-destructive behaviors; my secret shadow parts
that I am ashamed to admit even to myself. Slowly, like the gentle
blossoming of a flower, I find compassion for my deepest suffering.
* Right now, I stop, I breathe in, and I ask, what is the darkest
part of my suffering that I need to bring out into the light of
* I understand that my heart opens gradually to my deepest suffering.
Moment by moment, petal by petal, my heart comes into full blossom.
I cannot will or force this opening, rather, I gently offer my
readiness to face the truth.
* Today I take one simple step, I stay present to the pain inside
me. Sadness, fear, confusion, frustration--I simply notice. I don’t
* I have the inner strength to feel the pain of my broken heart,
the place where I am most shattered and hurt. I stay open to my
brokenness, and through this courageous opening I receive the teaching
and the healing of my broken heart.
* Today as I face my brokenness I find comfort in Meister Eckhart’s
words “Truly, it is in the darkness that one finds the light, so
when we are in sorrow, then the light is nearest of all to us.”
* I take the pieces of my brokenness and I create something new
and meaningful. I offer this wisdom to others. Now I understand
that my very brokenness is my connection to the unbroken whole.
* I have nothing to hide or defend; I offer the pain of my wounds
and the fragility of my brokenness. The door of my heart is wide
open; this is the door of compassion for myself and the world.
* I have opened my heart to my own suffering, and now I am ready
to keep my heart open to the world’s suffering. I realize that
compassion is a living circle starting with myself and now going
out to meet the world.
* I nurture and care for myself. I become ripe like a fruit tree.
I am ready to offer my fullness to the world.
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