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Circle of Compassion: Meditations for Caring for the Self and the World

WEEK 4: In Harmony with Your Rhythm of Compassion
by Gail Straub

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Itinerary for the Circle of Compassion:
A Four Week Journey

Week One: Learning to Follow Your Rhythm of Compassion
Week Two: The In-Breath: Caring for Self
Week Three: The Out-Breath: Caring for the World
Week Four. In Harmony with Your Rhythm of Compassion

I live my life in growing orbits
that move out over the world.
perhaps I can never achieve the last,
but that will be my attempt.
I am circling around God, around the ancient tower,
and I have been circling for a thousand years,
and I still don’t know if I am a falcon, or a storm,
or a great song.

—Rainer Maria Rilke

These final meditations re-enforce the qualities that help you sustain your rhythm of compassion over time: coming full circle from the first meditations back to your spiritual practice; using your awareness to navigate both the light and shadow the inner life and the life of service; and learning to trust the natural cycles of your rhythm. The last set of meditations reflect the cycle where, as you live more and more in harmony with your rhythm, the inner and the outer become indistinguishable. As inner and outer unite as one your compassion comes into full blossom. Your relationship to your own suffering comes into proper perspective and you see how it fits within the larger web of life. Now you understand that what you have compassion for inside yourself, you can have compassion for out in the world. What you reject out in the world is also what you reject inside yourself. The full circle of compassion is alive within you, breathing in and breathing out.

Cultivating the Sustainers of Compassion: Spiritual Practice, Awareness, and Trust
There is nobody on the planet, neither those whom we see as the oppressed nor those whom we see as the oppressor, who doesn’t have what it takes to wake up... The source of all wakefulness, the source of all kindness and compassion, the source of all wisdom, is in each second of time. —Pema Chodron

* Dedication to my chosen spiritual practice is the key to sustain and deepen my compassion. My practice gives me the courage to open my heart and face life’s suffering--my own, my family, my community, and the earth. In the stillness of practice I hear my rhythm of compassion breathe in and breathe out. I hear how to balance caring for myself and caring for the world.

* Right now I stop, I breathe in, I reconnect with my spirit, quiet my mind, and open my heart. Right now I am awake.

* I cultivate awareness through regular spiritual practice. My awareness allows me to recognize both the light and shadow of the inner life and the outer life of service.
Awareness isn’t a judgment, awareness is a compassionate witness.

* My awareness illuminates the positive nature of my in-breath of self-care: time to reflect, clear out, dream, find compassion for my own suffering and brokenness, and time to heal. And my awareness illuminates the potential shadow of my inner life: the dead end of narcissism and self-absorption, becoming addicted to my suffering, or creating my entire identity from my wounds. Right now, what is the light and shadow of my inner life?

* My awareness illuminates the positive nature of my out-breath of service: a sense of purpose and fulfillment, a feeling of connection to the greater whole, the blossoming of generosity and compassion, and a fearless heart in the face of suffering. And my awareness illuminates the potential shadow of my life of service: my need to fix or control suffering; my unspoken desire for approval, status, or power; or being motivated by compulsive do-goodism, perfectionism, or looking better than others. Right now, what is the light and shadow of my life of service?

* To sustain my rhythm of compassion I use my awareness to skillfully navigate both the light and shadow of the inner and outer. When I am in the shadow territory it’s a signal that I have lost the harmony in my rhythm. Gently, awareness helps bring me back into balance.

* I learn to trust the natural cycles of my rhythm of compassion. Sometimes my cycle takes me inward towards self-healing; sometimes I am completely outward serving the world; and other cycles find me balancing both the in-breath and the out-breath. My rhythm is inherent, already inside me, just waiting for me to listen and trust.

*Trusting my cycles comes from the wisdom of a fully lived life: facing my fears and challenges and then getting on with it; finding what I love and doing it; and offering what I’ve learned to the world.

* I follow my rhythm by cultivating the sustainers of compassion--spiritual practice, awareness, and trust. This trinity keeps me in balance, breathing in and breathing out.

Uniting Inner and Outer
The labyrinth is thoroughly known. We have only to follow the thread of the hero path, and where we had thought to find an abomination, we shall find a god. And where we had thought to slay another, we shall slay ourselves. Where we had thought to travel outward, we will come to the center of our own existence. And where we had thought to be alone, we will be with all the world. —Joseph Campbell

* I know that my own health is inseparable from the health of the world, and that I cannot truly heal one without healing the other. In my quest for wholeness I balance my yearning for self-fulfillment with service to others.

* My in-breath of self-care gives me the clear mind and open heart that I need to face the complex challenges of the world. My in-breath of self-care is essential to sustaining my engagement with the world. The outer must have the inner.

* The gifts I receive from my out-breath of caring for the world are precious contributions to own my development. I am healed in profound and mysterious ways through serving others. My out-breath of service is essential to my personal healing and wholeness. The inner must have the outer.

* As my inner and outer unite as one, my compassion comes into full blossom. My relationship to my own suffering comes into proper perspective and I see how it fits within the larger web of life. Now I see the true nature of suffering and I can respond skillfully to it. Now I see that entering the heart of suffering causes momentary pain, but gives me lasting fulfillment.

* As my inner and outer unify, I can get out of the way and do less, so that a greater presence can flow through me and accomplish more. Working in partnership with this divine presence gives me the courage and support to respond to more of the world’s challenges. I fortify this divine partnership through my spiritual practice.

* In the seamless unity of inner and outer I understand that what I have compassion for inside myself, I can have compassion for out in the world. What I reject out in the world is also what I reject inside myself.

* In a moment of absolute stillness during spiritual practice, I feel as if I am actively encountering the suffering of the world. And in a moment of intense engaged caring for someone, I feel utterly still as if I am praying. The boundaries between inner and outer have disappeared.

* Today I consider this teaching about the unity of inner and outer from Liu I-Ming in Awakening to the Tao, “When the inward and the outward are illumined, and all is clear, you are one with the light of sun and moon. When developed to its ultimate state, this is a round luminosity which nothing can deceive, the subtle body of a unified spirit, pervading the whole universe.”

* I am in harmony with my rhythm of compassion. I am in tune with a great universal cadence where a rich inner life is exquisitely balanced with a passionate engagement with the world. I have come home to myself. I am at home both in the small intimate house of my own belonging, as well as belonging to the immensity of the house of 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 at www.empowermenttraining.com.

For further information on Gail Straub’s trainings and books contact:
Empowerment Training Programs
1649 Rt.28A
West Hurley, New York, 12491
E-mail: [email protected]
Web Site: www.empowermenttraining.com





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