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

WEEK 1: Learning to Follow 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

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 life.

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.

—Mother Teresa

* 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 as silence.”

* 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 world.

* 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 starvation.”

* 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 to myself.

* 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 as trees.”

* 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, and Support

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.

Nyanaponika Thera

* 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 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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