Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Wellness Wednesday: Radical Compassion.....

A few days ago, I wrote about knowing when to take refuge which has a specific meaning. It's not just isolating from something. It is about understanding that sometimes we need to be surrounded by certain things, certain people and certain ideas. In the Buddhist sense, it's called "taking refuge" in the (teachings of) the Buddha, the dhamma and the sangha. The dhamma being The Path and the sangha being community.

As usual, I interpret things fairly loosely. Sangha can be any community, as long as it feeds us. The dhamma can be any path, as long as it teaches us something and improves our lives. The Buddha obviously is the Buddha and can't be configured into something else for convenience.

Those other things though - well, it's open.

There are times when I do read Christian books. "The Shack" immediately comes to mind. Recently, I read "Crazy Love" by Francis Chan. He makes some points that I've been needing to hear. Ideas are ideas - and it rarely makes much difference what the packaging looks like. Either the idea has merit - or it doesn't.

When I wrote last week about the blog post that made me weep and the thinking that had become such an assault on my spirit, I knew it needed to be resolved. It is impossible to be the person I want to be, caught up in anger and frustration. And judgement. Yapping about it wildly wasn't going to solve the problem. As an academic type who believes talking things out always comes to resolution, I've had to accept that it is wrong in this case. What I needed to do is sit quietly and see what the Universe/God/Pick A Name of Your Choice To Describe Divinity would reveal.

Sometimes words can get in the way. They obfuscate the main issue, a character issue, by turning it into an intellectual challenge instead of an opportunity for growth in the silence.

I stayed with it. Silently. For a while. I sat still and opened my mind and my heart to where that lesson should take me. I spent considerable time in prayer about it.

The most important thing that came to mind is that compassion is always the highest value. Nearly every virtue that comes to mind can be prefaced with "compassion". Compassionate justice. Compassionate loving. Compassionate honesty. Compassionate generosity. It changes the flavor just a bit. Compare it with "righteous justice". Righteous honesty. Righteous anger. My anger at a way of thinking that I consider destructive and harmful is just as destructive and harmful as the ideology I condemn. My efforts to insulate from it, to put it out of my life, to hide in a cove of likemindedness was entirely antithetical to the kind of growth I need to develop in this lifetime.

All the Wisemen and Wisewomen throughout history have not hidden from destructiveness but have actively allowed themselves to become a beacon, someone who offers another way of thinking or another way of doing things.

Trying to retreat is a rather insidious form of selfishness. It is saying in essence that my comfort is the highest value, the most important thing. It is self-indulgent to hold the view that because it is uncomfortable or difficult that I have no obligation to shed light in the world.

I'm not a proselytizer. I'm not going to use this forum or any other to sell my philosophy or my culture like a vacuum cleaner or a car. I am not Cal Worthington and I don't have a dog named Spot. That isn't what it's all about. What it's about is living it, living compassion, sharing the things I value with others - whether they choose to change or not. I can't attach myself to a particular outcome. Attachment to the outcome invariably leads to judgment.

While I'm sure other blog posts at some point will make me cry - or something I hear or see in my daily life will make me angry - the main thing is to turn that anger into compassion, lovingkindness - to replace the negative with the positive. St Francis of Assisi once prayed, "Lord, make me an instrument of your peace."

That I can consider growth.



Dena G said...

Chani, that was beautiful.

I'm so glad you found my blog through whatever means you did, leading me, therefore, to discover yours.

I'm in somewhat of a "taking refuge" place myself right now and I'm grateful for the community, of which you are now a part, that feeds me.

Thank you for the reminder that, sometimes, sitting silently is the very best we can do.

Rebecca said...

What a beautiful post. It was just what I needed to hear today. I, too, believe compassion is called for in almost all situations (probably all situations, if I really am honest). I just finished a little rant on my blog and decided to see what my pals were up to. I will sit with compassion.

Blessings to you.

slouching mom said...

My anger at a way of thinking that I consider destructive and harmful is just as destructive and harmful as the ideology I condemn.

Wisewoman: you.

Defiantmuse said...

"My efforts to insulate from it, to put it out of my life, to hide in a cove of likemindedness was entirely antithetical to the kind of growth I need to develop in this lifetime"

that stopped me in my tracks.
I'm going to marinate in that for a while.


Molly said...

Wow. That really changes how you hear a word. Put "righteous" in front of it, it carries one meaning, generally one that doesn't appeal to me; put "compassionate" in front of it and I love what that brings to my mind. One word, and all the weight it carries, can make a world of difference.....

flutter said...

beautiful, Chani

stanghkanaurak said...

You are seeing very clearly now. Anger is a form of violence and it contributes to the cycle of violence to continue. This is a milestone for you.

heartinsanfrancisco said...

I don't think that anger and compassion can coexist. It is necessary to drive out anger before true compassion is possible.

Truer words were never spoken than "Attachment to the outcome invariably leads to judgment." You have explained much of what "attachment" really means to Buddhists, and it is quite different from the interpretation usually offered by Westerners.

So judgment also needs to go before compassion can grow in our hearts and we practice lovingkindness in all situations, not just the easy ones.

Chanda (aka Bea) said...

Im continually impressed at how thoughtfully you move through life. More food for thought on this Wednesday morning. Thank you.

JBelle said...

Somebody recently mentioned that anger is a hook. Anger is a hook that pulls you into to things that simply are not healthy and do not contribute to real happiness. I think, too, that anger pulls you out of the light and into the dark. And you KNOW how I feel about the dark! Lovely, beautiful, honest post. I like thinking about anger morphing into compassion. Black into pink.

painted maypole said...

very nice

we_be_toys said...

I think I needed to read this - much of what you said about compassion and letting life take us along the path is uncannily timely, in light of where I have to go this weekend.

Thank you Chani!

Jen of A2eatwrite said...

Oh, Chani, what a beautiful and compelling post. And just what I needed to hear today.

BTW... my long wait for "The Shack" is finally over and I pick it up at the library today.

MsLittlePea said...

Growth indeed. Wonderful post today.

BTW I loved your last post and reading all the comments along with today's gave me much to think about during our tropical storm......

JBelle said...

Chani, You are certainly on my mind. In Idaho here, we are in the midst of a horrible pre-sentencing trial for a man who broke into a home, murdered two parents and a sibling and kidnapped two young children. He then sexually brutalized them repeatedly over the next several months and murdered one of the children in front of the other. He pled guilty and is now being processed through the courts for sentencing. The entire community is in an uproar over this heinous act as the unspeakable details unfold in court, day by day, as this man's due process is served. I read what he did to these two children in the remote mountains of northwest Montana and I have an anger I do not feel at all ever. I have such an anger for this man. He is pleading for mercy; searching for compassion and I find myself sorely tried to be the person I want to be. I continue to think about it, him and compassion. Thanks again for your post.

jen said...

perfectly said, C.

Brandi said...

I love the prayer of st francis. And I have also come to understand that the packaging can get in the way of things. After all, I think we are all trying to connect with universal source-divine in our own way.

womaninawindow said...

Chani, you don't know how many times a day I think on your words. Always welcome. Always helpful.

thailandchani said...

Dena, thank you for saying such a nice thing. I replied to you on your site. I'll be by to see your other comments. :) Trust is a difficult issue in a secular sense - not so much so in the metaphysical sense.


Rebecca, your site layout is astonishingly beautiful. Really. As for fundamentalism, I find the religious variety to be too fear-based to speak to me - and political fundamentalism is scary for the same reason.


Sarah, thank you. I wish it was so. Lately, I feel anything but wise.


Defiantmuse, the whole concept is rather new to me, too. Then suddenly I realized how self-indulgent and judgmental it was. I need to marinate in that for a while, too.


Molly, no kidding! It really does change the entire meaning. "Righteous" seems to have that rather scary Taliban feel to it.


Flutter, thank you. You were a real catalyst of growth for me. I really want to thank you for that.


S, it's not quite complete yet. It's been a milestone but the inevitable question is what to do with it.


Susan, yes.. how true. When I first started hanging around Buddhists, I thought they were suggesting that I should become indifferent. After all, lack of attachment (in my experience) was analogous to not caring. It's really so NOT that! :)


Chanda, thanks. :) Sometimes I wish I didn't have to move through life quite so much. I wonder what it would be like to coast for a while. LOL


Jbelle, yes.. black into pink. Check my longer response to you at the end.


PM, thanks. :)


Toys, it seems to be one of those lessons we can't avoid. Especially in your case, it's somehow coming to peace with the person she was - and turn it into something good - a life lesson. Then it becomes a gift.


JenA2, I seriously have not liked a book so much as The Shack for a long, long time! I'll be interested to know what you think of it.


Angel, I hope you are okay there. I agree that the comments in the last post were really interesting. Be sure to read tomorrow's comments. I'm putting out another question. :)


Jbelle, I'm aware of the case. It's especially hard to value the life of someone who obviously doesn't value life himself - and that's the challenge of compassion. The understanding that as stanhkanaurak said, the cycle just continues without compassion. Hatred creates more hatred. Violence and vengeance create more of the same.

Thich Naht Hanh wrote one time that we need to understand the origin of these things, how they happen - and that the man who committed such a horrible act in a product of an unstable society.

That rings true for me.

(which doesn't mean he is not accountable for his actions - but it's important to remember the cycle thing. Vengeance won't make it any better.)


Jen, thanks. :)


Brandi, you're exactly right. One day I will post about the email exchange I had with the author of a book I've mentioned here. He explained some important things about packaging.


Erin, thank you. I appreciate you very much.. and often think about things you say, too.