I’m inspired to engage in a year-long journey dedicated to compassion-based practices. Self-love and compassion are a central focus of my spiritual life. I have engaged in many compassion-based practices; however, I often only call on them when I need them. I haven’t adapted them on a daily basis. I feel a calling to do so.
Recently I have become more aware of how key compassion is to bravery, courage and strength. The world seems to ask me, to ask us, to be braver and braver just to show up in life each day. A couple of years ago during my meditation teacher training, my teacher, Jack Kornfield said the capacity of the human heart is infinite, it is our birthright. Those words entered and pierced my heart. I knew in my deepest of knowing what he said was true. I felt a shift inside of me, as if somehow this truth had just saved me.
It seems dramatic to claim that, to say I was saved. I’m just not sure how to say it otherwise. Somehow the knowledge, and this isn’t just a cognitive knowing, this is a full heart, mind, being knowing, that my heart is infinite allowed me to stand a little taller, be a little braver, and to be more fully myself.
My life did not drastically change. I did not suddenly become some all-knowing, enlightened being, but a different possibility of life opened in me. I feel like I have been on an exploration of that possibility since then. I have been exploring and learning what it means to have the capacity of an infinite heart, because even though I know it is true, I don’t fully know how to live with and from an infinite heart. The exploration has been wondrous, messy, exciting, painful, gut wrenching and life affirming. And, I have discovered, takes a great deal of courage.
An interesting thing about an infinite heart is that while it takes a lot of courage to live from, it also, in turn, gives a lot of courage. The courage and compassion I am discovering is so much more than what exists inside this human form. I feel as if there is the heart in my chest, my physical and emotional heart, and there is the infinite heart within which my human heart abides, is a part of. There is a distinction, yet the hearts are one. The teacher Adyashanti refers to this distinction as the human emotional heart and the spiritual heart. I feel the spiritual heart is the infinite capacity Jack spoke of. Two different ways of expressing the same truth.
To be of service as the world is asking me, I feel the need and desire to be braver. I feel the need and desire to increase the strength of my heart. I feel the need and desire to experience and know more and more of the infinite heart, to know what it means to show up in life with an infinite heart. I feel the need and desire to more readily know and trust the infinite capacity of my heart when I have doubt. I want to remember more readily when I forget. This is where the inspiration for a dedicated year-long journey into compassion-based practices is rising from.
It feels to me there is a lot of attention being given to the power of compassion right now. Another of my teachers, Tara Brach, has just published a new book Radical Compassion. Kristen Neff, who has been researching self-compassion for many years and is one of the leading researchers on the topic, over this last year has been putting more emphasis on the role compassion plays in providing us energy and impulse for action and fostering resilience. These are just a couple of the voices speaking about compassion, many with an emphasis on self-compassion. I feel this surge of compassion is also energizing my inspiration.
My plan is to choose a compassion-based meditation practice and incorporate it into my daily mediation practice. I will engage with the practice for several weeks and see what unfolds, then choose another compassion-based practice and so on. I will also bring the intention of compassion into my other spiritual practices of proprioceptive writing and Continuum. I will engage with those practices at least once a week. Lastly, I will share my journey here on this blog (you can follow using the subscribe feeder below or register for my email list) and through my Instagram, @heartawakemindfulness. I’ll let you know what practice I am doing at the time and share reflections, experiences, challenges and insights. If you choose to try any of the practices, I’ll be eager to hear of your experiences. A friend recently said as she wished me a Happy New Year, “may the year of perfect vision (20/20) bring clear seeing and insight.” I hold that wish for this journey.
I will be engaging with tonglen, an ancient Buddhist practice of “taking and sending” as the first practice of this journey. I first learned this practice from Pema Chodron’s book When Things Fall Apart (public library) more than twenty-five years ago. It is often taught with the pain and suffering of others as the central focus. I will also be applying it to my own direct experience of pain and suffering. Tonglen instructions are readily available. Here is an article by Pema, and a couple of videos of her teaching the practice.
I’ll write again in a couple of weeks to let you know how the practice is going.
May all beings know compassion. May all beings be free from suffering. May compassion bloom in my heart. May compassion support you.
Our bodies can be a great ally in mindfulness practices. The body is right here with us all the time and by turning our attention towards the immediate experience of our body we quickly bring ourselves into the present moment.
Many people, however, are very cut off from the experience of their body. For some this is a survival strategy as a result of trauma or assault.