Love and compassion are necessities, not luxuries. Without them humanity cannot survive.
A human being is a part of the whole called by us universe, a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feeling as something separated from the rest, a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.
If there was a conversation that could begin to ease all suffering—within yourself, within others, and within the world—wouldn't you want to join that conversation? Earlier this year, I received an invitation to work with Ashley Cooper and Melanie Wroe to produce a guide for Seeds of Compassion, an initiative to nurture kindness and compassion in the world. We were asked to create a simple process that anyone could use to engage in meaningful conversation about compassion—what it means, what it looks like, and how we can embody it more fully in our world.
Since the publication of this guide, Compassion Circles are cropping up everywhere. In libraries, homes, work-places, churches and play-grounds. Ordinary people from all walks of life are taking time out of their busy lives to sit in circles, reflect and converse with each other about compassion. Melanie, Ashley, and I have had the privilege of hosting some of these gatherings, and every time, I am moved by the experience of being part of a room full of people deeply engaged in conversation about a topic that is so essentially human—so familiar, and yet somehow, often remote from our conscious experience. It is heartening to see so many people involved in making compassion more explicit in our world.
At a recent gathering, participants observed that the primary words embedded in the word compassion are compass and passion. Curious to follow that etymological conversation thread, I went to my dictionary where I learned that a compass is not only an instrument for finding one's way, but also a means to bring about and comprehend. Passion is not only a strong desire, but also a suffering. It seems that in compassion we have the potential not only to comprehend, but also to find our way through suffering—to extend our small circles of caring beyond ourselves and our familiars to encompass humanity and the world.
What if we can find a way to see beyond our "optical delusions of consciousness" and connect with each other through our suffering? What if we can find a way to be our best even when we are at our worst? What if we can create a space to reflect and enquire—to ask valuable questions that get to the heart of what matters? If you're curious and inspired, please join the conversation and host a Compassion Circle because it takes all of us to grow the seed within each of us.