Growing Seeds of Compassion

Recently, I was fortunate to be one of the many thousands of people gathered together in Seattle for Seeds of Compassion with His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, and other noted speakers. For five remarkable days, faces beamed, hearts bloomed, and commitments sprouted in response to a simple, yet profound theme of growing compassion in and for the world. 

Like many of the other workshop hosts engaged in this event, I was and am inspired by this collective inquiry into compassionwhat it looks like, how it is experienced, how we can embrace it more fully in the context of our day-to-day lives--for ourselves, each other, and our children around the world. I am grateful to my co-hosts and to the many volunteers and participants who engaged in the Reflection & Conversation Space, variously offering their stories, curiosity, creativity, and presence throughout the conference.

Here are a few memorable moments of our time together:

A Story of Compassion

I was particularly touched by a story a young woman shared on the final day, reflecting on a comment made earlier that morning by Joan Halifax Roshi. The woman told us how she has for many years suffered with a broken heart, but that her whole experience shifted as she heard one phrase Joan spokethat the heart is broken open. In that moment, her broken-heartedness became open-heartedness, and her love and light shined through as she spoke. Her story was (and is) a powerful reminder to us all of how deeply our individual perspective influences our experience and how much our different perspectives can teach if we are willing to listen to each other. 

Compassion-Inspired Art

We invited participants to create a Hands of Compassion Mandala, expressing images and words of compassion in the form of hands.  Children and adults alike were inspired to participate, coloring and conversing throughout the event, occasionally exclaiming in delight at the wonderful profusion of hands.  May we continue to use our beautiful hands as conscious instruments of compassion.

Genuine Smiling for the World

Reflecting in the final conversation circle, I commented that compassion can be as simple as a smile, recalling a former client who came to work with me because of a smile.  A few days before she contacted me, she was contemplating suicide on her commute to work when a woman on the train caught her eye and smiled. 

Apparently, the depth of connection in that moment inspired a bit of hope and this client changed her mind, opening herself to life.  To think that a simple, genuine smile between strangers can make a difference between life and death! 

Later, perusing the Dalai Lama's website, I found this quote: 

Though sometimes people laugh when I say it, I myself always want more friends. I love smiles. Because of this I have the problem of knowing how to make more friends and how to get more smiles, in particular, genuine smiles. For there are many kinds of smile, such as sarcastic, artificial or diplomatic smiles. Many smiles produce no feeling of satisfaction, and sometimes they can even create suspicion or fear, can’t they? But a genuine smile really gives us a feeling of freshness and is, I believe, unique to human beings. If these are the smiles we want, then we ourselves must create the reasons for them to appear.
— Dalai Lama

May we all create the reasons for genuine smiles to appear.  May we open ourselves to experiencing and expressing our innate capacity for compassion.  May seeds of compassion continue to grow.