Working together for a better world...
In November I will be offering a 4 week course titled Pathways to Live a Compassiionate Life in Kitchener, Ontario, Canada. The course is based on Karen Armstrong's book Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life. I was asked to write an article for a website regarding the course. Since I referenced Caroline in the article, I thought it may be of interest.
Pathways, Compassion and Experience
Pathways, Compassion and Experience. How do these words or concepts relate to each other? What do they mean to you? Is there any right answer?
The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines these words as follows: pathways: "a line of communication over interconnecting neurons extending from one organ or center to another; also: a network of interconnecting neurons along which a nerve impulse travels, the sequence of usually enzyme-catalyzed reactions by which one substance is converted into another -- metabolic pathways".
Compassion:" sympathetic consciousness of others' distress together with a desire to alleviate it".
Experience: "the fact or state of having been affected by or gained knowledge through direct observation or participation; the conscious events that make up an individual life; something personally encountered, undergone, or lived through; the act or process of directly perceiving events or reality".
For the last two decades, I have studied and practiced various forms of meditation. Although each of these practices has its own qualities and richness within the form, a shared common ground to all practices is to quiet the mind and calm the body in order to create an openness or spaciousness for something new to germinate or take shape.
This is a form or a discipline for training the mind and body to discover its natural resting state. An experienced state that can be "gained through direct observation or participation". Through practicing awareness/mindfulness of what is happening in now time, this engagement in the process creates a “conscious event”. The experience becomes real to the person.
When I'm questioned or asked to describe compassion, I always take a deep breath to be fully present to the person asking the question. I find it difficult to answer the question in a sucinct way. For me, compassion is experiential. The experience encompasses my whole being. There is a somatic, felt sense with a spaciousness to be fully conscious to another whether the circumstances are joyful or distressing.
During a retreat this summer, I was fortunate to spend time in study with Caroline Brazier author of Other-Centred Therapy. While the approach remains client centred there is a shift to how the person perceives their particular distress in relationship to other/s and their circumstances. An opening, a spaciousness is created to observe both the inner and outer life.
By being present to another, my own thoughts of the moment dissipate while my consciousness expands. And, I feel good all over! These neurological pathways of "interconnecting neurons along which a nerve impulse travels" come together to secrete a chemical response to my experience of compassion.
There is an interconnectedness between these pathways and experience. Why not strengthen these pathways? No longer are we confined to the notion that the brain is hardwired. Research in Neuroplasticity is demonstrating just how the brain can change. This, in turn, has the potential to change how we perceive ourselves, others and the world in which we live.
Last year when I read Karen Armstrong’s book Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life, I was excited and energized from her comprehensive approach to bring compassion into everyday life. Immediately, after reading the book I set out to summarize each chapter. In September, I looked at these notes. While reading the notes, I became aware of experiencing a visceral reaction to the words and the potential for a better world, one step at a time. Then, I just knew that it was time for me to take some steps to help others open to the experience of compassion.
In 2007, Karen Armstrong was awarded the TED Prize. With the $100,000 “ wish for better world”, she wanted to build a global community. This was the seed for the Charter of Compassion. The Charter was launched on November 12, 2009. To date, 90,721 individuals have affirmed the charter. Also, cities, groups, schools, and book groups have taken root. Karen with involved others are making a difference to fulfill the vision of a better world by reorintating our minds and hearts.
I invite you to join me in this inquiry into compassion by attending the 4 week evening series: Pathways to Live a Compassionate Life : November 7, 14, 21, 28, 2012 at The Hive and Grove.
Resources of interest: Rick Hanson: Understanding Neuroplasticity
www.youtub.com 7:05 minutes
The Charter of Compassion
The coming Monday is Canadian Thanksgiving. I wish you all the experience of gratitude for this current life. May compassion for yourself and others be your focus.
Add a Comment