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

                                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.




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Besides offering training and retreats, Tariki Trust is involved in chaplaincy, environmental action and community support. No one in Tariki is salaried and all work including teaching is voluntary or offered at rates which are well below the professional norms.


Friends, family and loved ones: greetings, and thank you for joining us for this celebration of the life of Perry Isadore Igoe.

Though we gather here today, bound by sorrow and loss, we share a precious gift. We were all privileged to live a life that has been touched by Perry. He possessed a number of extraordinary gifts, which he shared with us freely. None of these gifts, however, are more remarkable than his capacity for love in its purest, most sincere, and honest form. Love for his adored wife, his beloved daughters, his precious friends, and for nature that surrounds us all, especially the life breathed into us by the trees.

Perry was born August 1st 1963 and was very premature so spent the first six weeks of his life in an incubator where he captured the hearts of the nurses and midwives with his cuteness. The trademark infectious Perry smile is well known by all his friends and family so without a doubt, even as a baby he could melt hearts.

Growing up, he went to school in Braintree in Essex, where he lived with his mum Carol, his younger sister Tracey, and older brother Wayne.

Perry was severely dyslexic, so, as a young man, in a very lean job market, he looked for a practical career. He joined the RAF at 16 and served with them for 17 years in Biggin Hill, Brize Norton, Germany, and the Falkland islands. Perry was a peace loving soul and had no desire to ever take up arms, harm, or kill anyone. Since however there had been no wars for a long time, it felt like a fairly safe career for a fit young man. It suited Perry who loved to be part of a team.

When he was 23, Perry managed to search for and finally find his father, Isadore Griffin, who was Black American, which led to several visits to his father in the USA.  Sadly his father also died at an early age a few years later. But Perry has continued to keep regularly in touch with the American side of his family – he was always telling Liz that one day soon they would go to visit, what he jokingly called, - ‘the dark side’!

Perry then worked in logistics and stores for the RAF and was promoted to corporal but, as the Cold War ended, promotions in the RAF were increasingly hard to come by. So after 17 years Perry took voluntary redundancy, left the RAF and went to work for Motorola in Swindon. He bought a house with his then wife, Carrie, and lived in it with his two daughters Sian & Kylie and rather a lot of strange pets. 

Perry was a great believer in investing in property and at one point when he found his work hours cut down, he took on two other jobs and bought a house in Avebury, which he rented out for a while. He later moved to Avebury with his wife Antoinette and ran a B&B there. 

Avebury was a spiritual home for Perry – he loved the standing stones and he enjoyed the succession of eccentric, visiting tourists interested in the stone circles as well as the many crop circles that pop up in Wiltshire fields in the spring and summer months. Whilst Perry was there he was a member of a Wiccan coven and later a shamanistic group.

In 2007 Perry decided to train as a counsellor with the Buddhist Organisation, the Amida Trust – now re-named - the Tariki Trust. This was where he met Liz and they became good friends.  In 2009 they both qualified as counsellors. In his usual ‘speedy’ fashion Perry had completed the course in record time – under 2 years. He went on to work for an organisation which helped educate young people with Autism and Asperger's Syndrome. Perry worked as a counsellor for several years before he finally fulfilled a life-long dream of buying a property ‘somewhere warm’.

In 2013 Perry moved again, lock stock and barrel, to the Serra De Estrella Mountains in Portugal where he quickly made a lot of friends among the ex-pats from the UK and Europe, all busy restoring old buildings and farming the land.

Perry and Liz met again accidentally in 2014 at the Buddhist House. They fell in love during a marathon 17.5 hour dinner and talked through the night and most of the following day. Since then Perry and Liz have been busy restoring their house in Portugal, affectionately named ‘The Ranch’ and have gone from having baths by candlelight in the goat shed, to a beautiful home with 3 bathrooms. Perry was never happier than when he was walking around the land working out watering systems and making sure the 150 trees he’d planted were growing well. Indicative of his altruistic personality and philosophy of sustainability, all the trees he planted at ‘The Ranch’ have been selected to provide for the next generations. A fan of tree nursing myself, I would often ask him about his trees and we would share videos and ideas for them. On a specific topic of his latest project, the Pecan trees, he mentioned how the earliest the small, 1-inch saplings would grow to bear fruit in 10 years, and it might be a good 20 before they reach maturity. “Perry,” I said, “that's ...a really long time.” To which he replied: “They aren't for me.”

And this is the type of person Perry was - always thinking of others first. Planning for the long term, working for a sustainable world, a world that works with nature, not against it. To paraphrase an ancient Greek proverb, “a wise man plants trees in whose shade he knows he will never sit.”

Perry had a great love of nature and the natural world, which he attributed to his Native American ancestors. His great love was trees, which he believed really spoke to him. So Perry returned to the Buddhist house to train in eco-therapy and shortly thereafter Perry and Liz started running eco-therapy and tree planting holidays in Portugal. Alongside his projects in Portugal, Perry joined several local eco-projects in Bristol.

On the 10th of July 2016, Perry and Liz married at Tortworth Court in Gloucestershire in a beautiful hand-fasting ceremony with over a 100 family and friends. Neither of them stopped smiling and laughing all day long, and Perry tore up the dance floor in what seemed like a union of John Travolta and Patrick Swayze. Since then they have spent six months of every year at the Ranch in Portugal and have welcomed many family and friends as visitors there.

Perry loved life – he just loved being here on this earth. Many people on this Earth believe in a higher power or greater purpose. Perry was content being himself, in this world, right now, enjoying the greatest and the smallest life has to offer. A true “Zen master”, as I like to describe him to my friends.

Perry was the most gentle and kindest of men – a true gentleman. Perry never had a bad word to say about anyone – not a criticism or judgement ever passed his lips. He didn’t swear, he didn’t argue, and he also didn’t drink alcohol, smoke, or even take tea or coffee. That is one reason why his death has been such a shock for all of us. Perry’s life was about love, acceptance, and working with others as part of a team, and he lived that out with every breath he took.

We have been lucky to know Perry in this life, we regret his passing on so soon, and so young, but his spirit and his legacy will remain among us – youthful, lively, fun, and full of love, and that oh-so-special smile.  We honour him.   

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