"Sunset... Old Orchard Beach, ME"
* * *
Compassion, as a downward movement toward solidarity instead of an upward movement toward popularity, does not require heroic gestures or a sensational turnaround. In fact, the compassionate life is mostly hidden in the ordinariness of everyday life.
*Henri J. M. Nouwen, Here and Now.
* * *
May 11, 2007 - written when I was a pastor in the Christian faith.
Today, I got a letter from a woman I only met last evening. She is a deeply spiritual woman. She is not into religion. I wondered why she wanted to get to know, then, a religious leader. She explained why.
That was last evening. Now, let us forward to this morning, just minutes ago ...
Have you heard this... God is in the details. One little detail is I have been going through a situation that has challenged me as person and leader. It has been stressful. My friend's letter this morning, without her knowing any details of the situation I refer to, was so wisely and heartfully instructive, as she spoke of her growth spiritually. I was so overwhelmed, here sitting in my office chair. It was as though God had said to her, "Hey, write this down. That guy you just met, he needs to hear this." Her words were the Word of God. Her confession of her experience was a link to the Divine.
I wrote her, affirming the experience of her compassionate ministry to me. She was Christ, through her awe of and love for our Love~Source. Her tethering to Christ, led me back more surely and gracefully into the Heart of the Beloved. Amen.
We can get lost in the details. Or we can be discovered by God in the details. We choose. Christ waits.
Brian K. Wilcox
May 11, 2007
* * *
Through the mundane details of life... there Grace most often finds us, not through extraordinary breakthroughs of insight or transcendent, ecstatic experiences. Grace most often moves and works quietly. Likewise, compassionate beings do not call attention to themselves to get credit for their gracefulness. Many compassionate beings in this world are never known but by a few.
* * *
Compassion may reach us through another without her being aware. This can encourage us to look deeply into the details of our lives to see the grace already being given us to receive.
We can see Life meet and greet us in unplanned encounters and timely gestures of generosity. We do not need so much to plan such a blessing of others as to be available to be used to do so. We need to be prepared to receive others' compassion toward us, also.
This downwardness of benevolence can inspire us to realize that through simple acts, we can reach out to others without their acknowledging we are doing so. In fact, we need to remain low, not lifting ourselves up, not demanding merit or attention for our kindness, trusting we will be guided to those who need a word or an act that extends grace to them.
* * *
To help transform the suffering of others, we need to practice our natural self-compassion - for compassion is compassion, not other or self-compassion. I thought of this need recently when meditating. I had been ill and in pain for days. I tried to meditate daily. But even quietly sitting was difficult, for I was more aware of my suffering body and mind in the quietness. As this one morning proceeded, I felt better and sat to do the second mediation sit. Sitting on the seiza bench, the feelings of illness and accompanying anxiety arose. I sat, disappointed at the return of it. I realized, then, this was a time to show myself the compassion I wished to show others. I did. I recognized the malaise and anxiety that arose, for, in silence, our defenses are released. So, I recognized this was natural. The ill-feeling shifted to less marked, and I was able to finish the sit. So, after serving others for many years as a clergyperson, professor, spiritual guide, and chaplain, I am learning more about how important it is for me to show compassion to myself. This self-compassion has not been an easy lesson for me. I have often withheld kindness from myself while in service to others. Now, tending kindly my suffering, I am identifying with the suffering of all others - human and non-human. This is a redemptive work of grace... to relate to my suffering with the tenderness we all need to express to all beings. Showing compassion to the other and myself are mutually inclusive.
* * *
How can I relate to the suffering of the world if I cannot touch my suffering deeply? We, to be beings of compassion, touch deeply our suffering. In touching our suffering, we touch all suffering. We do not indulge it, but we open ourselves to see it in compassion. Even talking with it in kindness is an act of grace: "Suffering, I know you are there. I am your friend; all will be well. We will get through this together."
* * *
*© Brian K. Wilcox, 2021
*Brian's book, An Ache for Union: Poems on Oneness with God through Love, can be ordered through major online booksellers or the publisher AuthorHouse. The book consists of poems based on wisdom traditions, predominantly Christian, Buddhist, and Sufi, with extensive notes on the poetry's teachings and imagery.