Lotus of the Heart > Path of Spirit > Heart of Compassion


Whiskey & Wisdom & Compassion... The Lotus Opens

Nov 19, 2021

Footprints in the Sand

Footprints in the Sand

Old Orchard Beach, Maine

Within us is a garden. If we water the seeds of blessing, the qualities they represent can arise spontaneously to meet the need of the moment. One of these seeds is compassion. We cultivate compassion to become compassionate. If we are compassionate, we will give compassion, but we need to become what we aspire to give. As wise gardeners, we can do this. Having compassion is even more important than doing good for others. We need persons who can meet the suffering of others with a heart of empathy and lovingkindness, not simply acting out of some ideal or felt-need to relieve suffering. Hence, we must return to the heart, where the seed of compassion rests to receive nourishment. Then, our actions will flow out of the compassion grown within the garden of the heart.

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I, the chaplain, and the social worker sat at the dining room table. This visit with Bill was the first. He was nearing death. Bill was enthused to share with us his ritual of having some of his special whiskey. He had a morning rite of taking some and mixing it with a drink. It was calming to him.

I listened not only to Bill's words. I listened to his gladness in trusting us to be interested in his whiskey ritual. As a chaplain, patients would connect with me by sharing their religion; for Bill, it was another devotion he wished to share.

Bill proceeded to invite us to taste his whiskey. I remembered it would be against the rules. I decided to break the rules. The social worker did, too. We imbibed a little, and we celebrated the good taste with Bill looking on. His face showed delight at our getting a taste of what brought pleasure to him even during his last days.

Mindful in that moment, the gap between Bill's offering and our replying, the compassionate act to me was that bringing joy to Bill was more important than rigid policy keeping. Anyway, one sip was one sip, sure not to impair any senses. The rule was valid, but compassion trumped it. In Christian terms, grace triumphs over law.

The act was an expression of bodhichitta (Sanskrit, awakened, so compassionate, heart), a key term in Buddhism. The lotus symbolizes the awakened heart. The lotus, growing from the mud, opens to the sky. The mud signifies the suffering in this domain. In Buddhism, insight (Sanskrit, prajna) and compassion (Sanscrit, karuna) arise together. That happened at Bill's table that morning.

Realizing the heart of compassion, we recognize we inter-are with others - all beings. The social worker, Bill, and I experienced a holy togetherness. The social worker and I allowed compassion to guide us, not an external mandate. We gave Bill a gift, and he gave us a gift. Yes, rules and policies are essential; yet, the heart has its own wisdom.

I value keeping rules. Almost always, it is the wise thing to do. Sometimes, the heart leads differently. To awaken spiritually is to awaken to love by love, not by external customs, rules, or regulations.

I enjoyed the taste, and I appreciate the holy moment we shared around that table. I remain thankful to Bill. He reminded me of the importance of stopping and listening to the heart and following the inner guidance of love.

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*©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.


Lotus of the Heart > Path of Spirit > Heart of Compassion

©Brian Wilcox 2021