Responding with Compassion

Like you, I have been sitting with the devastating events in Japan, wondering how to respond.  We live in times when the global nature of problems and the twenty-four hour coverage regularly overwhelm us.  Then we move to a place of numbness and helplessness.  I have been bringing this to my times of silent prayer and allowing myself to feel the enormity of grief and to listen for the ways I am called to live in a world filled with sorrow. 

Being a monk in the world means opening our hearts to the pain of living and to create a wide and compassionate space for that experience within us.  It means not running away from our feelings by numbing ourselves.  It means making space to listen for the deep wisdom that resides within us.  As I was reading through some of my favorite blogs this morning I discovered a number of similar threads in what other folks were writing.  Here are a few:

  • Kristin Noelle offers a beautiful Ritual for Responding to Natural Disasters inviting us to feel our feelings, connect compassionately with others, and listen for the nudgings in your heart to respond. 
  • Salt offers a moving reflecting on bright sadness (the Orthodox description of the Lenten season) suggesting that we are called to deny easy answers, pray, and lament.  Given my own commitment to truth-telling and lament for Lent, these words especially touched me: “We can join our voices with the brokenhearted singer of the Psalms, asking those passionate, difficult, ancient questions that ring down through the ages:  “How long?” and “Why?”  Anger and sorrow have a place in our lives and therefore in our prayers, and denying easy answers sometimes means persistently pressing the unanswered questions.”
  • Jennifer Louden offers wise suggestions for ways to savor life in the midst of suffering.  Her suggestions include being in touch with our “essential aliveness,” honoring that our own stories and service do make a difference, not running from how we feel, and “Looking for – and creating – stories of compassion, connection, resiliency– rather than the sky is falling or I can’t do anything so I might as well eat Ben&Jerry’s and watch America’s Top Models.”

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