This week I’m excited to have David Breaux as our guest poster. David is an enthusiastic member of 1000 Voices and also has an amazing compassion project of his own. In this post he writes about how that came about, and why he joined 1000 Voices. Be sure to check out David’s blog once you’ve read his post.
On June 3rd, 2009, I began asking people to share their written concept of the word compassion in a notebook. As of today, I estimate individually asking over 20,000 people and receiving over 10,000 responses. I do this as a personal endeavor to bring awareness to compassion and to help alleviate suffering in the world. While standing at the corner of 3rd and C Streets in Davis, California, I’m often asked what am I doing there and why.
Here’s the story….
My experience with compassion first began in 2008. After ending a relationship, I felt depressed, lonely, and frustrated like we all do after a breakup. I was working on a screenplay without motivation. Overall, life felt bland. You know, that unsweetened Kool-Aid feeling. I knew there was a better way to live.
While a student at Stanford, I had learned how to exercise my mind. I exercised my body by running and cycling. But I didn’t know how to exercise my spirit so I contemplated,
“How does one exercise the spirit?”
I felt the answer was there, but I didn’t know how to find it.
For a year, I read books and watched YouTube videos on spirituality. I came across Karen Armstrong’s TED talk on compassion. This got me thinking, “What is compassion?” I got a pen and a notebook and began writing my definition. I couldn’t pinpoint what it meant to me, so I left the small studio I lived in and went around Oakland, California and asked people to write their concept of compassion in the notebook. The simple act of asking turned out to be very fulfilling—I was engaged in deep conversations, I was learning and teaching, I was going outside after spending most of the days cooped up inside—and it felt rejuvenating.
I continued on this process of self-inquiry. Feeling frustrated and recognizing my egotistical efforts were for naught, I surrendered. I lay on my back—legs straight and relaxed, arms to the side, with a focus on the breath. I decided to remain in this position—save for grocery shopping, eating, and using the bathroom—until I found an answer.
I lay there for three weeks.
I arrived at a space internally where I could hear that still, small voice. I asked, “What do you want of me? How can I be of service?” The voice said, “Go and keep asking people about compassion.” I asked, “What else?”
It replied, “That’s it!”
Immediately, the ego erupted like Godzilla out of the ocean and had its own questions, “Are you crazy? What kind of answer is that? How will I live and maintain this lifestyle? How will I pay rent and bills? What will this bring me?”
The still, small voice kept answering, “Ask people about compassion.” After going through different questions and scenarios, I finally accepted the answer. Soon after, I moved to Davis in May, 2009.
With renewed eyes, I began to see the impact of what I was doing and what was happening. I didn’t expect that asking people about compassion would amount to much nor did I expect it to grow so quickly. I soon realized that what I was doing was catching the attention of more and more people. Word-of-mouth brought more people to the corner every day for different reasons. People were coming to me for advice, to share their stories, or to just stand with me at the corner for a moment of quiet peace. Within a few months, thousands had written their ideas about compassion.
Recently, I came across 1000 Voices Speak for Compassion, a Facebook group of bloggers writing and working for compassion. When I heard about it, I immediately and enthusiastically explored it and invited everyone I know who works with compassion to join the community. I also asked to join the group, feeling like I was in flight with 1000 others flying in formation.
Reading what others share in the group about compassion enables the continuous growth of information for what I do in bringing awareness to compassion. As a lifelong learner about compassion, the blog posts help the unending contemplation of compassion. The group also provides a positive media platform and awareness for those who wish to bring more peace, love, and compassion into the mainstream.
Since that first day in early June, 2009, I remain connected to that still, small voice that lights the path on this journey of compassion. I appreciate all the blessings it bestows.
I am grateful to everyone who writes their concept, to those who pass by and ignore the question, to those who criticize, condemn, or misunderstand what I am doing.
I am grateful for all the gifts—the food, cards, donations, thank-you’s, and clothing.
I am grateful for such a painful breakup.
I am grateful for the grace of Love that brought me out of that Dark Night of the Soul six years ago.
I am grateful for it all because, in the end, I believe compassion is a healing force that will alleviate all the unnecessary suffering in the world.
David H. Breaux activates compassion by asking people to share their written concept of the word compassion in a notebook. He received a B.A. from Stanford University in Urban Studies, is a featured contributing blogger to the Charter for Compassion, author of “Compassion: Davis, CA“, and is an unofficial “street therapist.” He recently completed a yearlong Compassion Tour asking people around the US “What is compassion?”
David’s intent is to bring awareness to compassion by encouraging people to think about what compassion means to them. Through this simple gesture, people are moved to contemplate compassion and inspired to act toward the alleviation of suffering in the world.