Imagination

“I can’t imagine,” we say. We hear about shootings and war and about an alligator snatching a toddler in one of the most magical places on earth. These are the things of nightmares. “I can’t imagine what those poor families are going through,” we say.

The thing is though, we can imagine. If you’re like me, you not only imagine, but you do so in great detail. I picture myself standing next to a Disney lake, my face tipped toward the fading Florida sun, my little boy next to me one second, the next, snatched. Underwater. Gone. Disbelief, horror, shock… the things nightmares are made of.  

I can picture myself texting my grown son. Him, hiding in a bathroom while gunshots spill the blood of those he was laughing with moments before. I can imagine screaming when I get no more replies to my “ARE YOU OKAY??” texts… the things nightmares are made of.

What if I told you that imaging is where true compassion begins? That rather than judging and saying “Duh, alligators are everywhere in Florida,” when we imagine, we feel compassion, empathy, and love for fellow humans. When we choose to not place blame, we’re able to imagine the faces of those suffering. We’re able to feel true compassion for them.

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***

A woman I know had a son. While she’ll always have a son, he’s no longer here. He committed suicide as a teenager. People would’ve understood had she taken to bed and never gotten up. Instead, she travels to high schools and tells her son’s story. She talks to teens. She spreads hope and reminds kids that life changes quickly. While today may be awful, next month may be the best they’ve ever had. She does not blame. Rather than being angry that classmates were cruel to her son, she loves them. Tells them that if they ever feel desperate enough to end their lives, that she’s there. That they can call her, no matter what.

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***

It was warm for San Francisco. I walked to the bagel shop across from my hotel, passing several homeless people on my way. While walking, I browsed through the photos on my phone from last night’s meal. I’d ended up paying and was freaking out a little about how much I’d spent on this trip. When I got to the bagel place, there was a man, head bent, dirty, a paper cup of coffee cradled between his hands. I wondered whether he’d be insulted if I bought him a breakfast sandwich. I got to the register and ordered 12 of them. “What type of bagels?” the cashier asked. “Mix them up,” I said. “The best ones, I guess.”

I got my order and walked over to the man holding his coffee. “I hope it’s okay,” I started. He didn’t turn around. He didn’t know I was talking to him. “Sir?”

He jumped a little bit, started to get up. “I’m sorry!” I said. Did he think he needed to leave?
“I’m sorry. Perhaps you’ve eaten already but you remind me of someone and…” I didn’t know what to say. I handed him a breakfast sandwich from my bag. He sat again, didn’t look at me. I felt like a dick and turned away.

“Bless you.” I’m not sure whether he said it or whether it was coming from the bag I held in my hands or from somebody else, but I turned back and put my hand on his arm. I wanted him to know I saw him.

He looked up, smiled, turned, and opened his sandwich. The rest, I passed out along the way back to the hotel thinking about how little it was.

How our meal the night before that included two bottles of wine would have paid for a sleeping bag, socks, and 100 more breakfast sandwiches.

“It’s something,” the empty bag whispered. “You’re right,” I said. “It’s more than I did for him yesterday.” I got back to the hotel and looked in the mirror. “You’re so old,” I thought.

“You’re beautiful,” I said to my reflection.

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***

Just now, as I was finally ready to read what I’ve written and send it to Lisa who kindly asked me to write for #1000Speak this month and then moved my Monday deadline to Wednesday and then to today “or soon,” my son came downstairs with his iPad. His dad had agreed to watch him tonight while I write, and I was annoyed.

He pressed the play button on a YouTube video, and I expected to see Parkour or farts or waterslide videos. Instead, it was the story of Lego.

“17 minutes?” I thought. Too long! I need to write!

I remembered the man at the bagel shop and the time I told mirror-me that she’s beautiful, and I closed my laptop.

His-too-big-for-lap-sitting body sat on my lap. Together, we watched the video from beginning to end. Every now and then, he looked up at me. Checking whether I was paying attention. Each time, I held him tighter. Kissed his neck. Stroked his hair.

The video ended.

“Thank you,” I said. “For what, Mommy?”

“For wanting to share this with me. For coming down.”

“You like Lego,” he said. He kissed my cheek and ran upstairs, saying something about needing to build a robot suit.

***

Feeling compassion can lead to change. It’s people like you and me and each of us who freed slaves, gave women the right to vote, and made it so that people with disabilities aren’t locked away. People like you and me are why my son received the support he needed in preschool to learn to use his voice so that one day, he too will be able to say “that’s not right,” and affect change. We’re why he has the support he needs today. We are why.

We’re heroes, friends. Each of us and all of us. We’re the ones who can choose light rather than blame, and hope for change rather than fear. Our compassion can change the world.

We choose things each day. While walking to buy coffee and breakfast sandwiches, we choose to see or not-so-much see those around us. While we look into mirrors and feel old or beautiful. When we make a choice between nesting in bed or talking to teenagers about suicide. We choose.

I know that buying a homeless person a few extra minutes to sit in a shop while he eats eggs and cheese on a bagel isn’t much.

I also know that it’s a start, and that imagination is always better than blame. Here’s to imagining ourselves to a better world every day and on all of the days.

***

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Kristi Rieger Campbell’s passion is writing and drawing stupid-looking pictures for her blog, Finding Ninee. It began with a memoir about her special-needs son Tucker, abandoned when she read that a publisher would rather shave a cat than read another memoir. 

Kristi writes for a variety of parenting websites including Huffington Post Parents, has been published in several popular anthologies, received 2014 BlogHer’s Voice of the Year People’s Choice Award, and was a proud cast member of the 2014 DC Listen to Your Mother show.

Find her on Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest.

 

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#1000Speak June – A Home Remedy for the World

I’ve been thinking so much about the various news stories splayed across the headlines lately.

It seems no matter where you are across the globe, there is a story about something negative. Gorillas, alligators, mass shootings, politics, health care, animal cruelty, unemployment, gun control… I could go on, but I won’t. You know what the headlines and the horrors are in the world. You know that behind every headline is so much more of the story than we will ever know from reading the news. Maybe those stories are somehow better than what is presented; maybe they are worse. But at the end of the day, no matter the story, the overarching problem I see is that the world is sick.

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I have a vague memory of a cartoon drawing of the earth with a cold – or something – and that’s what comes to mind lately. Our world is sick and it needs some kind of remedy. But what? I see quotes and memes go by on my computer screen all the time suggesting what might help: The world needs love. The world needs faith. The world needs compassion.

It’s all true.

But how do we begin to heal a world that on some days seems so far gone?

As I prepared to write this post over the last few weeks, this question goaded me and made me forget every idea I thought I had to share here. I couldn’t help coming back to this nagging question of what must we DO in order to help our world, help one another?

We need to get back to basics. We need to start with the closest, simplest task and that is to heal our Selves.

My #1000Speak posts tend to focus on self-compassion and I suppose my words here will be no different. If we want to see change on a global level, we have to start on a personal level. As I thought more and more about this, I suddenly remembered some words I encounter very often at a place I visit regularly, but rarely take time to see. The words I’ll share with you here are from Robert Rodale and his wife, Ardath Harter Rodale, two people who dedicated their lives to improving not only their own lives, but the lives of others in various ways. Consider how their words might be applied on a very intimate, individual, and personal level, but also consider how they might be applied on a much larger scale.

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“Health is the ability to find superior powers of body and mind and to use them for full, fruitful, and enjoyable living.”

“Every living thing has an inner urge to get better. To renew. To use the power of life to heal from within.”

~Robert Rodale

 

“May your eyes be filled with the light of sunshine to invigorate every part of your body, mind, and spirit.”

“May health and love flow through your veins to bring you peace and harmony.”

~Ardath Harter Rodale

 

I know, I know. Given the magnitude and frequency of negativity in the headlines lately, how can we think that such simple and wholesome ideas would make a difference?  How is it possible to believe there is such light and hope and power in the world when there is so much evidence to the contrary? Maybe if we can take even just a little bit of that positive thinking, that conviction that all living things have the potential for good, for change, and for health, we might see the world – and the people in it – in a different light. Maybe we can be gentler with ourselves, kinder and more compassionate to one another, more understanding and accepting of ourselves and of one another.

What we need is a good old fashioned home remedy like Grandma’s chicken soup or hot tea with lemon. There may not be much proof of whether or not it will work, but it can’t hurt to hope and it can’t hurt to try. Try compassion. Try kindness. Try love. See if it helps. See if it makes you feel better. It certainly can’t make things any worse.

 

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This month, 1000 Voices Speak for Compassion continues to work toward a better, more compassionate world.

Here’s how to get involved:

Join 1000 Voices Speak for Compassion on Facebook

Visit the 1000Speak blog

Follow @1000Speak on Twitter

Use the #1000Speak hashtag across social media.

This month’s link up is open and ready for your posts and will remain open until June 28th.  To join in the Link-up and read more posts, click the blue button below and follow the instructions.

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On being Kind and Compassionate #1000Speak

What is compassion?

Compassion is nothing but being present to the suffering of others and responding with a desire to relieve them of this pain and suffering with kindness, care, love and support. The key to compassion is the art of mindfulness and the lesson of letting go. We need to learn to let go of our egos. We need to move beyond judgement and indifference. We need to learn to share space with complete strangers because this place is equally theirs. We need to feel the pain from the heart. Suffering does not necessarily have to be physical. It can be someone going through a stressful time in their personal or professional lives. Often we neglect the urge to provide a listening ear or offer a few comforting words because we believe that we are intruding into their lives. But many a times, it is those few words, those few minutes that can help save someone from making a wrong decision (perhaps the last decision) in their lives. Be helpful anyway. Be compassionate any way. Be kind any way. Together we can make this a better place. A peaceful place. A happy place.

I will now share my experience with two people who I believe defined compassion for me.

The Mother

She stays in a building next to mine. The first person to have spoken to me when I moved in here. She came up to me and offered to help if I ever needed. The next time I saw her, she was surrounded by half a dozen street dogs barking non-stop. I was scared for her and wanted to protect her. I picked up some stones and was about to throw them at the dogs when I saw her bending down and pouring milk into an earthen bowl and a few bread slices into another. The dogs had stopped barking and were wagging their tails. And she wore the most beautiful smile I have ever seen on anyone.

A few days later, one of the street dogs that resided in our locality got infected. It started bleeding from different places and shedding its skin showing the pink tissue underneath. Everyone (including myself) felt pity. But none of us did anything to help it from suffering. Some for fear of getting infected and some others out of disgust. We had accepted that this was the end of it. He wouldn’t survive. We nodded to ourselves.

And then I saw her sitting next to the dog and applying some medicines. She fed him like a new-born baby. As it managed to take a few bites, she kept massaging his back and forehead. He looked at her with eyes shining as if to thank her for her kindness. A few weeks and the dog was fully cured and up and running. That day, I saw her. I found the reflection of the mother.

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The Impact of a Teacher

At a school function, I met this man. He is a doctor by profession. But he has quit practice and is planting trees every single day, every single hour. Why? Because some forty odd years ago (when he was nine), his teacher had told him that the world will end in 2070 because of lack of oxygen and global warming. When he asked her how can this be prevented, the good soul that the teacher was she told him that planting more and more trees alone can help save the earth. And ever since he has planted more than one million trees.

Why did he have to take it up so seriously? He could have chosen to listen and let go like most of us. He was well aware that he might not survive to see the end of the world in 2070. But he was aware that every drop matters. Every tree meant saving the world for a few more days. I haven’t seen another human as compassionate towards trees like him. If he ever sees a tree being uprooted or being cut down for infrastructural reasons, he silently weeps within. His revenge: planting more and more trees.

The Reason

What is it? Why are they doing all this? Why do they have to do all of this? The answer is nothing but kindness and compassion. While fools like us sit and preach, people like them lead by example. They are aware that their deeds might not do anything for themselves. But they do it anyway because it helps someone else. Contentment and fulfillment are their prizes.

We all have seeds of compassion inside us. It is a natural instinct present within all of us. It is restrained when we lack mindfulness and turn a blind eye to life. It’s just a matter of realizing it and letting it flow freely.

Compassion does not restrict to relieving others of pain. It also means being kind towards ourselves. A smile or a kind word can make a big difference in someone’s life. The mere feeling that we are not alone in this struggle makes people get back up, be strong and have a reason to flourish. A heartfelt act of kindness goes a long way in the other person’s life.

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So, did you smile today?

 

Rekha

Rekha Dhyani is the mom of two T-Rex kiddoos, seasoned publishing expert, hardcore marketer, freelance content writer, amateur photographer, travel enthusiast and a passionate writer/blogger. She blogs at Dew Drops.

Please do follow her at these social media links: Facebook   Twitter   Instagram

Self Compassion…Take Two

Napa Wedding Trip Part 220

A dear friend asked me to write about self compassion for the #1000speak movement. Sweet of her to ask so I thought sure, I can do that. Then I started typing the most boring, mundane clinical description of my version of self compassion…..truly it sucked. Then I remembered…..I’m not a clinician so how about I just get real with this topic?

Self compassion for me, is the act of being kind to myself and treating me like the awesome friend that I can be to others. It sounds all flowery, with hand holding, perhaps singing Kumbaya or at least a trip to the mall, but not always. Sometimes, just like with your good friends, someone needs a swift kick in the ass. A heavy dose of truth serum, removal of the blinders if you will. Yes that is also compassion in the long run. And guess what sometimes you need to do that for yourself.

I grew up in a crazy household. Drunk mother, absent dad, I bore witness to some serious insanity and I mean that in the clinical sense. As a young girl I learned the ways of self preservation. It often meant hiding in the shadows and people pleasing to an extreme. I learned to read people and react in ways that they would favor. These were my defense mechanisms and they served me well, until they didn’t anymore.

When I was 15 my mother tossed me into rehab. It wasn’t completely unfounded. I had decided to start drinking and experimenting with drugs just about the time when she first tried to get sober when I was 13. Shitty timing on my part….if I started a year or two earlier at say 11, she would have been too drunk to notice any change. Teenage rebellion and sober mom did not get along well and after several warnings I found myself in rehab.

I had no intention of getting sober, none. I thought I would just do my time, gain some street cred and go on my merry little way. I was wrong. A few days into my stay I had what is known as a spiritual awakening…..please don’t leave I promise it isn’t overly religious. Anyway, my awakening was a moment of awareness. I know it sounds very new age….it was really just a few moments of clarity when I realized the crazy shit storm of a life path I was on and I made a conscious effort to change course. I had a moment of realization and I made a decision to stay sober. That was in 1983 and I’m still sober today. Huge act of self compassion right there.

My first year of sobriety was insane. My mother got remarried when I left rehab and her husband got violent. End result, I was homeless. So there I was 15, newly sober, scrambling to find a place to live. I wound up in nearly a dozen places in the course of my first year sober. Some were good, some were bad, one was horrendous. At this point my self preservation skills were in effect. When I finally got to a safe place I needed to add some tools to my toolbox.

I was exposed to the 12 steps of AA and received a lot of counseling that first year of sobriety. I learned a lot that first year and more than 30 years have passed and I try to remain teachable. My tools for self compassion have changed as I have gone from a troubled teenager to a responsible adult – mother, wife, community member, business owner, et cetera. The transition has not always been smooth.

Here are some of the things that I do to show compassion for myself:

Self-care

This is not self indulgent. That’s right all the stuff you’ve heard forever – eat right, exercise, get enough sleep, stay out of harm’s way. These are all valid and necessary in my life. I can feel a shift when I haven’t eaten, slept well and/or haven’t exercised. Self care is self compassion.

Self reflection

I have to be honest with myself about the things I like and don’t like about me. This has often required coaching from a trusted friend. Was I an ass in that situation? Should I apologize? What can I do differently? Or as I heard once, decades ago and probably in an AA room. Ask yourself three questions if you are unsure of how to proceed in a situation: Is it kind? Is it true? Is it necessary? There have been plenty of times when I kept my mouth shut because I couldn’t give a yes to all three. And, honestly I apologize a lot because I am wrong a lot. Being able to look at myself and make changes (or at least try) helps me to make eye contact with myself. This is also, self compassion.

Self talk

Sometimes the thoughts I play in my head are inaccurate and they are almost always worse than reality. This can range anywhere from self loathing which manifests itself in really shitty negative mental name calling to full blown scenarios that do not exist. There are thoughts I have to routinely push away – I’m fat, ugly, old, stupid, whatever the insecurity of the day is….I need to fight it with something positive. This is also an internal dialogue – you’re healthy, you worked out, some people don’t even make it to 47, you are a solidly decent human being, get a grip woman. Facts aren’t feelings, focus on the facts. I have been known to make lists of pros/cons for a variety of situations – work, love, wall color, anything. So basically I have to talk myself off the ledge, less than I used to but more than I want to. Being aware of the negative thoughts in my head and fighting them with purposeful kindness and awareness is self compassion.

Self love (passion)

Not talking about solo romance here (not that there’s anything wrong with that). More like self actualization. What brings you joy? Do you have a calling or an urge to do something? Was a seed planted years ago and you just haven’t watered it and given it sun? I have made the things that make me feel joy a priority. Now I admit this isn’t always easy to schedule in. If you have financial/physical/other obstacles you might feel too tired to try a yoga class or maybe you can’t afford to go to a writer’s conference. That’s legit and I get that. Find a way to squeeze in your passion even if it is only in 10 minute increments. Like to write – keep a journal, blog or use social media to put yourself out there. Like to dance, check out the YMCA they might have some classes you can take on the cheap. My calling is hospice work. I felt the first pull in 1997 when my aunt was dying of cancer. It took me 11 years to have a schedule that allowed me to pursue becoming a hospice volunteer, but I did it.

Finding and fulfilling your passion is part of self compassion.

I hope this doesn’t come off preachy because honestly, I am not a fan of preachy. I just feel so strongly about people taking charge and being the best, happiest version of themselves. These are just my experiences with life and my version of self compassion. There isn’t a universal formula for success here. Just know that if you are struggling to be kind to yourself, others have been there. Please be good to you, you’re worth the effort.

This post was written by Bryce Warden – Bryce isn’t her real name, but due to her shady, sordid past and a husband who adores privacy she started this little blog thing as her personal diary/midlife crisis. She has been through some sh*t people and shares her raw and honest stories on Was That My Out Loud Voice? Bryce has been a SAHM with two kids for 10+ years. In her prior life, she was climbing the corporate ladder in the healthcare technology sector, super exciting field (not really). She also runs a small business dedicated to caring for both people and pets and is a hospice volunteer. Bryce has lots of stories to tell; some are funny  and others will break your heart. So, grab your beverage of choice and put a lid on it –  it could be a bumpy ride.

The bomb my father dropped: #1000 Speak Guest Post

Today we resume our Guest Post series, with a stunning (and stunningly beautiful) story from Fiona Moore.

The bomb my father dropped

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He’d eaten his last spoonful of dessert. My step mother was in the kitchen clearing dishes. It was time for the conversation I’d planned for.

Instantly my heart rate ramped up.

Conversation between us was still a shaky occurrence. The norm in my family had been silence; cold and tense. It was just one of the ways my father asserted his authority.

I was about to announce that I’d decided to resign from a steady, well paid job, to take temporary employment at a non profit organization and embark on professional training as an energy healer.

My body braced itself. This was not a conversation I anticipated going well. He was a rational, conservatively minded scientist who ridiculed anything ‘alternative’ or unscientific.

The idea that life energy could be harnessed to heal the mind and body was definitely outside his radar screen. I expected to be in trouble.

An uncharacteristic response

It took me four minutes or so to share my news. I tried not to be apologetic or defensive but some of that crept in as I spoke. I was dodging the bullets that surely would come because he was quick to shoot down anything he disapproved of.

But when I finished my last sentence I noticed there was a strange cease fire. My father hadn’t said a word. He had listened without interrupting.

I was surprised, and relived. And then the floor opened up.

Instead of accusing me of being irresponsible he turned to me and said “Well I have some news for you, too. I’ve got cancer and have only a few weeks left to live”.

Silence.

He’d been diagnosed with end stage stomach cancer. In a few days he was going to have radical surgery and his physician had advised him to take care of his affairs because his chance of his survival was minimal.

My head started to spin. I’d grown up mostly in fear of of my father. I loved the times he’d carry me on his shoulders and later, when I was older, patiently helped me with my physics homework. But I’d hated his sometimes cruel and domineering behavior.

Earlier that year I’d confronted him about his abuse and he’d surprised me with an admission of wrong doing. We had just begun to walk a new road of healing our relationship. What was I to do with this news?

And then came the bomb

My father’s declaration of his likely death barely had a chance to sink in because he carried on talking.

He told me how he’d spent thirty years of his life designing, testing, refining and installing nuclear warheads on deadly missiles. How his entire professional life had been dedicated to mastering the science of atomic energy for the purpose of killing.

And how, because his work was classified under the official secret act, he’d kept his career hidden.

I was stunned. Just like the cancer, I was hearing this for the first time. I’d grown up aware that his work involved submarines but that was about it.

Then, as he kept talking, it was as though we were transported to a higher plane.

He became poetic as he described his love and appreciation of energy. He spoke of the infinite and extra-ordinary power that raw energy holds.

I couldn’t take in his understanding of nuclear physics, but I didn’t need to.

I was received an invisible message.

His understanding of energy as a potential force to destroy life was translated deep in my cells. It activated my calling to become a healer; to preserve and make life sacred.

Quietly, as his secret unravelled his words became a confession. He wept silently. He poured out his shame. How he’d loved his work, loved his brilliant mind; but had burdened his heart by using his gifts for the purpose of building killing machines.

I listened with rapt attention and my heart opened to his. The man I’d known as unyielding and controlling was melted in front of me. He became like a young fragile bird that could be crushed with the brush of a hand.

Words then flowed from my heart about my awakening; about my ability to sense and engage with pure life energy to heal the body, mind and spirit. About my desire to use this knowledge to make a difference in the world. It was the perfect anti-dote to his shame.

In our tender timeless exchange our spiritual sight had opened up. We saw each other as perfect reflections of each other. No longer father, daughter, killer, healer; we were one movement of life becoming whole.

In this heightened state of awareness I ‘saw’ his higher soul self pass a baton, like in a relay race, to my higher self. His legacy was passed to me. My soul mission became clear. I was to redeem the karmic debt.

The seven year miracle

That my father survived another seven years was remarkable and is a story worth telling in itself, but the point for now is this:

In our world where conflict is ever more present; in our workplaces, dance halls, churches and schools. Healing begins not by closing our hearts. Not by pointing the finger at the so called enemy ‘out there’.

This conversation with my father brought home to me that human beings are highly complex. We have shadow and we have light. We are kind and mean, magnificent and stupid. And when we embrace all opposites in ourselves, we marry the darkness with the light and we heal; and then we see each other as precious reflections of each other, not separate but as One.

Let’s do this. Look deeply into your heart, and I’ll look deeply into mine. Let’s see the truth about ourselves and each other.

Let’s sit together and bring those difficult conversations to the table.

Let’s listen to each other with our heart, not our fear.

Let’s allow the energy of compassion to flow from your heart to mine, and from my heart to yours.

Let’s dissolve the barriers within us and without us for our combined heart to reveal and illuminate the pathway to a new world.

 

StillHeart Institute Photos by Doug EllisFiona Moore is a contemporary teacher of awakened living. She teaches how everything in life, including what we struggle with, is designed to open our heart for the power of love and compassion to reveal our wholeness.

She works with change agents, creatives, writers, spiritual seekers and practitioners to dissolve the inner blocks to living their hearts calling to make a difference in the world.

Fiona is dedicated to awakening the new paradigm in consciousness. Where our lives are no longer fueled by fear and competition, but are governed by love, service and peace.

You can find out more about Fiona’s work and subscribe to her newsletter; Heart Notes by visiting her website: www.FionaMoore.com

An Experience with Compassion: #1000Speak Guest Post

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.

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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.

 

Photo by Ben Tuason.
Photo by Ben Tuason.

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.

You can support David’s work by buying his e-book: Compassion: Davis, CA or by visiting his website What is Compassion and adding your concept of compassion to the compassion cloud.

If a Tree Falls in the Forest

We are continuing our Guest Post series, with a post from one of our most committed and enthusiastic members, Kerry Kijewski. Kerry is a writer and blogger, who was born visually impaired.

In this post, Kerry writes about how she experiences different kinds of compassion from people because of her blindness. She explains why she’s happy to receive compassion, but not pity.
KKijewski.headshot

People stare, but that’s okay because I can’t see them doing it anyway. It’s those I’m out with that can’t help noticing. Sometimes they enlighten me, but most of the time I am sure it is easier just to bite their tongue and say nothing. Sometimes, however, their indignant reactions on my behalf make me aware of the fact.

Toward me directly, I would say I receive only compassion and kindness. It isn’t proper, in 2015, to treat someone with a disability with anything less than that. Sure, the cases of abuse and prejudice do happen and make the news, but I am lucky to be living in 2015. however, compassion, as sad as it sounds, only goes so far. I want more than that and I have my work cut of for me, if I want to make the difference. I’ve been given the chance, to speak in this unique place, where compassion is the aim and the point, so I thought I would say my piece here, where I know I have an audience of those who are ready and willing to listen.

I am one of the 1000 voices, one of the 1000 speaking for compassion, and I am happy to be so, but I want more than this. I’m realizing that there aren’t enough people, the ones living with the disabilities, speaking up and making our presence known and our opinions heard in the midst of the roar and the noise.

Other times it’s a silence. In those silent moments I ponder what to expect from the world. I know I am accepted, but I don’t always feel it yet. It might take a while. How can I make them notice me, that I’m here, that others like myself are here? How can I get them to care?

It’s really hard to care, when there are so many people in need, people needing something. I hate to add to that need, to be a bother, but I need more. I want to fit in, but not if that means I stop caring myself. Compassion isn’t enough. Acceptance and not pity is what compassion means to me, in my experience of the world. Compassion can, for other people, so easily look like pity to me. It can look like sympathy, a relief that they could feel like they knew how to speak to me, how to treat me, and like they did and said all the right things. What a relief, but this limits us all.

When compassion doesn’t result in action, when it’s nothing more than lip service, it doesn’t get us anywhere. Or, at least, not far enough. I need it to go farther. I must push a little further still. Don’t mind me.

I honestly feel like one of the advantages of lack of sight is that I don’t have all those pesky visual distractions. I can focus on everything other people say. I can concentrate on emotions and my gut feelings about others, but that does not guarantee that those gut feelings are always correct. Maybe my gut feelings about the world are way off. Maybe it’s not so bad. Maybe I should appreciate more that we’ve come this far, that compassion exists. I can’t see the stares, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t there on people’s faces. Could I take advantage of the attention? Are they willing to listen, if I were just able to speak loud enough? I need to begin a dialogue – not just silent stares.

I am not distracted; however, this can work against me. I sometimes think I have too many chances to pay attention to what’s going on under the surface. I want to do as much for other people as they’ve done for me. I want to make the world better, for selfish reasons. I want things to be better for myself and for everyone else. I wish I didn’t care sometimes. It’s painful and stressful. I wish I could block out the rest of the world, focus on only me, and pretend that things aren’t happening. I want to let it out. I wish I could cry, that my tears could unleash the stress of the world I feel so heavily on my own two shoulders. I want to see more and feel less, but I can’t.

It feels like the hurt I have for the state of the world is going to cause my heart to burst out of my chest, but perhaps that would release me from the invisible ropes that I feel holding me back. My compassion has been a part of my name. Kerry sounds like care. People call me Kerr and I have always been the nice one, the kind girl. I know I can use my unique experience of life for something greater than myself. I can speak, using the voice I possess, to make people aware of how vital compassion is, that simply coasting by in life, not caring, that these things won’t do.

People give me breaks. They cut me slack. They make exceptions for me. I see the compassion in this because it is there – really, it is. I often need it, if I ever want to get anywhere, but, on the other hand, with these things continuing as they are, I will never be able to make a difference, to have my voice heard. I don’t want these sorts of compassionate attitudes to limit me or to make people believe that’s enough, that that’s all it takes, is required of them, or for me to succeed.

You care so much you feel as though you will bleed to death with the pain of it.
–Albus Dumbledore, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

Kerry is a writer and blogger. She was born visually impaired. She writes to make sense of the world around her. Without words she truly would be in the dark.

She has a Certificate of Creative Writing and has written a novel for National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo).

She had a short essay published on BREVITY’s Nonfiction Blog and just recently she was included in a romance anthology: After the Scars: A Second Chances Anthology

 

You can find her at her blog: Her Headache

Or on Facebook and Twitter:

https://www.facebook.com/herheadacheblog

https://twitter.com/kkherheadache

Kerry lives in Ontario, Canada with her literary-themed dog and cat: Dobby and Lumos.