As I ply the starry sea,
Leaning over the edge in wonder,
Casting questions into the deep.
Drifting here with my ship's companions,
All we kindred pilgrim souls,
Making our way by the lights of the heavens,
In our beautiful blue boat home.
--Peter Mayer, Blue Boat Home
A few years ago, our local Lake County Board of Supervisors issued a proclamation in support of the International Charter for Compassion in order to draw attention to the fact that we are all one community. How we treat each other matters to the quality of our life together. As our community concludes another season of political campaigning, cultivating compassion is as important as ever.
As I see it, we need to ask ourselves in our deeds and in our language: What are we teaching our children about what it means to be human? Compassion is not weakness—it is, in fact, a decision to connect and relate with our fellow sojourners, both human and non-human, and in the process engage in the positive transformation of ourselves and our world. Compassion may be one of the more powerful ways we transform our world for the better: it allows us to see things from another point of view and it is one means by which we can live our positive intentions.
Cultivating compassion starts with self-compassion: understanding what motivates us, suspending self-judgment and negative self-talk, and allowing ourselves to be present to whatever we are experiencing in the moment. The act of noticing, of paying attention and of experiencing gives us the information we need to make decisions and choices about where to spend our energies. This ultimately leads us to take action that transforms our own internal structures and, in doing so, the world around us. Compassion is a gift, and thus both to offer and to receive compassion is a blessing. Paradoxically, by cultivating compassion, we also experience the pain of our world and the pain of others while at the same time living life more fully.
Cultivating compassion, as a practice, creates the conditions for positive change in our own lives. The decision to cultivate compassion, and the powerful practice of noticing but not judging, in itself creates good benefit.
Many communities around the globe are endorsing the International Charter for Compassion as a way to bring awareness to their own community and promoting the cultivation of community compassion through action. The Charter for Compassion is a worldwide effort launched by noted religious scholar Karen Armstrong and elaborated in her book Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life. The Charter for Compassion document, now translated into more than 30 languages, transcends religious, ideological and national difference, and is supported by many leading thinkers from many spiritual traditions. From the Charter:
“We urgently need to make compassion a clear, luminous and dynamic force in our polarized world. Rooted in a principled determination to transcend selfishness, compassion can break down political, dogmatic, ideological and religious boundaries. Born of our deep interdependence, compassion is essential to human relationships and to a fulfilled humanity. It is the path to enlightenment, and indispensible to the creation of a just economy and a peaceful global community.”The full text of the Charter for Compassion is well worth reading and can be online at www.charterforcompassion.org.
…The wide universe is the ocean I travel,
And the Earth is my blue boat home.