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Reimagining Compassion

Reimagining Compassion

by Susanna Bertelsen
heart with hearts & bird - SB

“What the world needs now

is love, sweet love

It’s the only thing that there’s just too little of

               What the world needs now

is love, sweet love

No, not just for some, but for everyone.”

Where is that “sweet love” today? How might I find it?

This popular tune, by songwriters Brett James and Mary Holladay Lamar, was sung out to the world by Jackie DeShannon and Dionne Warwick about 50-or-so years ago.  Lately, it just keeps floating around my head. Like a mantra, it serves to invite my frequent prayer held up to the Almighty for mercy to a world in pain!  And, I am grateful for that.  It has led me to contemplate the role of compassion in my life and within the communities where I live and work.  And, I become acutely aware of the lack of compassion within and around me.

I am grateful, also, to the chance-acquaintance last spring who introduced me to Joyce Rupp’s new book, Boundless Compassion:Creating a Way of Life. I completely agree with Joyce Rupp, that, “In today’s society it often seems as if cruelty is more extensive than kindness.”  She is “right on” when she describes our global situation as “broken, wounded, violent, damaged, divisive.”

Joyce Rupp claims, “Only with compassion at the core of humanity’s lived experience will we be able to approach one another with true respect and dwell in peacefulness.”

Using Joyce Rupp’s Boundless Compassion (2018) as resource for learning and reflection, we will come together for two hours, once a month from November through May, to consider our awareness and understanding of compassion. Each month we will listen, ponder and share together in group how selected readings touched our hearts.

Rupp teaches us how to practice compassion by sharing her own insights and those from dozens of wisdom figures, like Henry Nouwen, Mahatma Gandhi, the Dalai Lama, Desmond Tutu, Pope Francis, Ilia Delia,O.S.F., Christina Feldman, Diane Millis, and Sharon Salzberg, to name but a few.

Topics to be covered from Boundless Compassion include: “compassion as a way of life,” “welcoming ourselves,” “the river of suffering,” “from hostility to hospitality,” “a thousand unbreakable links,” and “becoming a compassionate presence.”

My favorite activity from Rupp’s several suggested exercises was to draw a “Tree of Compassion,” which started my personal reflections:

  • Roots: Your life experiences that provide a strong foundation for the practice of compassion.
  • Trunk: Personal qualities and characteristics that enable you to be a conduit of compassion.
  • Branches: Situations and circumstances that challenge you to reach out with compassion.
  • Leaves: Ways in which you have received compassion.
  • Fruit: Specific ways you have offered compassion to self and others.

Consequently, this exercise inspired my photo graphic for the brochure and this blog.

Might this be an opportunity for you to deepen your spiritual practice, or, might this be an invitation to create a more “compassionate” way of life?

For more information and to register online: www.loyolaspirutalitycenter.org.

Questions: susanna@loyolaspiritualitycenter.org.

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