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Posts Tagged ‘Compassion’

Becoming Wise: An Inquiry into the Mystery and Art of Living (Book Review)

Monday, May 16th, 2016

tippettPeabody Award-winning broadcaster, Krista Tippett, has spent years interviewing some of the most fascinating voices of humanity. Her style is one of asking deep spiritual questions and then creating space for deep listening. Tippett’s work on her national public radio program and podcast, On Being, has been share a conversation with people who inspire a sense of wonder and curiosity. Tippett has spent her career interviewing scientists, theologians from several faiths, poets, activists, philosophers, historians, artists, and many more. Within moments of listening to the podcast, it becomes clear that these are more than interviews – they are moments of deep intimacy through the mastery of genuine conversation.

In Becoming Wise, Tippett distills many of the insights she has learned to appreciate from her numerous conversations. Throughout the pages, it becomes clear that the book is a deep meditation and journey on meaning. The chapters are organized around the themes of language, love, faith and hope. Through her years of conversations, Tippett and her conversation partners advocate mindfulness, compassion, forgiveness, humility and cooperation.

Tippett’s book embodies the open question – the deep desire for connection, conversation, and belonging. The wisdom we seek emerges from the everyday experiences. Real connections with one another happen in the ordinary moments of acts of kindness and generosity. Becoming Wise is our journey of asking the powerful questions of who we are to each other.

“I’m a person who listens for a living. I listen for wisdom, and beauty, and for voices not shouting to be heard. ”

This book offers a fiercely hopeful vision of humanity. Tippett sees hope as a force and a resource. For Tippett, “hope” sees and experiences the darkness, and the possibility for good, and makes a choice. Hope is something you put into practice through actions. Tippett reminds us that choosing to be hopeful is far more courageous than being cynical. Hope insists on the possibility of a life of resilience and redemption.

One powerful theme that Tippett reminds us is the gift of presence. Presence is the engagement with life and one another. Becoming Wise reminds us that presence does not mean passivity or acceptance of the status quo. In a world of sound bites, Becoming Wise is a reminder of the longer and deeper conversations needed for change. This book is a practical guide about life’s spiritual beauty through deep reflections. Tippett sheds a light on what it means to be human.

Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review


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Showing Compassion

Monday, July 22nd, 2013

The Pali word for lovingkindness, metta, means unconditional friendliness, warmth, love or care, and the Pali word for compassion, karuna, means to “feel with,” to bear suffering with an active sympathy. In his wisdom the Buddha realized that by purposefully awakening lovingkindness and compassion, we invite the alienated hurts and fears into consciousness, and free ourselves into a wholeness of being.
Tara Brach, True Refuge: Finding Peace and Freedom in Your Own Awakened Heart

My books all have the same theme lately —compassion. The word “compassion” seems to be in neon lights. First I read a quote by Pema Chödrön, “Just as nurturing our ability to love is a way of awakening bodhichitta, so also is nurturing our ability to feel compassion. Compassion, however, is more emotionally challenging than loving-kindness because it involves the willingness to feel pain. It definitely requires the training of a warrior.”

Then I came across the book, Training in Compassion: Zen Teachings on the Practice of Lojong, by Norman Fisher. There were many sections on empathy and compassion.
Fisher writes, “Remember that compassion literally means to feel passion with. Passion means pain. Compassion is the willingness to feel pain with another, to feel another’s pain as one’s own.” He goes on to write, “And it turns out that it’s impossible to take in the pain of another unless we are able to take in our own pain.”

This gave me the clarity I have been seeking after taking some time off to heal and rest. I noticed how difficult it was for people to show compassion. They wanted to reach out and be kind, but somehow the offerings were more about advice-giving, cheerful words, or awkward silence. I realized that what I really wanted was for people to listen, to feel, and to acknowledge.

By sitting in the pain, we allow it to rise up, be acknowledged, and then bless it. Having a witness – a friend – to do that with makes it all the more holy. Looking at our own pain gives us the ability to sit with others in theirs.

What are your experiences or thoughts on compassion?

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Compassion, Courage, and Breath

Thursday, June 20th, 2013

Sitting with compassion for others and myself led me to a beautiful meditation:

Fill yourself up with compassion with each breath. 

What do you look like when you are living with compassion? 

Show yourself some compassion right now. 

Allow your hand to move and breathe compassion into your body. 

Notice your body and breathe compassion. 

Let compassion move your hand. 

How are you transmitting compassion? 

What is your message of compassion today? 

Listen to compassion. 

Take a deeper breath in and out. 

Breathe compassion. 

When you see the world with compassion, what’s possible? 

And take a nice big breath. 

Be compassionate to you, always. 

Beam compassion with every interaction. 

And so it is.

As Pema Chödrön writes, “Just as nurturing our ability to love is a way of awakening bodhichitta, so also is nurturing our ability to feel compassion. Compassion, however, is more emotionally challenging than loving-kindness because it involves the willingness to feel pain. It definitely requires the training of a warrior. 


When we practice generating compassion, we can expect to experience our fear of pain. Compassion practice is daring. It involves learning to relax and allow ourselves to move gently toward what scares us. The trick to doing this is to stay with emotional distress without tightening into aversion, to let fear soften us rather than harden into resistance.” 

Stay with your breath. Stay with yourself. Stay with compassion.

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We Have What We Need

Thursday, January 17th, 2013

“This is a work in progress, a process of uncovering our natural openness, uncovering our natural intelligence and warmth. I have discovered, just as my teachers always told me, that we already have what we need. The wisdom, the strength, the confidence, the awakened heart and mind are always accessible, here, now, always. We are just uncovering them. We are rediscovering them. We’re not inventing them or importing them from somewhere else. They’re here. That’s why when we feel caught in darkness, suddenly the clouds can part. Out of nowhere we cheer up or relax or experience the vastness of our minds. No one else gives this to you. People will support you and help you with teachings and practices, as they have supported and helped me, but you yourself experience your unlimited potential.”

~Pema Chödrön, Taking the Leap: Freeing Ourselves from Old Habits and Fears

{Photo by Mary Anne Flanagan}

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And Grace Appeared…

Tuesday, May 15th, 2012

As a lot of grief swept through me the days and weeks leading up to Mother’s Day, I reached out to some friends and spiritual teachers for guidance. One long-time teacher left me a message saying, “Go easy. Be gentle with yourself. Be your best companion to yourself on Sunday because you deserve it.” I am still learning how to be my best companion, especially when grief consumes my heart.

I wrote the words, “Be your best companion” in my small journal as I headed into the city. I wasn’t sure how I could practice this and asked to receive a reminder of my own gentle companionship. As I walked down the street, I happened to look up and saw a building with big letters that read: GRACE.

And grace appeared … a clear reminder.

How could I be my own best companion? It was clear – with Grace.
And so it is.

Mary Anne

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June OM Meditation

Tuesday, June 29th, 2010

Bathe in the sun and bring the light of the longest day of the year into your heart. Know that the light is always available, always there, and always ready to be shared with those around you. Spend time with some contemplative thoughts and questions and feel free to pass them on to others.

As an invitation, feel free to close your eyes, sit with your spine straight and take a few soft breaths. Then inhale a little deeper through your nose, and on the exhale, repeat the mantra OM (AUM).  Do this three times. Allow yourself to really feel everything and become the observer of your thoughts. Feel free to focus on one question or statement below and just allow your experience to unfold.

What do you believe about happiness? What brings you joy?

Rest in the place of a loving and generous heart within.

Peace resides within, always, always…awaiting expression.

Compassion is our capacity to love – without the story attached to it. It’s the acts of doing and the heart of being. It’s being our own best friend & having the capacity to befriend others.

The invitation is to practice compassion with yourself. Notice ways you show yourself loving-kindness. Ask how does loving-kindness and compassion show up in my life and HOW do I respond when it does?

Each person will have their own experience so the invitation is to be open for whatever thoughts flow through you. Allow your mind and body to expand into the experience (without judgment).  Feel free to start with whatever mantra calls to you.

May you bathe in the light of you!

Make at least 10 people smile today.
Mary Anne

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How Do You Show Yourself Compassion?

Tuesday, June 15th, 2010

While giving my forgiveness telecourse, I read a quote by Pema Chodron:

“It all starts with loving-kindness for oneself, which in turn becomes loving-kindness for others. As the barriers come down around our own hearts, we are less afraid of other people. We are more able to hear what is being said, see what is front of our eyes, and work in accord with what happens rather than struggle against it.”

The forgiveness course is about making space for more love, peace and forgiveness in our hearts and in our lives. Each week has a specific focus and last week our focus was compassion. I shared with students my definition of compassion:

Compassion is our capacity to love – without the story attached to it. It’s the acts of doing and the heart of being. It’s being our own best friend & having the capacity to befriend others.

I ask students in the course to share how they show themselves loving-kindness and compassion. We take time to reflect and write down a few ways we are compassionate with ourselves. In every course, many students struggle to name ways of how they treat themselves with loving-kindness and compassion. It reminds me of how hard we are on ourselves and that giving comes from our capacity to give to ourselves too. Compassion is our ability to find relief and lead with our hearts.

The invitation is to practice compassion with yourself. Notice ways you show yourself loving-kindness. Ask how does loving-kindness and compassion show up in my life and HOW do I respond when it does?

As the Dalai Lama says, “If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion.”

Mary Anne

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Ella Mae Johnson: A Legacy of Compassion

Wednesday, March 24th, 2010

In honor of Women’s History Month, here is an amazing story of Ella Mae Johnson. Her memoir will be published next month, It Is Well With My Soul: The Extraordinary Life of a 106-Year Old Woman. As her co-writer, Patricia Mulcahy said, “Ella Mae’s real lesson is that compassion is what will get you through life.”

Ella Mae passed away on Monday, 3/22, at home surrounded by friends. She left us a legacy of life.

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One Humanity – An Uprising of Love with Haiti

Sunday, January 17th, 2010

One HumanityAs the pictures of Haiti come flooding in, I close my eyes and say a prayer. After five minutes, I start crying, and saying, “Oh my God, that’s terrible.” After ten minutes, I turn off the television or radio, but not the feelings from seeing the images. A 7.0 earthquake shakes the earth, tremors felt over and over, and huge concrete structures collapse all over Haiti. There is a range of emotions from shock to sadness, to worry to fear of not finding loved ones, to compassion and the urge to do something.

News reports come in about the collapsing of the UN mission headquarters, people wanting to up rise as they wait for food and water to arrive, and the fires that spread. Then new reports start coming in how people in Haiti spontaneously start walking and singing hymns in the streets. We watch as people from all over the world come together to provide relief in various forms. We can help by donating to organizations such as, the American Red Cross, Doctors Without Borders, and a new fundraising effort spearheaded yesterday by former Presidents, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, Clinton Bush Haiti Fund. Many credit card companies are even waiving fees on denotations. In our greatest tragedy comes our greatest humanity.

In our heightened state of grief, we can give generously. We give to our friends in Haiti because in them we see ourselves. We are our Haitian brothers and sisters. Let’s all come on up for the rising of relief.

In the words of Bruce Springsteen’s song, The Rising:

“Sky of blackness and sorrow (a dream of life)
Sky of love, sky of tears (a dream of life)
Sky of glory and sadness (a dream of life)
Sky of mercy, sky of fear (a dream of life)
Sky of memory and shadow (a dream of life)
Your burn’ wind fills my arms tonight
Sky of longing and emptiness (a dream of life)
Sky of fullness, sky of blessed life (a dream of life)

Come on up for the rising
Come on up, lay your hands in mine

Come on up for the rising
Come on up for the rising tonight.”

Let’s all rise up and bring compassionate action to the men, women, and children in Haiti.

Mary Anne

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My Hug with Amma

Monday, July 13th, 2009

Amma - Hugging Saint

Amma - Hugging Saint

“The first step in spiritual life is to have compassion. A person who is kind and loving never needs to go searching for God. God rushes toward any heart that beats with compassion-it is God’s favorite place.”

Amma (Mata Amritanandamayi Devi)

I joined hundreds, if not thousands, of New Yorker’s last week when I went to the Manhattan Center to receive darshan with Amma. Amma is affectionately known as ‘mother’, ‘hugging mother’, and ‘hugging saint’. She has devoted most of her life to humanitarian causes around the world, especially in her home country of India. Amma says her sole mission is “to love and serve one and all.” Her only wish is “that her hands should always be on someone’s shoulder, consoling and caressing them and wiping their tears, even while breathing her last.” Amma’s purpose is to embrace the world – otherwise known as an Amma hug. She holds you tightly in her arms, like a mother holding a new born baby. She whispers in the ear of each person she hugs, and can often be heard saying, “my dear, dear child.”

There are no words to possibly express the experience with Amma – each person has their own spiritual awakening. While in her presence, I found myself more open to the divinity within. After receiving my blessing, my hug, my embrace, and love, I walked away wanting to just sit in stillness and silence. I found that I wanted to be reminded of love, compassion, and service. I wanted to rest in the place of noticing how love shows up in my life. I wanted to hear the sound of my heartbeat and my breath. I wanted to look at each person that caught my eye and just smile.

I watched as each person slowly walked away from Amma’s embrace – many smiling, others with tears rolling down their cheeks, and others placing their hands on their hearts. As I watched streams of people, everything suddenly slowed down, and I realized that I was also smiling and crying simultaneously. I closed my eyes and prayed for the willingness to give myself the same compassion Amma so lovingly shared with me.

In one simple and profound act, Amma is able to touch the hearts and minds of millions of people. But with Amma it is more than being held – it is being seen and loved for being a gift to the world. It is an act of selfless service by BEING with people where they are at. As I continue to feel the love vibrate within, I am reminded of all the things I do each day for work, for school, for getting through each day and it is not the actions that are the service, but the love I give to them. If I can show up each day with love and compassion with myself and all those I meet, I can be of more service to the world.

In what ways do we embrace the world, or even embrace one another? As Amma says, “Love is the foundation of a happy life. Knowingly or unknowingly we are forgetting this truth.” Amma on several occasions has said that it is important not only to feel love but also to express it. “After all, love is our true nature. When we do not express love in our words and actions it is like honey hidden in a rock.”

How do you share love and compassion? How do you want to be of more service each and every day?

Dedicated to Amma, to my friend Padmini, to Lorene, to my beloved mom, and to all those who generously share their smile and hugs with me.

I AM Love, Mary Anne

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