I attended the week long Boundless Compassion Retreat and facilitator training the last week in June. It was held at the St. Benedict Center in Schuyler, Nebraska in the midst of the prairie surrounded by pine trees, apple orchards, fields, and a pond. I have never heard birds chirping and singing as much as I did there. It is a visually stunning and peaceful place.
The retreat is a program sponsored by the Servite Center of Compassion in Omaha. It was facilitated by three Servite sisters Joyce Rupp, Margaret Stratman, and Val Lewandoski. Our time during the week was filled with silence, reflection, learning, dialogue and sharing, and long walks. About 50 people gathered from across the country to deepen our understanding of compassion as a way of life, compassion for self, compassion and suffering, compassion and marginalization, compassion for creation, and compassionate presence.
Over the next few months, I will share concepts that I learned starting with what is compassion.
What is Compassion?
Compassion is a way of life – an inner posture of how to be with suffering, both our own and others, and a desire to move that awareness and attitude into action.
There are three components that comprise the movement of compassion.
- Awareness of suffering of others and how it must be for others.
- Attitude – seeing ourselves in connection with others and showing empathy.
- Action – a movement of mind, heart or one’s will by either being present with others suffering or by direct engagement to alleviate the suffering.
One of the ongoing strengths of compassion rests on the foundation of our unity with this world of which we are a part. As Ilia Delio says, “Compassion is a thread that binds together the deepest centers of life beyond the borders of race, gender, religion, tribe or creature.” To be deeply aware of this interconnectedness and choose to act in a positive way in response to suffering is not for the faint of heart.
Here are several questions for your own reflection on compassion.
- Of the three components of compassion – awareness, attitude, action – which do you find most difficulty to live?
- What makes this challenging for you?
- How might you approach this so that it becomes less difficult?
(Some of the content adapted from Boundless Compassion – Creating a Way of Life by Joyce Rupp, 2018, with permission from Joyce Rupp, author)