Blog Post 16: Paths Beyond Ego

Blog Post 16: Paths Beyond Ego

This is an important key to understanding compassion as a way of life.  Although our ego is involved in daily living, the Source of compassion is infinite and beyond ego.  We cannot bypass the Source and expect to live compassionately, it is beyond the ability of our finite ego to accomplish.  And even if the ego could accomplish this it would just make it more egocentric, which is not a characteristic of compassion.

In Boundless Compassion[1] and in the retreats of the same title, Joyce Rupp fills a void that some other teachers of compassion overlook or don’t acknowledge.  To realize that we are one with and created in the image of Infinite Love and Compassion, that is, it is our essential nature (aka, True Self) is the foundation and reality of living compassionately. To quote Thomas Merton, “…for it beats in our very blood whether we want it to or not.”[2] Joyce speaks from this foundation, The Source of Infinite Compassion.

At the same time she focuses on daily living a compassionate life. Is this not who we are called to be?  To follow and live as Christ in the world; in the practical, daily life.  In the tradition of Merton, Joyce provides wisdom from theistic and non-theistic resources as a basis for a compassionate life. After all, Tibetan Buddhism has studied ways to practically implement compassion in daily life for over a thousand years.

In the Introduction to Week 1 of Boundless Compassion, Joyce writes “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 attitude into action. Compassion involves an ‘inside-out’ movement. A radical change unfolds in us when compassion becomes a way of life, a transformation as far-reaching as an acorn growing into a tree,…or a caterpillar metamorphosing into a butterfly.”[3]  In this way we see that “compassion the primary agent of transformation”[4] as Jim Finley states.

In Blog 2, “What is Compassion and What is Suffering?” I described compassion as tenderness, courage, and wisdom (TCW). Joyce provides the basis for TCW and also identifies the “movement of compassion–awareness, attitude, and action—and the four essential aspects of nonjudgment, nonviolence, forgiveness ,and mindfulness”[5] in multiple aspects of daily life.  These aspects create the necessary training to habituate the transformation to a compassionate life of tenderness, courage, and wisdom.

Boundless Compassion is eminently practical since there are daily practices and prayers around each weekly theme of compassionate living. “Compassion is a photosynthesis of the heart…We cannot hurry this transformation, but we can give ourselves to it as fully as possible, knowing that it entails a continual recommitment.”[6]  My future blog posts will highlight these themes and encourage us all to live a compassionate way of life in the midst of today’s world.

 

[1] Rupp, J. (2018) Boundless Compassion: Creating a Way of Life. Notre Dame, IN.: Sorin Books. [2] Merton, T. (1961) New Seeds of Contemplation. New York: New Directions Publishing, p. 297.  [3] Rupp, p.12. [4] Finley, James said on many retreats and found in Christian Mediation (2004) San Francisco, CA and New York: HarperSanFrancisco. [5] Rupp, p. 12. [6] Rupp, p. 14.

Blog Post #14: Compassion and Self

You may remember when I started this blog months ago I mentioned that compassion is not resourced from our ego but our true self/core self, one with God.  I have worked with these concepts for many years, first exposed to it in the work of Thomas Merton[1].  Later in Merton’s Palace of Nowhere[2] Jim Finley provides more insights into this seeming dichotomy.  For years I’ve sought a language that does not include the concepts of true and false because of the pejorative connotations of “false” self.  Then we throw ego into the mix and where does that fit in the conceptual schema?

I thought I had settled into a type of at least linguistic comfort when I changed true self to core self as the self created in the image and likeness of God and one with God. Then changing false self to constructed self, defined as that part of us that learns through life experiences. Ego is part of the constructed self and is that part that interfaces with the world and can be either healthy or wounded.

I call this linguistic comfort because there was still a felt sense of not quite right that I couldn’t identify. Recently in my reading I’ve come across the term “Essential Nature.”  It’s probably always been in the spiritual materials I read but it seemed to fit better to describe the part of our being-ness created in the image and likeness of God, Divine Love.  It was using the term “self” that I was uncomfortable with probably due to years of psychological training and influence.

“Essential Nature” emphasizes to me the gift and “given-ness” of who Infinite Love created us to be. The constructed self is all the “add-ons” to our Essential Nature, both conscious and unconscious.  Our ego then as healthy, wounded or redeemed is how we present ourself and function in the world around us. Typically it is what we are conscious of in our thinking/feeling self. It is the interface between the inside us and us in relationship to the people.

Why is this important at all? Until we realize the given-ness of compassion in our Essential Nature, it is difficult to be compassionate.  In the ego, many people judge themselves or fear compassion, both for themselves and others, because of feelings of vulnerability, unworthiness, or that they will be unproductive by letting themselves “off the hook.”

Experientially this means that we focus on removing the obstacles to living with compassion or Christ-consciousness.  We also need to access and extend our awareness of oneness with our Essential Nature.  That is, we need to enhance our awareness and spend time living with compassion, that is, living from the oneness with our Essential Nature.  In my experience, enhancing our awareness will identify the obstacles so that as we become aware we can see the strategies necessary to decrease the influence of the obstacles.

How do we live from oneness with our Essential Nature of love and compassion?  There are many spiritual practices that develop and enhance awareness of this reality including mindfulness, meditation, contemplation, prayer, sacred dance, writing, and art as a few examples. Meditation is “any act habitually entered into with our whole heart as a way of awakening and sustaining a more interior, meditative awareness of the present moment.[3]” In this present moment we are in the midst of Infinite Compassion and our task is to awaken to it and live in it.

 

 

[1] Merton, T. (1972) New Seeds of Contemplation. New York: New Directions Publishing.

[2] Finley, J. (1978) Merton’s Palace of Nowhere. Notre Dame, IN.: Ave Maria Press.

[3] Finley, J. (2004) Christian Meditation: Experiencing the Presence of God. New York: Harper Collins Publishers, p.45.

What is Contemplative Compassion?

What is Contemplative Compassion?

We tend to think of compassion as an act of mercy toward another or to ‘suffer with’ another.  Most often this is ego-based and has generated many right actions and relationships.

By Contemplative Compassion I mean compassion that has God/Infinite Being as its source.  It emanates from Infinite Love and Compassion.  It is part of our Christological DNA.[1]  It is from our Core Self, one with God who is Infinite Love and Compassion (ILC) and who we are created to be.[2]  It is enacted in ‘oneness consciousness[3] and flows into our everyday activities.  This is what this weekly blog will focus on, an in-depth exploration of contemplative compassion.

If this interests you, please join me on the path.

A statement from James Finley, Ph.D.[4] many years ago captured my heart-mind.  He said, “The primary agent of transformation is compassion.” My core self knew this was true and I was at a point in my life, (the constructed-self life) when I needed to transform or die. (Little did I know at that time that transformation is death; a death to the egocentric self.) I also realized that I did not understand compassion as it was meant in Jim’s statement. And so the journey began in 1993 and I’m sure will continue as long as I am in this finite body.

Next week I’ll discuss the many different definitions of compassion. In the following weeks we’ll explore compassionate being and doing from oneness consciousness, both Christian and Buddhist. I also feel that a key for living the contemplative compassion path is to understand it from that which is commonly called our “true self” and “false self.”[5] In order to remove the pejorative language of “false” (AKA ‘bad’) self, I will explore Core (AKA True) Self and Constructed (AKA False) Self.

If these heart-mind aspects of living speak to you, please join me.

 

[1] I am indebted to Joanne P. Miller for this term.  Julian and the Buddha, Common points along the way. (2016) Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock Publishers, p. 78

[2] Genesis 1:27; Romans 8:29-35

[3] Oneness consciousness also known as unitive consciousness, Paul R. Smith (2017) Is Your God Big Enough? Close Enough? You Enough? St. Paul, Minn.: Paragon House, p. 68

[4] James Finley said this on many retreats and it is also found in Christian Mediation (2004) San Francisco, CA and New York: HarperSanFrancisco

[5] Merton, Thomas (1961) New Seeds of Contemplation. New York: New Directions and Odorisio, David  “Rediscovering the True Self through the Life and Writings of Thomas Merton” Thomas Merton Seasonal Vol. 28, No 2, pp. 13-23.