November 25 – Compassion – Mark Nepo, The Book of Awakening

“I have just three things to teach: simplicity, patience, compassion. These are your greatest treasures.¬†Compassionate toward yourself, you reconcile all beings in the world.” Lao-Tzu

At first, we might ask, how can being compassionate to yourself reconcile all beings in the world?

To understand the gift of this, we need to recall the analogy of the Spoked Wheel, in which each¬† life is a separate and unique spoke, and yet all lives, like those spokes, meet in a common hubor center. That’s why when we tend our deepest center, we care for all souls.

Another powerful way to realize our inter connectedness is to imagine the human family as a stand of aspens growing by a river. Though each tree appears to be growing independently, not attached to the others, beneath the soil, out of view, the roots of all the trees exist as one enormous root. And so, like these trees, our soul’s growth, while appearing to be independent, is intimately connected to the health of those around us. For our spirits are entwined at center, out of view.

Once realizing this, it becomes clear that we have no choice but to embrace the health of our neighbors as part of our own health. I felt this deeply in the many cancer rooms I sat in. I know these things to be true: in cutting off strangers, we cut off ourselves; in choking roots, we choke our own growth; in loving strangers, we love ourselves.

Having come this far, I believe that Lao-tzu’s third instruction tells us that if we are aware of our own suffering with the wish to relieve it, we will overcome distrust and reestablish a close relationship with all other living things. In deep and lasting ways, when we heal ourselves, we heal the world. For as the body is only as healthy as its individual cells, the world is only as healthy as its individual souls.

Across the centuries, we have this timeless medicine: Live directly, wait, and care for your soul as if it were the whole world.

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