Category Archives: Compassion-Self-Others

Compassion Towards All: Moving toward a Plant Based Diet



For most of human history it’s been “normal” to eat non-human animals. This is now changing. We are awakening to the massive suffering of the billions of animals killed each day for food, the horrors of the animal-food industry, and the impact it has on climate change (second only to fossil fuels.) In this short talk Tara shares her personal story of transitioning to a vegan diet, and invites listeners to investigate, without judgment, their own choices in this domain.

NOTE: this short talk was given at a special class on “Loving Life with a Plant-Based Diet.” Tara was joined by guest speakers, Mark Tercek (The Nature Conservatory) and Brenda Sanders (Afro-Vegan Society), and hosted by Jonathan Foust. Full video available at Tara’s Facebook page and soon at IMCW.org. Evening concluded with a wonderful vegan food-tasting donated by Yes! Organic Market.

Photo credit: Jon McRay

When the animals come to us,
asking for our help,
will we know what they are saying?
When the plants speak to us
in their delicate, beautiful language,
will we be able to answer them?
When the planet herself
sings to us in our dreams,
will we be able to wake ourselves,
and act?

Gary Lawless


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From Judgment to Self-Compassion (retreat talk)



When we’ve turned on ourselves with blame and aversion, it’s very difficult to arouse self-compassion. This talk looks at the role of nurturing in freeing our hearts, and offers practice in three key steps that enable us to embrace ourselves with a healing presence.

“There’s some wisdom in us that knows that we need to love ourselves and each other into healing…”

This talk was given at the 2018 IMCW New Year’s Retreat.


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Part 2 – The Jewel in the Lotus: Cultivating Compassion



The compassion that arises from mindful awareness can heal our inner wounds, interpersonal conflict and the suffering in our world. These two talks focus on cultivating self-compassion and compassion for others. They look at the blocks to compassion and accessible powerful practices that awaken the full wisdom and tenderness of our hearts.

“What  They Did Yesterday Afternoon”

they set my aunts house on fire
i cried the way women on tv do
folding at the middle
like a five pound note.
i called the boy who use to love me
tried to ‘okay’ my voice
i said hello
he said warsan, what’s wrong, what’s happened?

i’ve been praying,
and these are what my prayers look like;
dear god
i come from two countries
one is thirsty
the other is on fire
both need water.

later that night
i held an atlas in my lap
ran my fingers across the whole world
and whispered
where does it hurt?

it answered
everywhere
everywhere
everywhere.

poem by Warsan Shire

Photo: Jon McRay


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Part 1 – The Jewel in the Lotus: Cultivating Compassion



The compassion that arises from mindful awareness can heal our inner wounds, interpersonal conflict and the suffering in our world. These two talks focus on cultivating self-compassion and compassion for others. They look at the blocks to compassion and accessible powerful practices that awaken the full wisdom and tenderness of our hearts.

Photo: Jon McRay


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What Is It Like Being You?



Compassion is hard wired in our organism, and can be cultivated. This talk helps us identify the blocks to compassion—our outmoded survival equipment—and using RAIN, offers practical guidance in mindfully attuning to others’ emotional experience and awakening our natural tenderness and care. This talk includes a short introduction to the meditation: The RAIN of Compassion.

Empathy is the ability to feel what other people feel… compassion includes empathy, and it also has the quality of caring and concern that wants to help. Compassion means “to suffer together,” but it is really defined by a quivering of the heart that wants to help…

Compassion is our evolutionary potential. We have a capacity for affiliative care, to tune in to each other and to care about each other. And, really, this capacity is the hope of our world…


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Evolving Beyond “Unreal Othering”



What motivates us – as individuals and as a society – to build walls and knowingly hurt others? This talk explores the evolutionary roots of “unreal othering” and how when we are hijacked by fear, it can take over and disconnect us from the very real suffering of others. We then look at how meditative strategies awaken us from othering, and reveal our intrinsic belonging. Finally, we apply this to our own lives in a reflection that helps us respond to someone we have turned into “unreal other” with compassion and wisdom.

The Arabs used to say,
When a stranger appears at your door,
feed him for three days
before asking who he is,
where he’s come from,
where he’s headed.
That way, he’ll have strength
enough to answer.
Or, by then you’ll be
such good friends
you don’t care.

~ “Red Brocade,” Naomi Shihab Nye


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Short Talk & Meditation: Tonglen – Radical Compassion (32:43 min)



We are conditioned to avoid suffering – our own and others. By pulling away, we also contract our heart and disconnect from our innate capacity for compassion. This short talk and meditation is a training in touching vulnerability, and discovering the boundless heartspace that can be a transformer of sorrows.

A special instruction and guided heart meditation from the 2017 IMCW Spring 7-day Silent Retreat – previously unpublished.

View transcript and/or download in PDF: Transcript: Short talk & Meditation – Radical Compassion


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Compassion – Part 2 of Present Heart: The Universal Expressions of Love



Part 2: Compassion – the tender resonance of heart – awakens as we allow ourselves to be touched by our shared vulnerability.

This series reflects on four primary expressions of an awake, wise heart: lovingkindness, compassion, joy and equanimity. In each talk we explore the habitual patterning that blocks our full realization of these innate capacities, and the understandings and practices that nurture their unfolding.

From the talk:

When you witness vulnerability, really feel it in you – let yourself be touched – and when the tenderness comes, when the real visceral tenderness comes, feel it for 15 seconds, 20 seconds, and let yourself marinate in the feeling of tenderness.

As we begin to get more tender and to look and to respond, it’s contagious to people around us. They get touched and then they act that way more. Just the way there’s limbic contagion when people are angry or upset, there’s compassion contagion.

“Just Like You”
(Inspired by the Dalai Lama)
Walk gently on this earth with purposeful steps
You share this space with seven billion human beings
And countless other precious life forms
Just like you
They all want to be happy
Just like you
They all need love
We’re not going to survive unless we walk
Gently on this earth together,
Until we touch something in others that
Feels just like the shards of our own pain,
The fluttering warmth of our own joy,
Until we sew their wounds into our hearts
And seal it with our own skin
~ Anon

Also enjoy Guided Meditations: Meditations that Free the Heart.


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Remembering and Choosing Loving Presence (retreat talk)



We are conditioned to go into a limbic trance—an emotional reactivity to life within and around us—that keeps us identified with a limited, separate sense of self. This talk helps us to identify the flags of trance, and to bring a healing attention that frees us to live our moments with creativity, wisdom and love. Includes the RAIN of Self-Compassion. (from the 2017 IMCW New Year’s Retreat)


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Meditation: Awakening Compassion with Tonglen (11:35 min)



Our hearts awaken as we let ourselves be touched by the suffering within and around us. They shine as we respond with care to what has touched us. This meditation uses the breath to guide us in letting in and contacting suffering, and offering out our love. With practice this meditation enables us to realize the truth of our connectedness and the luminous love that is intrinsic to awareness [a favorite from the archives].


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