Deeper Journey into Compassion

This last week I received multiple signs, pointing me down a particular path. The word that kept popping up, in books, on social media, in conversations and on memes was Compassion.

When repetitive signs appear, creating a synchronicity string, I pay attention. It was apparent that I was being guided to take a deeper look at what practicing compassion meant.

Deeper Journey into Compassion

The word compassion originates from the Latin word compat, which literally means “suffer with”. Compassion, then, is the ability to share in another’s suffering. I looked up the origins of the word suffer as well. It too comes from Latin. The words sub ferre translates to “from below” “to bear”. Those words create an image in my mind, of coming alongside someone, wrapping an arm around them, and giving them a shoulder “from below” to offer support. This gives a deeper meaning to compassion. It becomes the act of supporting or carrying one who is suffering.

I was thinking about the word, feeling my way more deeply into compassion, when I received another gentle nudge. I suddenly remembered that Anthony William, the man who has guided so many, including myself, into health and wellness, recently spoke about the very subject I was reflecting on. I had intended to listen to the recording before now. I was being reminded to do so. This…this is where the synchronicities were leading me to.

Deeper Journey into Compassion

I made time late this afternoon, to listen to “Healing Power of Compassion”. I’m so grateful that I did. I had no preconceived ideas about what Anthony would say. I trust him completely so I simply opened my heart, popped in earbuds and settled back to receive. I laughed because near the beginning of his talk, Anthony asked “Do you have a cup of herbal tea?” He might have been talking directly to me, from a chair in my living room. Yes! Yes I had my cup of hot lemon balm tea.

For the next hour, I listened to Anthony’s conversational style of speaking as he shared from his heart and from Spirit. I scribbled four pages of notes as he spoke, smiling, laughing aloud a couple of times, tearing up more than once.

Deeper Journey into Compassion

Here are some of the highlights from Healing Power of Compassion, by Anthony William:

• We all can access compassion, which is an understanding of suffering. It’s the soul of peace and joy. And it is vital for healing.

• Have compassion for yourself. God is Love…unconditional Love. Humans put conditions on love, even on self-love. When we feel compassion + love, we come the closest to creating unconditional love.

• Compassion is different from empathy, which can wax and wane, and from sympathy, which often has strings attached to it. Compassion is different from confidence. When we experience failure, we lose confidence. It can be destroyed in an instant.

And this is where the journey deepened for me…

• We cannot experience peace, or offer peace, without compassion. And we start with self-compassion.

• We lose peace and confidence when we become chronically ill. Self-love is an appreciation for and an acceptance of who we are. We can lose self-love if we cease to appreciate who we are or what’s going on in life. Self-compassion is practicing unconditional love for ourselves, no matter what is going on in our lives.

• Without compassion for ourselves, self-love can quickly change to self-loathing or self-hate, especially when our bodies appear to be betraying us by getting sick or failing in some way. Being told the body is attacking itself can create hatred for the body. This is soul damaging.

• Deeply root ourselves in self-compassion. Visualize compassion as a warm blanket, a cup of hot tea, or a bright light, reach out and take it, and pull it back to the heart and soul. Hold on to it. Practice it.

Deeper Journey into Compassion

I understand what Anthony is talking about. In the same way that we can’t really love others, until we learn to love ourselves, we can’t offer compassion, and therefore hope, until we can live in compassion toward ourselves.

And, I understand the feeling that my body is betraying me by becoming ill and functioning poorly. That can indeed lead to self-loathing. I struggled with this as my left leg deteriorated. While in Scotland in 2014, I first began to express compassion to my body, and especially to my left leg. I expressed gratitude and recognized that my body was doing the best it could. I unknowingly set the stage for the healing that would take place two years later, by shifting into self-compassion. My journey into compassion continues.

I could share much more. Instead, it’s my earnest desire to encourage everyone to listen to this important, heart-felt message. Download the SoundCloud app. Subscribe to Medical Medium on it. Search for Healing Power of Compassion. It’s all free.

It’s that important! I know. I was guided to it for a reason…for my benefit…and for yours.

Deeper Journey into Compassion

Keeping a Promise

Have you ever dreamed of a loved one who has died? I did recently. In what seemed more like a visitation than a dream, Ray, who was my brother-in-law in life, appeared. Even though he passed away in 2002, I didn’t seem surprised to see him. However, I did feel guilty. 

Keeping a Promise
Only the day before, while working in my studio, I had seen a watercolor painting of Ray’s, laying in a basket. After Greg’s father passed away, we sorted through a house full of furniture and knick knacks and treasures. Ray, who was Greg’s older brother, gifted his mother with a small painting of swans on a lake. According to the note on the back of the framed artwork, Ray created the painting in 1983. The gift hung on the dining room wall until I packed it away and brought it home last year. 

That little watercolor has been in a basket in my office for more than a year. Every time I caught sight of it, I would think I need to display that. And yet there it remained. 

When I dreamed of Ray, the first thing I said to him was I’m sorry. I apologized for not doing something yet with his work of art. I didn’t want him to think that I was unappreciative of him or his painting. 

Keeping a Promise            Baby Ray

Keeping a Promise         Ray and his dog Robbie

Additionally, I felt like my apology could have been for not understanding Ray better while he lived. Although he was my brother-in-law and we got along fine, I never knew him as well as I could have. What I did know was that Ray was creative and artistic and like all of us, trying to figure out how to fully be who he was and live out of his heart. 

And like all of us, Ray didn’t always know how to do that. He moved to a big city, hoping for greater opportunities there to create the life he dreamed of. He worked in jobs that didn’t utilize his gifts and longed for something more. He hid his disappointments behind a sharp wit and oft times, sharp words that effectively kept people at a distance. My heart breaks now as I recognize he sought understanding and compassion and acceptance. 


As he entered his middle years, Ray expressed himself through his art. He dabbled in watercolors and acrylics, creating beautiful paintings. He took an early retirement so that he could focus on his artistic talent, turning to a new passion, pottery. Sadly, a few years later he died, his life cut short by cancer. 

I have regrets about Ray. I wish I could have spent more time with him and known his heart better. I would have enjoyed talking with him about art and the creative life, and welcomed his advice. I would have listened more. Expressed appreciation. Offered from my own heart. 

All those emotions were packed into the words I uttered in my dream, as Ray sat with me…I’m sorry. But you know what? He wasn’t upset with me…for leaving his painting laying in a basket or for any shortcomings on my part during his life. He smiled. He laughed. We talked about creativity and art and living as our authentic selves. It was an inspiring and joy filled conversation, that ended with me promising to retrieve his swan painting and display it. 

Keeping a Promise
I marveled at the dream when I awoke. I believe that often, when we dream of loved ones who have died, their spirits are visiting us. That seems especially true when the encounter is a one on one conversation. I thought about Ray throughout that day…and then promptly forgot the dream and the promise. Until tonight. 

Rummaging in my studio for supplies for a creative project I was about to do, I once again spied Ray’s painting, laying in the basket. I hesitated, staring at the swans. I promised. I wavered between doing something with the artwork…and continuing with my planned project. As I stood looking into the basket, my eyes filled with tears. Ah. There was the nudge, the tap on the shoulder from the Divine. 

It was time to honor my promise. It was time to show Ray that I appreciated him and his art. 

In a few moments I had found the perfect space for Ray’s swans. The painting rests on an easel, on the table near my front door. I will look at it often and think of Ray. 

Keeping a Promise
As I prepared to write my blog post, I suddenly remembered that I had another painting of Ray’s. He gave each of his family members a cup or mug, hand painted with birds or flowers, as Christmas gifts in 1995. I searched through a cupboard until I found the five that he gave to me and my family. My mug has a cardinal on one side and a kingfisher on the other. 

I have never used my mug, fearing I would break it. But the problem with keeping an item safely packed away is that it is forgotten. I don’t want to forget any longer. I washed the mug and brewed a cup of nettle tea in it, to sip on as I wrote. 

Cheers, Ray. Thank you for visiting me in my dream. Thank you for expressing your creativity so beautifully while you journeyed here and for living your life as best you could. I want you to know that I understand now. And I won’t forget. 

Keeping a Promise

An Angel Named Jason

While I was in Italy, my blog posts focused on each day’s adventures and photos that captured the beautiful landscapes and treasures around us. Honestly, by the end of the long, fun packed days, I barely had the energy to write anything more than that! 

Home now, I want to share some of the stories of Italy, providing depth to the experiences we had. Although this first tale didn’t actually take place in Italy, the events that unfolded enabled us to get to our destination in a timely, and miraculous, way. 

Let me tell you about Jason. 

An Angel Named Jason
Enroute to the Charlotte, NC airport, on our first travel day, the pilot suddenly announced that we were being diverted to Chattanooga, TN. Severe weather in the Charlotte area posed a threat to incoming aircraft. Airports in Knoxville and Chattanooga filled with airplanes, and deplaned passengers, as we all waited for clearance to proceed. 

Most of us on board these planes had connecting flights in Charlotte. In our case, my daughter Elissa, grandson Dayan and I needed to catch our international flight to Rome, Italy. As time ticked by while we were grounded in Chattanooga, it became doubtful that we were going to make our connection. 

We didn’t. The plane to Rome took off two hours before we made it to Charlotte. 

We weren’t the only passengers stranded in Charlotte. As more and more planes arrived late, the airport filled with displaced travelers, intent on finding another flight to get them to their destinations. Imagine that scene. Hundreds, perhaps thousands, of people scrambling for seats on the few planes that remained at the airport. And imagine the moods of those desperate passengers. There was crying. There was anger. There was frustration. 

We were concerned as well. We had a tour that started the next evening with a welcome dinner.  

And we made a conscious decision. The weather couldn’t be helped. It wasn’t anyone’s fault that connecting flights were missed. We were determined to treat the American Airlines employees with patience and kindness. 

We also took the action steps that we could. Dayan got on the phone with our Missouri travel agent, seeking advice. Ken attempted to book a new flight for us. There was an airplane leaving for London shortly. However, although he could see that there were seats available, he was not allowed to reserve them for us. We were required to speak to an American Airlines employee and arrange that ourselves. The problem with that was everyone was being told that flight was sold out. 

As we moved slowly toward the help counter, a 45 minute process, chaos roiled around us. The three women in line ahead of us were trying to get to Rome as well. Dayan’s dad and stepmom offered helpful suggestions via phone. And Ken called back with this advice: Ask in a kind and authoritative way for seats that were still showing as available on the London flight, even if we were told it was sold out. 

An Angel Named Jason
The series of events that happened next was miraculous to us. 

As we moved closer to the help counter, the situation sounded grim. There were simply no flights available until the next day. It seemed probable that we would not arrive in Rome until Friday, missing the beginning of our tour. The ladies in front of us didn’t seem to be finding seats as they spoke to a representive. We stepped up to speak to the next available rep. Dayan spoke confidently and kindly, explaining our situation. And then he asked for the seats on the London plane. The woman looked at her computer screen, and told us she didn’t want to waste any time. “Go quickly,” she said, “get to the departing plane’s gate and see if they can help you.” 

We had not heard those words spoken to anyone else. With a spark of hope, we trotted through the packed airport, dodging people, pulling our carry on luggage behind us. 

At the gate we were given conflicting information. No seats available. Get in another line. The plane had already been boarded and was preparing for take off. I got in the other line indicated while Elissa and Dayan stayed at the gate, talking to the women behind the counter there. When I turned around to check their progress, I saw Dayan talking to a young dark haired man. My grandson waved me over. 

The man’s name was Jason. He was an American Airlines employee and he took it upon himself to get us on that plane. I don’t know where he came from or why he decided to help us, but we were so grateful for his assistance, even if it didn’t work out. 

Jason moved to an empty counter and using the computer there, got to work. And he was determined. Others said there were no seats available. The computer kept freezing or getting bogged down in a loop. Jason kept working. He called out repeatedly to the two women, “These passengers are supposed to be on that plane. Hold the plane.” 

The time for departure came and went. The airplane remained at the gate. Jason kept working. The women came to believe we were supposed to be on the London plane. One woman even took responsibility for accidently deleting us from the system, sure that we were on the original passenger list. A rep kept checking on our status. The plane needed to leave. 

Jason kept working. He assured us we belonged on the flight. As he worked he shared with us that he was of Italian ancestry. Ah, the reason perhaps, that he was helping us so diligently. He said he still had family in a little town in northern Italy that we had probably never heard of. Lucca, it was called. “Lucca!” we answered, “Yes! We are visiting Lucca. We know of it.” And it turned out, Jason had been on vacation. This evening, this night of chaos, was his first shift back at work. He didn’t know it when he reported to work.  We didn’t know it when we hurried to the gate.  But he was there for us. 

One by one, Jason got us entered into a system that didn’t want to accept us. They were victories worth cheering over as each boarding pass was printed out, and gratitudes were expressed each time the captain was told there were passengers still coming on board. 

Jason did it. He got us on the plane to London. He gave Elissa the name of his great aunt, who owns a hotel in Lucca. We gave him our deepest thanks. As we took our seats on the airplane, among passengers who were, amazingly, not upset by the delay, I marveled over what had just happened. I can’t explain how it happened. I only know that we kept our hearts open and our attitudes pleasant and we asked. We asked and we received. And we flew to London overnight, and from there to Rome. Jason made that connecting flight happen as well. 

An Angel Named Jason
We thought of Jason often during the Italy tour. We talked about him as we wandered through the magical village of Lucca. Could that older woman unlocking her door be his aunt? Did his family live down this lane? We loved that beautiful, medieval town. We loved the connection between it and the angel who came to our rescue in a crowded airport full of upset travelers. 

We are grateful to the Divine, who met us where we were in the journey, and heard our request for help. We are grateful for our travel angel, who appeared with the intention of getting us on the plane. He created a pocket of calm and assurance around us, and brought together a team of people who worked on our behalf. 

Grazie, Jason. Grazie mille. A thousand thank yous. 

An Angel Named Jason  The bell tower of Lucca 

You Don’t Know My Story

I wasn’t sure what I was going to write about tonight. Oh, a topic popped up repeatedly throughout the day, however I didn’t feel ready to unpack my thoughts about it. Coming home late, after a full day, I wanted to take the easy path this evening, posting a couple of pictures with few words. 

As I contemplated creating that brief post…and titling it Every Picture Tells a Story…I realize the very word I was shying away from was there. 

Story. 

That word has been coming into my awareness frequently. It caught my attention and snagged my heart earlier today when I saw this quote: 

“You know my name. Not my story.” 

As I sat undecided tonight, wavering between writing the post I knew I was supposed to write…and taking the easy out…a character on a TV show that I wasn’t even paying attention to said: “Story…” The invitation couldn’t be any clearer. 

You Don't Know My Story
Consider this post an introduction to what may turn into a series of essays about story throughout the year. 

What if…instead of creating stories about the people we know, the people we don’t yet know, the person we’ve just met, the stranger standing in line next to us at the supermarket, we stayed open and curious and allowed them to tell us their stories?

What if…we refused to accept as truth the stories that we make up about people, and stopped judging them based on our own inaccurate characterizations?

What if…we asked to hear their stories and we listened without our own opinions clouding our perceptions? 

You know my name. You don’t know my story. 

You see my skin color, my gender, my age, my size. You don’t know my story. 

You see the clothes I wear, the house I live in, the car I drive. You don’t know my story. 

You see my actions, my frustrations, my struggles, my triumphs, my successes. You don’t know my story. 

You experience my rage, fear, shyness, anxiety, silence, crudeness, sorrow, emotion, lack of emotion. You don’t know my story. 

You hear my accent, my child crying, my nervous laughter. You don’t know my story. 

I have a strong desire to go beyond the reactions I may have to people, and learn who they are, through their stories. I want to listen with my heart, get beneath the surface clatter, see with empathy, offer understanding. 

And if their stories can’t be shared yet, for whatever reason, I desire to feel compassion.  I choose to live with an I-don’t-know-their-stories awareness, rather than create stories about who they are based on my own thoughts about them. I want to get comfortable with “I don’t know”, and accept that I don’t. 

I’m not sure where this journey is going. I don’t need to know. I only know that I am being drawn, guided, inspired. I’m being invited to love unconditionally and experience deeper compassion. 

This is part of my story, and it is still unfolding. In sharing my story, you may feel inspired to tell your story as well. Go ahead. I am listening. 

You Don't Know My Story

Inspiration Disguised as Synchronicity

I love when something unusual happens. It gets my attention, causing my intuitive antenna to go on alert as I hone in on the message for me. When I opened my iPhone to Google this morning, the day’s quirky holidays were listed. I have yet to celebrate one of these unique days this year. But today’s list caught my interest. 

Inspiration Disguised as Synchronicity

Three of the holidays jumped out at me: Artist as Outlaw Day, Tenderness Toward Existence Day, and Women’s Healthy Weight Day. Robust art, tender life, and health are the focus of my journey this year. What are the odds that these three have special days, all on the same date? 

I didn’t calculate the odds. However, I accepted the invitation inspiration offered, to spend time thinking on the holidays and how my life intersects with each one. Please read about Weighing in on Ideal Weight on my other blog. 

Inspiration Disguised as Synchronicity
I couldn’t discover any information about this holiday. It seemed a strange pairing, artist and outlaw, until I looked at an alternative meaning for the word outlaw. 

Rather than seeing an outlaw as a criminal on the run, a law breaker, I considered the term outcast instead. The word originates from the Old Norse utlagr, meaning banished. Banished, relegated to the fringes of society, viewed as different, a little scary, living by his or her own rules. I could begin to relate!

And certainly, not all artists are viewed as pariahs, as outcasts. But their very creative souls allow them to perceive the world, and life, differently. From that tilted or expanded or deepened perspective flows astonishing music, eyebrow raising art, and powerful words that can change a life. 

I don’t know what the original intent was for this strange holiday, but I no longer care. I appreciate what rose within me today as I contemplated the artist as outlaw, as I thought about myself as living happily on the fringes. I am making art more robust by allowing creativity to occupy a larger part of my heart and life. Art is at the forefront of my awareness, growing stronger and more vigorous. 

Inspiration Disguised as Synchronicity
I couldn’t locate the origins of this unique holiday either, which is an unusual occurrence in itself. I’ve never clicked on a link for one of these celebrations, and not found some info. It happened twice today. 

Perhaps the personal message to me was to see where my thoughts led me. Existence is another word for life, for the state of living. Its origins are from the Latin ex – out, sistere – take a stand. Existence literally means out taking a stand or out, being. 

Tenderness is a feeling of sympathy, of compassion, toward someone or something. Kindness is another synonym. This holiday, then, could be interpreted to be a day of expressing kindness and compassion toward all living things, toward all who are out, being. 

I suddenly recalled this evening, another definition for tenderness. The word can mean a sensitivity to pain. 

How powerful this bizarre little holiday became for me. Tenderness toward existence, resulting in compassion and a sensitivity to the pain of others…ALL others. 

My heart is wide open. I want love, compassion and sensitivity to the pain of others to flow to all of existence, regardless of race, skin color, gender, orientation, economic circumstances, age, intelligence…beyond any perceived differences or imagined barriers. Compassion toward all life, all people, whether they are like me or very different, agree with me or disagree, love me or dislike me. All people. 

All life. 

A couple of nights ago, one of the possums I feed on the front porch, found his way to the back door, and into the utility room by way of a cat door. Fortunately, the utility room door opening into the kitchen was closed. But what a surprise, to have a possum indoors. 

Even though the back door was opened so he could exit, he chose not to. He was happy in the corner, beside the washer. I checked on him numerous times. There was a broom nearby. I could have attempted to chase him out. 

Instead, I spoke calmly to him each time I checked on him. I told him it was okay. He was safe. He could leave whenever he wanted. I would not hurt him. Whenever I spoke to him, he would raise his head and watch me, listening, blinking his eyes as if he understood. He never showed fear, nor did he bare his teeth or hiss. He also didn’t play dead! I’ve yet to see a possum, “play possum”. He was calm and alert. And so was I. We didn’t speak the same language, so different were we, but we connected in our mutual respect for each other. 

Sometime in the night, he returned to the outdoors. 

I thought about that possum a lot today. He offered me lessons in acceptance, grace and compassion, and in communicating beyond spoken words. He allowed me to exhibit tenderness. I am grateful. I am making life a little more tender by being aware of the sacredness of all life, of all of existence. 

If only I had grabbed a sketch book and created a quick possum portrait. I would have been celebrating Artist as Outlaw Day and Tenderness Toward Existence Day, a little early. 

Inspiration Disguised as Synchronicity

Helping Hands

Every Wednesday afternoon, I stop at Bamboo Chinese Food in Carl Junction, to pick up take out. My grandson, Dayan, and I have lunch together, then, at his house while chatting and watching episodes of whatever series we are currently on. 

Today was no different. However, as I was getting back into my car, after picking up the lunches, a little scene played out nearby that caught my attention. There is a food and clothing ministry located adjacent to the restaurant. Called Helping Hands Ministries, I’ve seen the sign and storefront many, many times. However, today, for the first time, I saw the door open and a young girl, about eight years old, skipped out. 

 

Her father was sitting in a car parked next to mine. The cute little girl swung open the car door, and exclaimed excitedly to her father, “Look Daddy!” She held up a small plastic bag as she climbed into the car. “I got everything I needed!”  Her dad gave her a faint smile. 

Sitting now in my car, my eyes filled with tears and my heart was pierced by the beautiful poignancy of that unexpected moment. I drove away while the father and daughter remained in the parking lot, possibly waiting for other family members to join them. 

I replayed that scene over and over. The father seemed so defeated. But the little girl was happy, excited, grateful for her small sack of clothing. Her joy was real and sincere. I felt torn. I had about $20 cash in my purse. Should I go back and give the father what I had? Should I give them the Chinese food I had picked up? I felt conflicted and had no wish to offend the dad. In the end, I drove on. 

Why did I see that happen? I asked aloud. What am I supposed to do? I had never seen anyone coming out of the food and clothing pantry. Why did I today, being present at that moment, to overhear what the girl said? I couldn’t get that sweet child out of my mind. Such a small sack. Such obvious delight. 

Later, after leaving my grandson and showing property, my thoughts returned to that scene. When I got home I looked up the ministry. Their mission statement reads: 

Carl Junction Helping Hands Ministries exists to share the Bread of Life in our community. Our goal is to help all families within the Carl Junction school district by distributing food and clothing to those in need. 

A worthy mission, that I saw being carried out this afternoon. The website said that clothing donations were appreciated and could be dropped off outside their front windows. 


Photos from Helping Hands Ministries website. 


I was still pondering my question concerning the significance of witnessing the little girl with her sack of clothing. I knew there was an importance that I was missing. Suddenly I had a hand to the forehead moment. Oh. Oh! 

As I was getting ready for the day this morning, I was thinking about the spirit of compassion. More than thinking about it, I specifically expressed a desire to learn more about compassion, and to express compassion more. 

Compassion – a feeling of deep sympathy and sorrow for another who is stricken by misfortune, accompanied by a strong desire to alleviate  the  suffering. From the Latin word compati, to suffer with. 

I was reminded of a scene from A Christmas Carol, in which Scrooge asks to be shown some expression of tenderness for the death of a man. He is whisked to a home where that emotion is played out. I asked to learn more about compassion, and I too was delivered to a scene being played out before me, that evoked strong compassion.  

Thich Nhat Hanh says simply, “Compassion is a verb.” 

I agree. My heart is full of tenderness and compassion toward that little girl and her family. And toward others who are in need. Putting action and intention with those feelings, next week, when I stop to pick up Chinese food, I will be leaving bags of children’s clothing in front of Helping Hands Ministries. And I’ll offer a cash donation, to purchase food for their pantry. 

I don’t know if that child and her dad will return to the ministry. However, she inspired me to help, for her sake and for the sakes of others in need. Because of her, I am able to immediately be compassion in action. 

I am humbled by today’s experience, and ever so grateful.