I turn within, slowly settling down into the center of Being, to be with the Source of all compassion, wisdom, and hope. So that is how I start my morning. Then I head back out to serve the world. Sourcing and serving always go together, at least to me.
Spoiler alert: If you are looking for escape from the stressful and chaotic world, do not look to practices like centering prayer, all forms of meditation, or any other spiritual practice. Because finding respite in the Inner Sanctuary is always brief, and then we are back at it. Warriors of Compassion go within-then-without, hoping to bring what we find on the inside to those with whom we serve around us.
Example: This morning I was leading a brief guided meditation at Project Lazarus in which we shared examples of people and places that need our compassion. The needs shared were diverse and unique, local and distant, practical and real. Then we closed our eyes and practiced envisioning ourselves lifting the blanket of difficulty off of the ones we care for as we breathed in, and sending them compassion, healing, and Light as we breathed out. We became Warriors of Compassion as a community in that moment.
This was extra meaningful and beautiful to me because the residents at Project Lazarus are experiencing HIV/AIDS, homelessness before they arrived, and often addictions. All races are there. The staff and residents share the morning meeting as one community, trying to find wise ways to create healthy relationships. It is often messy. People get angry at times, voice complaints at each other and staff members, and are not always receptive to the rules of the place.
Given where the residents came from, the ugly streets of New Orleans, it is a total miracle to see the staff respond with grace, openness, and willingness to hear all voices. Residents are not treated like “second-class citizens.” They are genuinely listened to and valued.
The other miracle is to see the residents’ willingness to focus on other’s needs for compassion. They have every reason to stay lost in their own survival and safety needs, and could easily block out the needs of anyone but themselves. And yet, they proved once again this morning, as they do every week, that they are also willing to share a few moments of compassion cultivation and to try meditation moments as a community. They might be weary, irritable, distrustful of strangers, sick, and yet, the residents seem willing to try a little meditative love to start their day together.
They too can walk the path of Sourcing, then serving, as they share their concerns for others and then willingly send out compassion. They need the calm of slowly breathing in and out just like I do.
I hope to share this practice with some other street friends tomorrow as we gather at The Open Table for a moment of prayer, then passing out Salvation Army vouchers, a hot meal, toiletries, clothes, and friendship. I also hope to share the Sourcing and serving at the Angola State Prison Thursday.
So I say again, when I need calm I turn within, slowly settling down into the center of Being, to be with the Source of all compassion, wisdom, and hope. Then I head back out to serve the world. Sourcing and serving always go together, at least to me. And you already know our world could sure use some contemplative service right about now.