Monday, April 29, 2013

I can never be what I ought to be . . .

During Step #11 -- Recognize the Other -- of our study of Karen Armstrong's "Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life" we wrote this quote on the board for reflection:
  “Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.  
I can never be what I ought to be  
until you are what you ought to be.   
This is the interrelated structure of reality.” 
Some asked for the reference: “Remaining Awake Through a Great Revolution, ” Commencement Address for Oberlin College By Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.,  June 1965, Oberlin Ohio

We also added this quotation to add insight:
No matter how big a nation is, it is no stronger that its weakest people, and as long as you keep a person down, some part of you has to be down there to hold him down, so it means you cannot soar as you might otherwise. Marian Anderson

The Rabbi's Gift

We also told this story during our study of Step #11 -- Recognize the Other -- of Karen Armstrong's book, "Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life":
The Rabbi's Gift

 Once a great order, a decaying monastery had only five monks left. The order was dying. In the surrounding deep woods, there was a little hut that a Rabbi from a nearby town used from time to time. The monks always knew the Rabbi was home when they saw the smoke from his fire rise above the tree tops. As the Abbot agonized over the imminent death of his order, it occurred to him to ask the Rabbi if he could offer any advice that might save the monastery.

The Rabbi welcomed the Abbot at his hut. When the Abbot explained the reason for his visit, the Rabbi could only commiserate with him. “I know how it is,” he exclaimed. “The spirit has gone out of the people. It is the same in my town. Almost no one comes to the synagogue anymore.” So the Abbot and the Rabbi sat together discussing the Bible and their faiths. The time came when the Abbot had to leave. “It has been a wonderful visit,” said the Abbot, “but I have failed in my purpose. Is there nothing you can tell me to help save my dying order?” “The only thing I can tell you,” said the Rabbi, “is that the Messiah is among you.”
When the Abbot returned to the monastery, his fellow monks gathered around him and asked, “What did the Rabbi say?” “He couldn’t help,” the Abbot answered. “The only thing he did say, as I was leaving was that the Messiah is among us. Though I do not know what these words mean.”
In the months that followed, the monks pondered this and wondered whether there was any possible significance to the Rabbi’s words: The Messiah is among us? Could he possibly have meant that the Messiah is one of us monks here at the monastery? If that’s the case, which one of us is the Messiah? Do you suppose he meant the Abbot? Yes, if he meant anyone, he probably meant Father Abbot. Certainly he could not have meant Brother Elred! Elred gets crotchety at times. But come to think of it, even so, Elred is virtually always right. Maybe the rabbi did mean Brother Elred. Of course the Rabbi didn’t mean me. He couldn’t possibly have meant me. I’m just an ordinary person. Yet supposing he did? Suppose I am the Messiah?
As they contemplated in this manner, the monks began to treat each other with extraordinary respect on the off chance that one among them might be the Messiah and in turn, each monk began to treat himself with extraordinary respect.
It so happened that people still occasionally came to visit the beautiful forest and monastery. Without even being conscious of it, visitors began to sense a powerful spiritual aura. They were sensing the extraordinary respect that now filled the monastery. Hardly knowing why, people began to come to the monastery frequently to picnic, to play, and to pray. They began to bring their friends, and their friends brought their friends. Then it happened that some of the younger men who came to visit the monastery started to talk more and more with the older monks. After a while, one asked if he could join them. Then, another and another asked if they too could join the abbot and older monks. Within a few years, the monastery once again became a thriving order, a vibrant center of light and spirituality in the realm.

Crossing the River

We told this story at the conclusion of Step #11 -- Recognize the Other -- in our study of Karen Armstrong's book, "Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life":

Crossing the River

Two monks were on a pilgrimage. One day, they came to a deep river. At the edge of the river, a young woman sat weeping, because she was afraid to cross the river without help. She begged the two monks to help her. The younger monk turned his back. The members of their order were forbidden to touch a woman.

But the older monk picked up the woman without a word and carried her across the river. He put her down on the far side and continued his journey. The younger monk came after him, scolding him and berating him for breaking his vows. He went on this way for a long time.

Finally, at the end of the day the older monk turned to the younger one. “I only carried her across the river. You have been carrying her all day.”

Monday, April 22, 2013


We are nearing the end of our 12-week study of Karen Armstrong's book, "Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life." This coming Thursday we contemplate Step #11: the recognition that there is no "us" and no "them." I am reminded of this poem:

By Adrienne Rich

What has happened here will do
To bite the living world in two,
Half for me and half for you.
Here at last I fix a line
Severing the world’s design
Too small to hold both yours and mine.
There’s enormity in a hair
Enough to lead men not to share
Narrow confines of a sphere
But put an ocean or a fence
Between two opposite intents.
A hair would span the difference.

Entertaining angels: Step #11

Marc Chagall

Hebrews 13:1-2

King James Version (KJV)
13 Let brotherly love continue.
Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.

Happy Earth Day!

All of us have a God in us, 
and that God is the spirit that unites all life, 
everything that is on this planet. 
It must be this voice that is telling me to do something, 
and I am sure it's the same voice that is speaking to everybody on this planet - 
at least everybody who seems to be concerned about the fate of the world, 
the fate of this planet. 

- Wangari Maathai 
 Noble Peace prize winner, 
Deputy Minister of Environment, 
founder Green Belt movement in Kenya. 

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Compassion Beads Video

Compassion -- Dignity -- Equanimity -- Forgiveness -- Gratitude

Humility -- Integrity -- Justice -- Kindness --  Love

We now have a video explaining how to make and use Compassion Beads

We've been asked whether we would be upset if people made their own beads rather than buying them from us -- of course not! However, if you are making them to give away we do ask that you credit  Dr. Doty for coming up with the mnemonic/mantra. 

The beads can be bought in our etsy store. Jen, our bead-stringer extraordinaire, can assemble kits if you want a bunch of them for a group handicrafts project. The e-mail contact is on the store's page to get a price quote for kits. 

Friday, April 19, 2013


In our Thursday study of Karen Armstrong's"Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life" we discussed ways in which we react to injustice. One way is violence -- "fight." Another way is passivity -- "flight." The third way, of course is with nonvilent conflict engagement.

We struggled to define what was meant by passivity. Sometimes doing nothing is an appropriate nonviolent response: refusing to engage in a fruitless argument, for example. Here are some quotations that may help us understand better.

"Washing one's hands of the conflict between the powerful and the powerless means to side with the powerful, not to be neutral." Paulo Freire

"If an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse and you say that you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality."  Archbishop Desmond Tutu

"I swore never to be silent whenever and wherever human beings endure suffering and humiliation. We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented."  Elie Wiesel

"There may be times when we are powerless to prevent injustice, but there must never be a time when we fail to protest."  Elie Wiesel 

“Science may have found a cure for most evils; but it has found no remedy for the worst of them all -- the apathy of human beings.”  Helen Keller

“Christians have no business thinking that the good life consists mainly in not doing bad things. We have no business thinking that to do evil in this world you have to be a Bengal tiger, when, in fact, it is enough to be a tame tabby—a nice person but not a good one. In short, Pentecost makes it clear that nothing is so fatal to Christianity as indifference. ”   William Sloane Coffin Jr., Living The Truth In A World Of Illusions

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

If you truly loved yourself . . .

"The good outnumber you, and we always will"

This is from comedian Patton Oswalt, whose Facebook posting about the the Boston Marathon tragedy appears to have struck a nerve in the social media: 
I remember, when 9/11 went down, my reaction was, “Well, I’ve had it with humanity.”
But I was wrong. I don’t know what’s going to be revealed to be behind all of this mayhem. One human insect or a poisonous mass of broken sociopaths. 
But here’s what I DO know. If it’s one person or a HUNDRED people, that number is not even a fraction of a fraction of a fraction of a percent of the population on this planet. You watch the videos of the carnage and there are people running TOWARDS the destruction to help out. . . .  This is a giant planet and we’re lucky to live on it but there are prices and penalties incurred for the daily miracle of existence. One of them is, every once in awhile, the wiring of a tiny sliver of the species gets snarled and they’re pointed towards darkness. 
But the vast majority stands against that darkness and, like white blood cells attacking a virus, they dilute and weaken and eventually wash away the evil doers and, more importantly, the damage they wreak. This is beyond religion or creed or nation. We would not be here if humanity were inherently evil. We’d have eaten ourselves alive long ago 
So when you spot violence, or bigotry, or intolerance or fear or just garden-variety misogyny, hatred or ignorance, just look it in the eye and think, “The good outnumber you, and we always will.”

Monday, April 15, 2013

The Morals Of Business Students

Little did we realize when we started exploring compassion that we'd have to learn about neuroscience! The Mind Report is a series of fascinating videos in which cognitive scientists from Yale University converse with a wide array of thinkers, exploring the latest findings on how we think, feel and behave.

In this episode, psychologist Jonathan Haidt, author of The Righteous Mind who recently began teaching at NYU-Stern School of Business tells Tamar Gendler of Yale what he’s learned about morality and the business world:

Friday, April 12, 2013

Hear us on the RADIO talking about Compassion!

Remember when we told you than Ann Helmke and Susan Ives were going to be on the radio talking about the Charter for Compassion and our campaign to have San Antonio recognized as a compassionate city? Well, it happened and we forgot to give you the link so, if you missed it, you can listen right now. Even listen twice. It's online at Texas Public Radio. Just click here. Remember that we shared the hour with Richard Blanco, the poet who read at the inauguration? You can listen to him too. We won't mind. 

Equality vs. Justice

Thursday, April 11, 2013


At the SoL Centers two-evening event, "Compassionate Hospitality in the Asian Traditions," Dr. Lopita Nath lead us in a Namaste reflection.  Here is a video of Dr. Nath, along with the words she used:

I honor the place in you
in which the universe dwells.
I honor the place in you,
which is of love, of truth, of light and of peace.
When you are in that place in you
and I am in that place in me
We are one.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

How not to say the wrong thing

Step #8 of Karen Armstrong's "Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life" is "Check How We Speak to One Another." This op-ed from the Los Angeles Times is a brilliant formula for speaking to those who are suffering.

It works for all kinds of crises: medical, legal, financial, romantic, even existential. She calls it the Ring Theory. 
Draw a circle. This is the center ring. In it, put the name of the person at the center of the current trauma. For Katie's aneurysm, that's Katie. Now draw a larger circle around the first one. In that ring put the name of the person next closest to the trauma. In the case of Katie's aneurysm, that was Katie's husband, Pat. Repeat the process as many times as you need to. In each larger ring put the next closest people. Parents and children before more distant relatives. Intimate friends in smaller rings, less intimate friends in larger ones. When you are done you have a Kvetching Order. One of Susan's patients found it useful to tape it to her refrigerator.
Here are the rules. The person in the center ring can say anything she wants to anyone, anywhere. She can kvetch and complain and whine and moan and curse the heavens and say, "Life is unfair" and "Why me?" That's the one payoff for being in the center ring. 
Everyone else can say those things too, but only to people in larger rings. 
When you are talking to a person in a ring smaller than yours, someone closer to the center of the crisis, the goal is to help. Listening is often more helpful than talking. But if you're going to open your mouth, ask yourself if what you are about to say is likely to provide comfort and support. If it isn't, don't say it.   Read the whole article here

Friday, April 5, 2013

Step #8: Check How We Speak to One Another -- Infinity Meditation

Rosalyn Collier opened the book study of Karen Armstrong's "Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life" this week with a meditation on the infinity symbol, which she uses as a sign of good communication. We caught in on tape so you can practice it on your own:

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Step #8: Check How We Speak to One Another - Nails in the Fence

We closed our book study of  Step #8 in Karen Armstrong's "Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life" with this story:

Nails in the Fence

There once was a little boy who had a bad temper. His father gave him a bag of nails and told him that every time he lost his temper, he must hammer a nail into the back of the fence.
The first day the boy had driven 37 nails into the fence. Over the next few weeks, as he learned to control his anger, the number of nails hammered daily gradually dwindled down. He discovered it was easier to hold his temper than to drive those nails into the fence.
Finally the day came when the boy didn’t lose his temper at all. He told his father about it and the father suggested that the boy now pull out one nail for each day that he was able to hold his temper. The days passed and the young boy was finally able to tell his father that all the nails were gone.
The father took his son by the hand and led him to the fence. He said, “You have done well, my son, but look at the holes in the fence. The fence will never be the same. When you say things in anger, they leave a scar just like this one. You can put a knife in a man and draw it out. It won’t matter how many times you say I’m sorry, the wound is still there.”
The little boy then understood how powerful his words were. He looked up at his father and said “I hope you can forgive me father for the holes I put in you.”
“Of course I can,” said the father.

Step #8: Check How We Speak to One Another -- "I" Statements

In our study of Karen Armstrong's book "Twelves Steps to a Compassionate Life" being conducted at Oblate School of Theology, Rosalyn Collier taught us how to use "I" Statements instead of "you" statements.  Here's a copy of her chalkboard explaining the format. It really works!

Monday, April 1, 2013

Events in April 2013

April 2&9: Compassionate Hospitality: a taste of Asian traditions at the SoL Center, University Presbyterian Church, 300 Bushnell. $35 includes supper. Registration required: call 210-732-9927. Whether we consider the Hindu tradition of “Namaste,” respecting the divine in the other, compassionate Buddhism with its emphasis on service, the outpouring of Sikh generosity in meals shared with all, or Christian origins from Jesus, a west Asian filled with the hospitality of that continent, much can be learned sitting at round tables, listening and sharing a meal with each other. Explore the Charter for Compassion and build on successful interfaith dialogues. Part of the 2013 Pilgramage of Compassion.

April 7: The second annual San Antonio Walk Against Genocide, at Barshop Jewish Community Center, Wurzbach & Military, 2-4 pm. Organizations working in the areas of conflict resolution, peace-building and genocide awareness/prevention will have tables where Walk participants can educate themselves and learn how to get involved. We'll be there with the Charter for Compassion for you to sign!

April 25: Abrahamic Traditions panel, 6:00 to 8:00 pm at the Raindrop Turkish House, 4337 Vance Jackson Rd.Ste#203. Rabbi Sam Stahl, Pastor (ELCA) Michael Lawrence-Weedon and Imam Omar Shakir will speak about Compassionate Stories from Scripture. Refreshments; Donation $10. RSVP