Contemplations for Compassion for All Living Beings

Contemplations for Compassion for All Living Beings

Inspirations for the global community of the Compassion Games

Friday: Embodying Compassion

“Then it was as if I suddenly saw the secret beauty of their hearts, the depth of their hearts where neither sin nor knowledge could reach, the core of reality, the person that each one is in the eyes of the divine. If only they could see themselves as they really are, if only we could see each other that way all the time, there would be no more need for war; for hatred, for greed, for cruelty.
I suppose the big problem would be that we would fall down and worship each other.”

– Father Thomas Merton, Epiphany at 4th and Walnut in Louisville, Kentucky

Can you remember a time (or times!) when you were really cracked open, and beheld the overwhelming beauty or suffering of the world around you? Can you remember how it felt to have your heart that wide open, your seeing that deep and clear, and what it felt to simply be present and alive in those moments?

In one of the later Superman movies, there’s a touching scene where Superman takes Lois Lane way up into the sky, and asks her to listen. “Listen. Tell me what you hear,” he tell Lois. Lois listens hard, and responds, “I don’t hear anything. ” Superman then replies, “I hear everything. All the cries for help from all the people in danger. I hear voices of countless voices of people calling for help.”

In the Chinese tradition, Quan Yin is regarded as the embodiment of Universal Compassion. Her name literally means, “She who hears the cries of the world.” In Asian cultures it is understood that Quan Yin is really a dimension or quality of our own innate compassionate presence, an innate quality of being that each of us can find within the depths of our own hearts – our most essential being. In Christianity this archetype of compassion may be related to as the Christ or Mother Mary, in Jewish tradition as the Shekina, the Divine Feminine immanent aspect of God residing within us as “in-dwelling Presence.”

It takes courage to wake up, to open our wisdom eyes, look more deeply, see more clearly, and feel deeply into the subtle, complex, and profound interrelationships that weave the fabric of our lives and world.

To the fainthearted, it may superficially seem easier to live in denial, mindless of the intensity of beauty, joy, and wonder, numbed to the sorrow, suffering, and pain in our lives and world. Aloof and semi-disembodied, we distance ourselves from the raw, vivid, intensity, and intimacy of our feelings and our visceral responses to the suffering of the world within and around us. Such self-protective strategies keep us distanced from our heart, our feelings, our loved, ones, yet sooner or later, most of us get cracked open, one way or another, by the raw intensity of the nature of our lives and world.

If we are truly committed to embodying compassion, there is an opportunity for gratitude, wisdom, and dedication to come together at least three times a day in our busy lives. When is this? At times when we select and eat the foods that sustain our lives.


“The more you listen, the more you will hear.

The more you hear, the more and more deeply

You will understand. ”

– Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche

As you look deeply into the food you are eating today, imagine that you can open your “Wisdom Eyes” and your “True Heart of Compassion” and look deeply into the actual nature, sources, and origins of your food. Today’s Contemplations on Compassion offer a series of deepening reflections that allow us to look deeply into this mirror of food to bring forth a deeper sense of compassion and connection. These contemplations may be exhilarating, opening your heart and mind in new ways. They may also raise some challenges for you that require the courage to really see, own, and transform some of your limiting beliefs, attitudes, or delusions into new dimensions of freedom and compassion for yourself and for other “myselves.”

Level 1:

Set the intention to be mindful and compassionate as you eat today. When you eat, eat “on purpose” with the clear intention to be more present, to mindfully cultivate seeing the food clearly, tasting the flavors, feeling deeply the tastes, textures, and sensations, attentive to the associated thoughts, feelings, and desires that naturally arise as you shop, make food choices, prepare food, and eat food. Bless your food with your full mindful awareness and honor it and its sources by being truly present, curious, compassionate, and awake as you eat.

As you eat, contemplate that what you are eating is actually becoming your body – your flesh, your bones, your blood, your organs, your brain. Deepen this contemplation to also be mindful of how you feel after you have eaten your meal. Reflect upon the choices you have made and how those sit with you and live within your body.

Level 2: With your Wisdom Eyes and True Heart of Compassion wide open, ask yourself, “As I prepare to bring this food into my body and to embody it…

Where does the food I am eating come from? What was its place of origin? If I went there, would I find that environment and circumstance pleasing and wholesome – or not?

How did this food get here to me from its place of origin?

How were the lives of all who were involved in this food impacted in bringing this food to me? Were they treated kindly and justly? Were they safe, respected and well cared for – or not?

If all of these “constituents” and “contributors” to my meal had “a voice,” what might they be saying to me or what would they have to teach me about compassion?

Were all involved benefited or harmed, ennobled or diminished?

What kindnesses or sorrows were part of the life, preparations, and delivery of these foods to me?”

As you deepen into this meditation, be mindful of the images, thoughts that come to mind and the feelings, or responses that arise in your heart and your body. What do these revelations have to teach you about compassion? What do these insights, images, and emotions tell you about your degree of compassion and your potentials to live and embody compassion even more deeply in your life?

Listen for the stirrings of an intention or aspiration rising from these insights and see if you can identify a step you can take today to embody compassion more fully, and take a stand for bringing compassion into action more fully alive in your life, world, and way of life today.

Level 3: With your Wisdom Eyes and heart wide open, ask yourself,

“What choices in food would I make if compassion for living beings was truly a priority in how I live my life or raise my family? Would I eat products that contain genetically modified organisms (GMOs) that are dangerous for the environment, livestock, people, and communities who live near where they are grown? Would I eat animal products knowing the cruelty that is part of the conditions in which they live, and that they themselves are generally fed GMO foods? Would I eat non-fair trade foods that exploit people (often children)?”

Can you identify a compassionate step you can take today to make a stand for bringing compassion into action in your life, world, and way of life? For example, buying fair trade coffee and chocolate rather than brands that exploit people in the Third World; shifting your diet to be more plant-based and organic, and less reliant on animal products; being mindful of and avoiding GMOs that alter the nature of our food and chemically poison our environment, and voting YES on Initiative 522 this November (if you live in Washington state) to support the labeling of GMOs and our right to know how the food we buy and feed to our families is produced. . . .

As you deepen into these contemplations, be mindful of the inspirations, insights, or guidance that come to you, and what aspirations distill out of this deep reflection. Identify a few significant choices or steps that you can take to heart in order to honor this deeper wisdom and insight of interconnectedness.

“It really boils down to this: that all life is interrelated.”

–Martin Luther King Jr.

Level 4:

Can you imagine eating in a way that truly embodies the spirit of compassion?

Can you envision yourself relying less upon food choices that contribute to the violence of caging, brutalizing, or slaughtering animals?

Are you aware that a plant-based, organically grown diet has, on average, an energy and resource footprint as much as 20 times smaller on the environment than a diet based on animal products, while reducing the amount of dangerous chemicals that poison our bodies, the earth, and our water – and it can be enjoyable and healthy as well?

Can you imagine seeking out the guidance and resources you need to make such changes in your life in ways that allow the health of yourself, your family, and your environment to flourish in sustainable and life-affirming ways?

Can you imagine bringing this same quality of compassion and care to how you select and make every purchase in your life – food, clothing, media, vehicles, etc.?

Can you imagine staying awake, letting your heart be continually opened to deeper understanding of the power and impact of your choices, and embodying compassion ever more fully in your way of life? Can you imagine inspiring and helping others along the ways to do the same?


Remember, in every aspect of your life, choice follows awareness. The simple practice of mindful eating can either be a mindless, habitual, empty ritual or, it can offer a great source of inspiration, insight, compassion, and spiritual transformation. Moment to moment, bite by bite, the choice is ours, and we can only have that choice when we are awake. However you approach it, the practice of eating offers a clear mirror to see and know ourselves more deeply. Since the part of the brain that mediates appetite and relates to food is also the center of our emotions and sexuality, becoming more mindful of our relationship with food can offer profound and transformative insights that open our hearts to deeper wisdom and compassion and free us from a host of deeply unconscious and limiting ways of life.

While our capacity for physical performance likely has upper limits, there is virtually no limit to our compassion to develop wisdom and compassion. Our capacity for compassion is on a continuum and our journey of awakening to greater compassion has many stages and phases.

When we are motivated merely by self-interest for our own health or well-being, it is easy to fall off the wagon, to “cheat” on a diet or to compromise our ideals and values. But when our motivation is dedicated to compassion for ourselves, for others, for all beings, and for the earth herself, dedicated to the practice and principle of non-harming in how we make purchases, choose foods, and live our lives, then it is rare to feel conflicted, deprived, or inclined to compromise the integrity of our compassionate values. Indeed, each purchase, and each meal can become an ennobling affirmation of a conscious life devoted to embodying compassion, to the non-harming, and nonviolence toward ourselves, our environment, our children, our health, and our spirit. As the heart opens to ever deeper compassion, this simply becomes the way we are.

Resources and Inspirations:

Here are some excellent resources to help in your continued contemplations and transformations:

The World Peace Diet by Will Tuttle –
Wake Up to Compassion -
Gentle World –

Inspiring Videos:
Forks Over Knives – (also on Netflix)
Genetic Roulette –
Peaceable Kingdom –

To receive daily inspirational emails from us in the spirit of compassion, please sign up at:–fqYwI3ghPFhWA%3D%3D – or via:

Listen to an interview with Joel Levey and Jon Ramer, Founder of the Compassion Games, speaking about the role of the Compassion Games: Survival of the Kindest, within the emerging global compassion movement:

This series of compassion Contemplations is offered to players and friends of the Compassion Games International in more than 18 cities around the globe by: Dr. Joel & Michelle Levey; pioneers in the emerging global Compassion Movement; Founders of Wisdom at Work; faculty, University of Minnesota Medical School Center for Spirituality and Healing; authors, Wisdom at Work, Living in Balance, and Luminous Mind. Their work has inspired leaders in organizations and communities around the globe to thrive with greater wisdom, compassion, and resilience in these times of great danger and potential.

The Compassion Games: Survival of the Kindest,
Friday: Receiving and Radiating

“God has no body now on earth but yours
no hands but yours, no feet but yours.
Yours are the eyes through which he pours out,
compassion in the world, compassion in the world.
His are the hands, blessing me now.
All praise to the One.
Ring the bells that can still ring,
Forget your perfect offering,
There is a crack in everything,
That’s how the light gets in.”
– Anthem, by Leonard Cohen

Through this week’s series of Contemplations for Compassion for All Beings, we have learned that compassion is a natural response to the sufferings in our lives and world – an active response that engages the wish to alleviate that suffering. We have explored how, for our compassion to be effective and not create more problems, it must be guided by wisdom. And we have realized that for our wisdom to deepen, courage is required – courage to keep looking ever more deeply into the web of complex, subtle, and meaningful interrelationships that weave the fabric of our lives and world – to realize that there truly is no separation between us. We have also come to appreciate that for compassion to flourish and be sustained, it must be fueled by our heartfelt commitment, dedication, or devotion.

This Compassion Contemplation brings together many of the most essential elements we’ve introduced in previous days, and gives you a practice you can do with each breath throughout the day as you receive and radiate compassion for yourself and all beings.


As you begin, reach up, touch your heart, and smile with a tender sense of deep connection and deep reflection. Give thanks for the blessings and the opportunities of your life and dedicate yourself to living ever more deeply in the compassionate spirit you know is most essential to your true being. Allow your mindful awareness to blend with the natural rhythms of your breathing and settle into this state of connection and flow.

As you sit here now, envision yourself sitting at the center of your universe, surrounded by all living beings. Holding this image in mind, pause for a moment to remember, invite, or sense the presence ofthose who have most deeply inspired you with their examples of compassion in action. These may be people you know, teachers, mentors, or family members, or people whom you have read about in scripture, books, or discovered on the web.

Reach out now from your heart, and with your hands, to these beings whose compassionate presence in your life is truly a blessing, a source of renewal, deep information and inspiration. Imagine that all of them are right here with you now, surrounding you and shining like a constellation of radiant compassionate suns.Or if you like, envision that these many sources of compassion merge into a single brighter star that shines a radiance of compassion and blessings into your life.

Imagine that with each breath you reach out to them and hold their hands, and that through your connection with them you can draw strength and inspiration to deepen in your compassion. In fact, the stronger and more sincere your own aspiration, the deeper and stronger the flow of inspiration becomes. Imagine that each of these inspiring people in turn reaches out to hold the hands of those whom they look to for guidance, strength, and compassion, and that they in turn reach out to those who have inspired them. Sense your teachers reaching out to their teachers who reach out to their teachers. Envision yourself balanced within and receiving from this endless cascade of wisdom and compassion as it flows to you and through you from countless inspired ancestors of the far and distant past.

Sense this inspiration flowing to you as the light of compassion, soaking into you and enlightening you. It energizes the parts of you where your life force is weak. It balances what needs to be balanced, and heals what needs healing within you. This light of compassion floods, cleanses, and opens the spaces and places within you that are clogged or congested, and nourishes the seeds of your deepest potentials to blossom in your compassion. Like sunlight filtering into a deep clear pool, sense these waves of inspiring grace flooding your body-mind-energy-spirit. Every dimension of your being is illuminated, blessed, and renewed with compassion. With each in-breath you are filled, saying silently to yourself “receiving.”

Now envision that you can radiate and expand this circle of compassion with each out-breath. Receiving with each inhalation, radiating this compassion with each exhalation. Breathing in, imagine the inspiration and blessings flowing into you, filling your heart. Breathing out, sense, imagine or feel that your heart is silently radiating like a bright, shining, compassionate star. Effortlessly offer the natural radiance of your compassion to all beings. Allow it to shine through the darkness within or around you. Allow it to light up your inner and outer world effortlessly, immediately. Let this be the light of your love, the light of your peace, the light of your presence, the light of your goodwill and positive regard.

Now, having enhanced and expanded your radiance,begin to direct your attention and energy to the world around you. Reach out now to those who look to you as a source of compassion, inspiration, guidance, and loving support. Reach out to your children, to your students, to your patients, to your clients and customers, and to all those who look to you as they seek for balance and belonging in their lives. Receiving compassion, inspiration, wisdom, and strength from those you draw guidance from, reach out with your hands and from your heart, and let each exhalation radiate this compassion to those who, in turn, look to you.

Envision each person you reach out to taking the light of your compassion to heart, and feel that it deeply touches, strengthens, and inspires them. As your compassion reaches out to your children, envision them receiving and taking this light to heart and then passing it on to their children, who pass it on to their children, who pass it on to their children and to all whose lives they touch or ever will touch – directly or indirectly. Envision your students reaching out to their students who reach out to their students. Imagine that all those to whom you reach out to, take this light of compassion to heart, and pass it on to those who will pass it on in an endless cascade of inspiration and blessings that reaches out into the world to help affirm and presence the light of compassion for countless generations to come.

In this way, receiving and radiating, sense yourself balanced here in deep time, reaching out from this fleeting moment where all the experiences of the infinite past and all the potential for the boundless future converge. Viewed in this light, realize that your real life-work is to increase your capacity to reach out and realize your connectedness and wholeness, to increase your capacity to gather inspiration, wisdom and compassion, to take it to heart, and to then expand this circle of compassion to, as Einstein said, “embrace all living beings and the whole of nature in all of its beauty.” With each breath, receiving, and radiating, expand the light of compassion for the benefit of all beings.

Now, out of compassion, as you breathe, gather the raw energy of any agitation or discomfort into your heart, like raking coal or wood into a furnace, and let it fuel the fire of transformation, giving you more light of compassion to radiate. With each breath, breathe in compost, and breathe out flowers and fruit. Breathe in fear, and let its energy be released into the radiance of confidence. Breathe in imbalance, and let it too fuel the radiance of your steadiness and resilience. Radiate the light of compassion out on the waves of your breath as a blessing of balance and peacein the lives of all those who share your world.

In this way, with practice, begin to understand that you can embrace any experience that comes to you as a vehicle to open your heart ever more widely and deeply to compassion. When you are faced with fear and suffering, let it fuel the radiance of your compassion for yourself and for others who “just like me” suffer in similar ways. Faced with beauty and the sweetness of life, let it intensify the radiance of your gratitude and joy. Imagine yourself as a light-bearer of compassion illuminating the world. Imagine the silent light of your innermost being blazing with radiant compassion. Holding your loved ones and friends in mind, radiate this light to them. Bring to heart and mind the leaders of the world, the children of the world, the beleaguered nations and species of the world, and radiate your heartfelt compassion and care to them.

In this way, receiving…. radiating… each breath affirms your deep relationship and compassion for the whole of creation, and with all beings in time past, present, and future. In this way, each blessed breath becomes a gesture of compassion for all beings.


Twenty one thousand six hundred times a day, we breathe in, and we breathe out, we receive and we radiate. For most people, most of the time, these breaths and moments flow by mindlessly, unnoticed, unlived, and irretrievable. But an alternative is available and we can learn, through practice, patience, and dedication to keep the light of our clear presence and great compassion aglow more moments of each day.

If we were to hold in one hand, all the moments when we are truly awake – when our wisdom eyes and compassionate presence is aglow in us – and all the moments when we are mindlessly adrift, compelled by habit, and unaware, in the other hand, we would likely see that the balance is disappointingly skewed. For most people, only 5 to 10 percent of the moments of their lives are mindfully lived, while the vast majority of moments are forever lost to mindless inattention.

Though such reflection may be humbling or even unsettling, it is heartening to realize how much room there is for improvement, and to realize that we can actually set our intention to improve the quality of our lives, to wake up, and presence the light of our compassion more fully and more often in our lives and world.

As we wake up to this limitless potential and engage in these practices, we can be assured of greater and greater success if we embrace this great work. And as we do, each precious moment, each precious breath, can be an affirmation and dedication of our compassionate spirit, reminding us that in each moment we truly breathe with and for all beings.

As this cycle of contemplations comes to completion, may your cultivation of compassion continue to deepen, to expand, and to be a source of blessings and inspiration for all you meet along The Way.

“There is a light in this world, a healing spirit more powerful than any darkness we may encounter. We sometimes lose sight of this force when there is suffering, too much pain.
Then suddenly, the spirit will emerge through the lives
of ordinary people who hear a call and answer in extraordinary ways.”
— Mother Theresa

“When we seek for connection, we restore the world to wholeness.
Our seemingly separate lives become meaningful
as we discover how truly necessary we are to each other.”
–Margaret Wheatley

“The whole idea of compassion is based on the keen awareness

of the interdependence of all these living beings
who are all part of one another and all involved in one another…
The whole purpose of life is to live by love.”
— Fr. Thomas Merton

To receive daily inspirational emails from us in the spirit of compassion, please sign up at:–fqYwI3ghPFhWA%3D%3D – or via:

Listen to an interview with Joel Levey and Jon Ramer, Founder of the Compassion Games, speaking about the role of the Compassion Games: Survival of the Kindest, within the emerging global compassion movement:

This series of compassion Contemplations is offered to players and friends of the Compassion Games International in more than 18 cities around the globe by: Dr. Joel & Michelle Levey; pioneers in the emerging global Compassion Movement; Founders of Wisdom at Work; faculty, University of Minnesota Medical School Center for Spirituality and Healing; authors, Wisdom at Work, Living in Balance, and Luminous Mind. Their work has inspired leaders in organizations and communities around the globe to thrive with greater wisdom, compassion, and resilience in these times of great danger and potential.

The Compassion Games: Survival of the Kindest,

The Breath of Compassion (Part Two of Two)

“Lord, make me an instrument of thy peace.

Where there is hatred, let me sow love;

Where there is injury, pardon;

Where there is doubt, faith;

Where there is despair, hope;

Where there is darkness, light;

Where there is sadness, joy.

O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console,

To be understood as to understand,

To be loved as to to love.

For it’s in giving that we receive, and it’s in pardoning that we are pardoned.

And it’s dying—that we are born into eternal life.”

– Saint Francis

The true healing power of this meditation is realized as you begin to understand that the radius of your compassion can be vast in its scope, and that you are able to receive and transform the energies of others who share the larger body of life with you in the world around you. The larger the field of connection and interrelationship that you acknowledge and participate in, the greater will be the reservoir of compassion that you have access to.

At this level of practice you realize that just as you wish to be free of the pain in your back, your loneliness, or heartache, so too does the person in the seat or house, the office or village next to you. And you also realize that it really doesn’t take any extra effort at all as you breathe in, to hold the compassionate intention to embrace and transform their suffering at the same time as you’re breathing in and transforming your own.

If you are tormented by anger or grief, imagine and affirm that with each breath, as your compassion transforms these energies or feelings within your own body or mind, those same feelings shared by others are transformed by your compassion as well. Envision and affirm that the radiance of this compassion emanates out through you to be received by anyone who shares the same feelings. Whatever the form of your distress or suffering you find within you or in the world at large, welcome and embrace it with your heart of compassion and affirm the universality of your humanity and your kinship and heartfelt relationship to countless other beings who might share the same feelings, vulnerabilities, or concerns.

When it feels natural, allow the circle of your compassion to naturally widen to embrace anyone else who comes to mind: a friend or loved one, a neighbor or coworker, a whole group of people who are living in fear, suffering, or danger. Breathing in, open your heart and draw their fear, loneliness, grief, or suffering into the pure dimension of your heart and allow them to dissolve completely. Allow the energy of your heartfelt compassion to dissolve or explode the optical delusion of a separate self. As you feel the sensations of your out-breath, let your heart naturally open to send back waves of peace, patience, calm, protection, lovingkindness and radiant compassion to all who suffer. Experience the openness and connectedness that awakens as you expand the circle of your active compassion and caring in this way.

Continue to deepen into this mediation for as long as you like or have time for, allowing each cycle of breaths to further deepen and affirm your capacity to open your heart and expand the circle of your compassion to, as Einstein said, “widen the circle of compassion to embrace all living beings and the whole of nature in all of its beauty.”

This contemplation can be done in many different kinds of situations. First start with yourself, then let the circle of your compassionate awareness reach out to others yearning for the same quality of peace, harmony, and well-being that you’re looking for, and keep expanding the circle of your compassion to individuals, groups, or other living beings who come to mind.

(Adapted from Breath of Compassion in Joel & Michelle Leveys’ books, Luminous Mind: Meditation and Mind Fitness – and Wisdom at Work )


“Wisdom is intuitive knowledge of the mind of love and clarity

that lies beneath one’s ego driven anxieties and aggressions.
Meditation is going into the mind to see this for yourself-over and over again,

until it becomes the mind you live in!”
–Gary Snyder

You can practice this contemplation of tong-len quietly and invisibly–waiting for or riding on public transportation, driving in your car; during a particularly tense meeting; while listening to or watching the news; sitting at home or walking through the city streets. Of course, if you’re operating a vehicle, be attentive to your drive and keep your eyes open! This meditation is designed for dynamic, compassionate, engagement in your world- and it offers a glimpse of how it might be to become a beacon of inspiring, healing presence as you move through the world. Tong-len is a practice that we often do when we pull into a hospital parking lot to visit a patient or go to work. We’ve found the healing process begins before we even get into the elevator, and acts especially to balance the quality of mind and being that we carry with us!

We’ve taught this practice to tens of thousands of people from all walks of life, and of different philosophical and spiritual inclinations: to medical staff working in clinics and emergency rooms, to Special Forces troops, to children, corporate executives, clergy, and world class athletes. For some, this practice makes immediate intuitive sense from what they know of the unobstructed flow of energy and information in the natural world. Others will translate this practice into a deeply personal participation in God’s love or the compassion of Kuan Yin radiating and extending from the pure, sacred dimension of their heart out into the world. We invite you to practice with it in your own way and see how it speaks to and through you.

Keep in mind that whether you are visibly able to transform the sufferings of others through this practice is secondary to transforming the illusion of your own sense of separateness and dissolving your own fear. The real power of this practice lies in developing a deeper experience of kinship with the world, and in breaking free from our preoccupation with our own personal situation or limited personal identity. The practice of tong-len is essentially a mind training that empowers your inner access to an immense source of compassion, transformational potential. Tong-len can also awaken the wisdom and compassion necessary to free us from the anxiety, fear, and exhaustion that comes from trying to vainly protect the illusion of a separate self. It teaches us to honor and deeply respect the sacred mystery of interdependence by seeing how activating compassionate regard for others works simultaneously to heal our relationship with ourselves as well.

Taken to heart, each breath becomes a breath of compassion and a gesture of your relatedness and caring, affirming your wholeness and freeing you from the illusion of separation.

“Once you have adopted such an attitude of infinite interconnectedness,

you naturally want to liberate not just yourself but all beings from suffering.

The Buddha calls this ‘the conception of the spirit of enlightenment.’ It is the soul of the Bodhisattva, the person who dedicates himself or herself to helping all beings achieve total happiness. When you open to the inevitability of your infinite interconnectedness with other sensitive beings, you develop compassion. You learn to feel empathy for them, to love them, to want their happiness. You want to keep them from suffering, and you do so just as if they were a part of you. You don’t think your behavior makes you special. You don’t congratulate yourself for helping others, just as you won’t congratulate yourself for healing your own leg when you hurt it. It is natural for you to love your leg because it is one with you,

and so it is natural for you to love others.

You would certainly never harm another being.
As the great Buddhist adapt Shantideva wrote,
‘How wonderful it would be when all beings experience each other
as limbs on the one body of life!'”
Robert Thurman, in Infinite Life

(Adapted from Breath of Compassion in Joel & Michelle Leveys’ books, Luminous Mind: Meditation and Mind Fitness – and Wisdom at Work ) – See also:

This series of compassion Contemplations is offered to players and friends of the Compassion Games International in more than 18 cities around the globe by: Dr. Joel & Michelle Levey; pioneers in the emerging global Compassion Movement; Founders of Wisdom at Work; faculty, University of Minnesota Medical School Center for Spirituality and Healing; authors, Wisdom at Work, Living in Balance, and Luminous Mind. Their work has inspired leaders in organizations and communities around the globe to thrive with greater wisdom, compassion, and resilience in these times of great danger and potential.

Monday: Carry the Light of Compassion
“We urgently need to make compassion a clear, luminous and dynamic force in our polarized world …indispensable to the creation of a just economy
and a peaceful global community.”
~ The Charter for Compassion

Widening our circle of compassion can involve tapping our intuitive wisdom with some degree of imagination. When we hear people claim that they aren’t very creative or don’t have much imagination, we will often challenge them and ask, “So, do you know how to worry?” As you can imagine most people will respond, “Yes, I know how to worry really well!” To which we’ll reply, “Well, if you know how to worry really well, then you must have a great capacity for creative imagination!”

David Chethlahe Paladin, a Navajo teacher of ours, used to stay, “worryin’ is just prayin’ backwards.” Can you imagine how you might live and how our world could be if we really learned to use our creative imagination in more intuitively wise and prayerful ways to widen the circle of our compassion? Today’s Contemplation on Compassion for All Beings offers another way to do this using our powers of creative visualization.


Reach up and pick a star. (Yes, actually reach up and pick one!)

Bring it down and hold it between your hands by your heart.

As you hold this star with a sense of wonder and tenderness, “tune” this star to the quality of compassion that you’d like to carry with you as you move through the world today.

As you tune this star, mix in all the qualities and frequencies of open heartedness and a clear and quiet mind that are so vital for compassion to flourish.

When you sense that you star is tuned just right, bring it into you heart center – not so much the physical organ of the heart, but into the heart of your true heart which is more a dimension than a location.

As you offer this star into your heart, allow it to find its way to just the perfect place within you to merge with the light of your own innate pure hearted compassion and to shine with ease, grace, and brilliance from your heart as a gift to the world.

As you sit quietly now offer this light of compassion to the world and to all beings. Let it shine out – rippling out to the ends of space. Imagine that the light of your compassion is instantly and effortlessly reflected in the heart jewels of all beings. Offer this light so that it may flow from your heart into the hearts of all in need of comfort, relief, strength, peace, healing, companionship. Let this light flow from your heart to all and trust that through the power of your compassionate intention it will be received by each being in the unique and special way that each most needs at this time.

When you are ready to move out into the world, set the intention to mindfully carry this light of compassion with you and share it with all you meet along The Way – through your presence, through your hands, through your voice, and through the subtle deep gestures of your heart.

As you do move through the world, if your awareness of this seems to fade, you can “brighten it” back up in a number of ways. First is to simply smile in your heart and reignite this light of your clear, loving, compassionate presence. Second is to reach up and tenderly touch your heart with a sense of mercy and compassion. Third, smiling, touching your heart, you can softly sigh – ahhh – and come back into this sense of radiant compassion for all.

Reflections and Inspirations:

The following reflections offer further inspiration to help you keep the light of your compassion shining as a gift to the world:

“God has no body now on earth but yours; no hands but yours;
no feet but yours.

Yours are the eyes through which the compassion of Christ
must look out on the world.

Yours are the feet with which He is to go about doing good.

Yours are the hands with which He is to bless His people.”

-St. Teresa of Avila

“With each breath may we take refuge in the Living Truth alone, released from coarse arrogance and subtle pride. May every thought and action be intended in the Supremely Holy Name Allah as a direct expression of boundless Divine Compassion and the Most Tender Love. May the exaltation of endless praise arising spontaneously as the life of endless beings flow consciously toward the Single Source of Being, Source of the intricate evolution of endless worlds. May we be guided through every experience along the Direct Path of Love that leads from the Human Heart into the Most Sublime Source of Love.”
-From the Holy Koran, translated by Lex Hixon, Nur al-Anwar al-Jerrahi

“In ancient times, various holistic sciences were developed by highly evolved beings to enable their own evolution and that of others. These subtle arts were created through the linking of individual minds with the universal mind. They are still taught by traditional teachers to those who display virtue and desire to assist others. The student who seeks out and studies these teachings furthers the evolution of mankind as well as her own spiritual unfolding.
The student who ignores them hinders the development of all beings.

-Lao Tzu, Inner Chapters, Hua Hu Ching,#54

“Serve others and cultivate yourself simultaneously. Understand that true growth comes from meeting and solving the problems of life in a way that is harmonizing to yourself and to others.
If you can follow these simple old ways, you will be continually renewed.”
-Lao Tzu, Inner Chapters, Hua Hu Ching, #43


* Important note below regarding the Live Release Contemplation:

Please be mindful when releasing fish, insects, or other creatures into environments to make sure that their presence in those environments will be appropriate and not create environmental or habitat problems. Examples would be not to release salt water fish into fresh water (or vice versa), and to make sure that there is no invasive algae in in the water with the fish, or that the fish or creatures being released will not pose a problem as an invasive species to native species. Such considerations reminds us how essential it is that our well meaning compassionate actions are guided by wisdom regarding the true nature and profound interrelationships of all elements and beings involved in each situation, lest we create more unintended problems or suffering in the future. Thanks to all who are mindful of this or whose comments lead us to add this note of caution.

Tuesday: The Breath of Compassion (Part One of Two)

“Wisdom tells me I am nothing.

Love tells me I am everything.
And between the two my life flows.”
–Nisargadatta Maharaj

Of all the contemplations that we know of, this breath of compassion practice is without equal in its universally practical applications. Its power lies in reaffirming our dynamic interrelationship with all of life, awakening our generative compassionate capabilities, and activating a genuine heartfelt concern for the well-being of others.

Just as a mother moved by compassion for the suffering of her child might wish to take in and transform their suffering, and give all her love, strength, and healing energy to her child, this practice called tong-len teaches us to embody this same gesture with regards to ourselves, our loved ones, and all suffering beings. Tong-len, which translates as, “taking and sending” is widely taught in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition, and is often taught by the Dalai Lama, Pema Chodron, and many great compassionate teachers. Tong-len is widely regarded as the ultimate contemplative practice for opening our hearts fully to compassion, and to dissolving fear and separation. In our work we teach this widely, especially for people who work as care-givers or offer protective services to others.

The practice works by widening the circle of our compassion to reconnect with a larger field of relationship and a vaster sense of ourselves. Oftentimes we get out of balance and experience pain and suffering because we’ve become fixated and overly preoccupied with our own contracted and narrow view. When we are suffering physically, emotionally, or mentally, there is a strong tendency to withdraw from the world and to implode into a very self-centered and self-protective state. We lose perspective of the larger picture and identify too much with the dramas that we are immersed in at the time. This contraction cuts us off from the very healing and balancing energies that we are actually most in need of. The greater our sense of isolation, the greater our suffering because self-isolation cuts us off from the flow of compassionate connectedness that is available to us.


As you begin, brighten the light of your clear presence with a gentle, heartfelt smile, and touch your heart to activate and affirm your connection with the light of compassion that shines from the true depths of your being. Then allow this clear presence and great compassion to flow with the natural rhythm of your breathing.

Resting in the natural flow of your breathing, allow the area of your chest around your heart center to relax, open and soften, and establish a clear sense of inner spaciousness, like a vast open sky. Imagine or feel yourself as completely open and clear inside, like a big body balloon. Totally open and pervaded with the clear light of mindful awareness, there is a deep sense of being completely transparent inside and the sense that the space within you is continuous with the space around you. It is as though all the pores of your body are totally permeable to the flow of air and currents of energy that pass in and out through you, and you feel almost as if you can breathe in and out of all of your pores. Pause and rest here until you can clearly establish this feeling of open, clear, and unobstructed inner spaciousness.

Then, sense that within the region of your physical heart, is a dimension of your true, pure, noble heart – your heart center. Sense or imagine this as a stainless dimension of deep inner strength, purity, and compassionate presence. Classically this dimension is symbolized as the sacred heart, or the pure heart jewel, whose light shines forth with the light of limitless lovingkindness and compassion embracing all beings. In this meditation you can also envision this dimension of the heart as a transformational vortex, where you can draw in the fire of the suffering of the world, and turn it into the pure light of radiant compassion.

One of our teachers, Geshe Gyaltsen called this practice “Hoover vacuum cleaner meditation!” Use the “motor” of your inhalation, powered by the motivation of compassion, to work like a “Hoover” suction, gathering up and drawing into this transformational vortex of this pure dimension of the heart any pain or negativity that might be present in your physical, mental, emotional, or spiritual continuum. If you don’t feel any particular discomfort at the present moment, simply let your inhalation draw in any seeds or latencies that may be lying dormant in your body or mind-potentials of future suffering that could ripen if conditions became right. You can envision these as heavy, hot energy, or dark smoke.

Motivated by compassion-the desire to embrace, reduce or resolve suffering-as you inhale, imagine drawing any of these negative energies or potentialities into this pure dimension of the heart, and just as the darkness in a room disappears completely and immediately the moment the light switch is turned on, sense or imagine that any pain, suffering, or negativity is completely dissolved, resolved, and transformed. Breathing in heat or the fire of suffering and pain, let it dissolve into this pure dimension of your true heart, and sense that the suffering is completely dissolved and resolved, and then ride the waves of the out-breath to radiate back cooling waves of compassion, comfort, and ease back to where the suffering came from.

As you exhale, imagine that from your heart center waves of clear, radiant healing light pour forth. Imagine these waves filling your whole body and mind, healing, energizing, and transforming you. Allow the vortex at your heart to function as an energy transformer drawing in negativity, darkness, or pain, and transforming it into radiant light and healing energy. For example, drawing in agitation as you inhale, let it dissolve into the pure dimension of the heart, and radiate peace back as you exhale; drawing in anger on the in-breath, let it dissolve, and radiate patience and compassion mounted on the waves of the out-breath. If you had taken the suffering of fear in with your breath, now send back faith and strength with your out breath. If the pain you breathed in was tension, let it dissolve, and breath back relaxation, and so on. “Breathing in hot and heavy . . . breathing out cool and light . . .”

With each exhalation send waves of compassion, healing, balancing energy or influence mounted on the out-breath to whatever region of your body or mind are calling for compassion. Using the movement of the breath as a motor and compassion as the motivator, direct whatever quality is needed to antidote, neutralize, or resolve the kind of suffering or pain you are embracing and transforming.

Some people find it helpful to visualize a color, texture, image, or sound that carries the feeling of the quality they are sending. Others prefer to simply ripple out a pure clear wave of intention. The key is to allow each breath to deepen and affirm your sense of being capable of this compassionate transformation in the pure dimension of our heart.

Continue in this way, embracing, gathering, sweeping and vacuuming, resolving and transforming, mounted on the waves of the breath, for as long as you like. Remember to keep your breathing gentle and natural, not forcing or holding the breath in any way. As you practice, you may find that the grosser, more noticeable discomforts dissolve or change. As this happens, allow your awareness to be drawn to subtler and subtler messages that call for your compassionate attention.

Tomorrow’s Contemplation for Compassion will expand on today’s practice and take it to the next level. May your radiant active compassion ever deepen!

(Adapted from Breath of Compassion in Joel & Michelle Leveys’ books, Luminous Mind: Meditation and Mind Fitness – and Wisdom at Work )

About Suzanne

Suzanne Lewis, editor and manager since 2000. Suzanne is a Planetary Peacekeeper, an Agent for Conscious Evolution, a Spiritual Healer, a Mother, a multi - faceted artist (beads, gems to trade beads; guords star seed art; published author and Lover of Life for the sake of All our Relations.
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