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Becoming Compassion-New

Step 6, Part 2 : Action

by Sara Neall

In part one, of step 6, Sister Henrita describes an insight she had while protesting at The White House. She was told that if she crossed a certain line, she would be arrested and she was afraid. Her fear challenged her commitment to her cause.

In the Buddhist tradition Right Action is part of The 8 Fold Path. Right Action takes the form of observing the precepts of non-killing and non-stealing. It is easy for me to think, I am a good person because  of course I don’t kill or steal.  In reality though, when I pay attention, I notice that embedded deep into my habits and patterns of thought are subtle ways I support stealing and killing.

The Buddhist scholar Joseph Goldstein writes, “if practicing the precepts doesn’t make us uncomfortable, it’s probably a sign we should investigate them more deeply.” (Mindfulness: A practical Guide p.380)

2020 is a year full of fear. Our climate continues to be in crisis. We are living in the midst of a global pandemic. And White comfort continues to kill Black people. My mindfulness practice and my commitment to the Buddhist precepts help me to challenge my actions in relation to these atrocities. Each time I waste food, I see that I am stealing resources. Each time I forget to wear my mask in public is an action that may contribute to someone’s death. Each time I fail to speak against racism is an action that  supports a brutal system of oppression. All my actions count.

In chapter 6 of Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life, Karen Armstrong reminds us that, “we have the ability, with disciplined repetitive action to construct new habits of thought, feeling and behavior.” (p.113)

It feels possible with practice, to examine my habits and my patterns of thought and to challenge the fear that keeps me tied to them.

Daily, Sister Henrita asks herself, “What lines to assist others, am I willing to cross?”

This inspires me to ask, “What am I willing to give up and what am I willing to change, day by day, to ease the suffering of all living beings?”