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I have been given the wonderful opportunity to share this blog space with Sister Henrita. Over the next 12 months we plan  to use The 12 Steps to a Compassionate Life by Karen Armstrong to explore compassion both internally (toward self) and externally ( toward others). We start January with Step One – Learning About Compassion.

In her first blog post of 2020, Sister Henrita wrote about compassion by quoting Pope Francis, “Day by day, the Holy Spirit prompts in us ways of thinking and speaking that can make us artisans of justice and peace.” Artisans are makers. They create. They solve problems. They work with their hands. Their crafts are rooted in generations of studying and their skill takes time and effort to learn.

I come to compassion through Buddhist study and meditation. Buddhism has two great wings, wisdom and compassion. They co-exist. They cannot exist alone. I have come to understand that compassion is a transformation of my own heart and mind. It happens only in the moments I can fully turn towards kindness. It feels like a whole body act of softening and opening. Compassion is rooted in my highest intention of safety (physical, emotional and spiritual) for myself and for others. For me, it is a creative act. It takes skill and practice, study and diligence. When I feel the two great wings, I can trust that my heart and mind are in service of my highest intention.  I can act without fear of harm.

Karen Armstrong ends this first step by reminding us that the sages, prophets and mystics were, “innovative thinkers, ready to use whatever tools lay to hand in order to reorient the human mind and pull their societies back from the brink.” (p.64)

Compassion is hard and loving work. It is creative. It takes patience. It is joyful and it is heartbreaking. And it is worth it.

Let us all be artisans of justice and peace.

Sara Neall