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Reflections on the Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life

Part two of Step two, by Sara Neall

“We should take ourselves mentally to the summit of a high mountaintop, where we can see things from a different perspective.” Karen Armstrong p.68

When I look out at my own world it is  easy to see suffering and despair. This ‘seeing’ often serves to deepen my own suffering and my own despair.

It would be easy to interpret Armstrong’s quote from a perspective that perpetuates,

If I can  just get high enough, things would look different.

If I could  work hard enough, things would be easy.

If I were kinder, the world would be a better place.

From my Buddhist perspective however, it is not the summit that is important, rather it is the climb. The Buddha taught an Eightfold path. A path containing 8 factors, that when ‘walked’ eased suffering. At the heart of one factor, wise intention, lies compassion.

My Teacher often asks,

“if a tiny bird were to land, in this moment, in your heart/mind, would it feel safe?”

Would it feel safe?  My climb up the mountain is the cultivation of  safety, moment by moment, for myself and for others.  As the world enters me, through my senses, I ask :

can I be wise?

can I be tender?

can I be still and listen?

When I reach the summit, or rather, when I am called upon to act, I am hopefully a little wiser, a little more tender and a little more willing to listen.