At the beginning of each year, I find myself in a mindset that is open to opportunities and beginnings. The long winter days disappear and the aspects of spring present themselves slowly leaving a sense of optimism and openness. This new year it has been difficult to see beyond the overwhelming darkness from the current conflict in Ukraine to the findings in the IPCC’s recent report on the Irreversible Impacts of Global Warming. It has been a reminder of the importance of our work in inspiring a change of mindset to one centred on kindness and society that is firstly concerned with the individual, collective and planetary wellbeing.
Our patron, His Holiness the Dalai Lama stated that ‘Compassion is the radicalism of our time’. In the past, this statement has been one that I have found uncomfortable with the connotations of radicalism in the recent historical context linked to so many ideas and actions that are the opposite of compassion in every sense of the word. However, having listened to the wisdom of Roshi Joan Halifax on the recent Mind Life Podcast I feel I can finally understand his challenging words and vision for a future where if we are to change the world we need to engage individually and collectively with compassion and kindness.
Changing our modes of thinking and acting so they are firstly focused on alleviating the suffering of ourselves and others is no easy task. If we are going to adopt this change to our nature we do need to adopt a radical change in our lives whether this is dedicating time to widening our awareness, giving more of our time or support to others or developing greater self-compassion. It was reassuring to hear Roshi Joan Halifax speak of how challenging it is to make these challenges in our current environment which make the development of greater collective actions difficult due to the psychological and physical spaces we inhabit. In the chance to get away, find space and retreat from the busy urban environment most of us inhabit we can find a conducive environment for developing the awareness needed to connect with others and our world in a way that leads us to greater compassionate action.
It has also been an opportunity to consider the balance between open-hearted compassion for the suffering of others and our planet and the resilience needed to not let this overwhelm us. I have found Michael Ungar has an amazing skill for explaining the complexities of resilience and his 2018 book ‘Change Your World: The Science of Resilience and the True Path to Success’. He explains how our collective actions, the environment we co-create and our community, families and society all contribute to our individual resilience. A subject also covered by Thupten Jinpa in his recent article about The Power of Awareness and Compassion to Transform Our World.
Through a combination of greater awareness and developed understanding, we can find the resilience and inspiration to meet the challenges of even the darkest of days and create hope through compassion.