Twelve communities throughout the U.S., one month in each asking people to write their concept of compassion in a notebook and leading group discussion on the topic. That's what the Compassion Tour is about. The tour began September 3rd in Keene Valley, New York. It stems from an endeavor I began over five years ago in Davis, California to bring awareness to compassion by asking people to think about it. The tour amplifies this endeavor, with each visit including speaking engagements, having already facilitated a few over the past weeks in the Keene Valley area. Other communities on the tour will be Burlington, Vermont, Lodi, New Jersey, Louisville, Kentucky, and Tampa, Florida.
What happens when a person feels safe enough to transcend vulnerability and is embraced by compassionate listening? People speak. That considered, during the tour's speaking engagements, I offer the space, resources, and support during group talks for people to express how they feel and to share their experiences. I often hear the remark that compassion is a topic rarely discussed between strangers or in an intimate group setting. During these hour-long discussions, one can experience how palpable the atmosphere feels as lifelong issues brew to the surface of people's lives. I believe the very thought of compassion takes an individual to times in his/her life when there was suffering.
The stories vary—from the woman in her nineties who still sheds tears over her mother who died when she was two years old, to another mother who continues to struggle with how others treat her mentally challenged daughter. Hearing these unsolicited stories and thousands of them over the course of the last five years reminds me that so much healing still needs occur in our hearts. Compassion is needed more than ever as we delve deeper into our own individual psyches and the collective psyche of society and the world.
Compassionate listening during the tour also brings another intriguing phenomenon. Listening compassionately often begins with someone seeking spiritual advice. In addition to the question emerging, the answer usually emerges as well. It takes a while, with a few pauses in between thoughts and I find in many cases a truth manifests itself in the inquiry. The answer is always hidden within because the question wouldn't be able to be asked if the answer didn't already exist in the heart of the seeker. The answer usually lies somewhere in the wording of the question.
Just a few initial thoughts as the Compassion Tour begins. As it continues, I remain grateful for all the support and positive energy from those involved with its purpose. I am grateful to be able to continue the conversation on compassion in order to bring it to the forefront of people's values and beliefs. As a lifelong endeavor, I am grateful to the people of Keene Valley, New York in making the commencement of the tour such an incredible experience. On to Burlington, Vermont.