Connected in Compassion

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No one escapes suffering in this life.
None of us is exempt from loss, pain, illness, and death.
How is it that we have so little understanding of these essential experiences?
How is it that we have attempted to keep grief separated from our lives
and only begrudgingly acknowledge its presence at the most obvious of times,
such as a funeral?

“If sequestered pain made a sound,” Stephen Levine says,
“the atmosphere would be humming all the time.”

It is the accumulated losses of a lifetime that slowly weigh us down—
the times of rejection, the moments of isolation when we felt cut off
from the sustaining touch of comfort and love. It is an ache that resides
in the heart, the faint echo calling us back to the times of loss.
We are called back, not so much to make things right, but to acknowledge
what happened to us.

Grief asks that we honor the loss and, in doing so, deepen our capacity for compassion.
When grief remains unexpressed, however, it hardens, becomes as solid as a stone.
We, in turn, become rigid and stop moving in rhythm with the soul. . . .
When our grief stagnates, we become fixed in place, unable to move and dance
with the flow of life. Grief is part of the dance.

As we begin to pay attention, we notice that grief is never far from our awareness.
We become aware of the many ways it arrives in our daily lives. It is the blue mood
that greets us upon waking. It is the melancholy that shades the day in muted tones.
It is the recognition of time’s passing, the slow emptying of our days.
It is the searing pain that erupts when someone close to us dies—
a parent, a partner, a child, a beloved pet. It is the confounding grief
when our life circumstances are shattered by the unexpected—
the phone rings with news of a biopsy; we find ourselves suddenly without work,
uncertain as to how we will support our family; our partner decides one day
that the marriage is over. We tumble and fall as the ground beneath us opens,
shaken by violent rumblings. Grief enfolds our lives, drops us close to the earth,
reminding us of our inevitable return to the dark soil. . . .

It is essential for us to welcome our grief, whatever form it takes.
When we do, we open ourselves to our shared experiences in life.
Grief is our common bond. Opening to our sorrow connects us with everyone, everywhere.
There is no gesture of kindness that is wasted, no offering of compassion that is useless.
We can be generous to every sorrow we see. It is sacred work.

~ Francis Weller from The Wild Edge of Sorrow: Rituals of Renewal and the Sacred Work of Grief; The Threshold Between Loss and Revelation with thanks to Richard Rohr’s Daily Meditation


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Video with

An examination of sorrow and grief in Terrence Malick’s ‘The New World’ based on Francis Weller’s The Wild Edge of Sorrow To connect with Francis Weller, we invite you to this upcoming Community Conversation:

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