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welcome to Make Like Happen. This is Dr. Carol Francis from the Los Angeles area. Feel free to call me at 310-543-1824, or the guest call-in number is 347-326-9364 if you're calling during a live time. Today is an inspiring topic about life changes and the way of changing the world in yourself. In an era where there are so many complications, devastations, and fears, anxieties abounding around us it is a little tricky to think that compassion is actually the energy behind the ability to change the planet, change yourself, heal your circumstances, and actually affect the type of goals you want to affect.
Michael Ortiz-Hill, who may not be able to join us right now, hopefully he'll be able to join us a little bit later, is a prolific author. And his books are a free association, a passage of one thought, one event, one lesson to the next. Very much like the way you and I live our life where every single moment flows into the next moment. And if we're paying attention and we're closely aware and conscious, we can learn the lessons that are embedded so deeply, so superficially, so immediately and spontaneously available to us so that we are aware of what we can contribute to others, and how life contributes to ourselves.
Michael Ortiz has taken the opportunity to look at racial tension, major medical illnesses of very chronic and serious complications, and walk into a planet, a paradigm shift where he looks at our opportunities to live life interconnected to one another in a way that allows compassion to be the generative energy behind the changes that we all wish to have.
In the book that's about to come out called The Heart of Learning the Craft of Compassion, Michael Ortiz-Hill-- and this'll be published very soon, hopefully within the next six months-- states very specifically that compassion is the ground of human happiness. Now think about it for a moment in your life where you're surrounded by people who are troubled and perhaps, you are troubled as well. And the very act of being able to have compassion for someone else embodies your power to give the generative process of creativity. And the essence of compassion allows you to recognize that you can cause a change. Quoting a book written by Aura Glaser who is a Buddhist and a psychotherapist, Michael Ortiz says that, "in her writing, A Call To Compassion, that Tibetan tradition is replete with the instruction and methodology about the development of compassion." I found that phrase methodology about the development of compassion to be very keen and central. In a day and an era where we're looking for the tools and techniques of change, the tools and techniques of mastery the secrets of the cosmos so that we can affect the results that we want to affect in our lives. To understand that there's a methodology behind the development of compassion that will impact our inner development.
Now the question I wanted to ask from Michael, and I think you should ask yourself as well, is that since we are so oriented toward outer progress, whether it is an economic concern, dealing with our family, taking care of our physical, financial, mental material welfare, is that outer progress actually impacted by the art or the methodology of developing compassion? And I would suggest to you that absolutely it is through a number of different means. In another way of saying it, Aura Glaser again, in her book called A Call to Compassion says that compassion, "since love and compassion are understood in this tradition to be both the engine and elixir of transformation, enormous emphasis was placed on their cultivation." Now think a moment about the Tibetan saying that compassion is an engine. It is the machination, the craft that causes things to happen. It is the means to the end. It is the tool; compassion is the tool toward transformation.
This is an era of change. We can no longer stand embedded in the same old traditions of what we've had in the past. Therefore, we need to look and find what the engines of true transformation are, and her idea is that love and compassion is the engine that will create transformation. But then she goes on and says it's also the elixir of the transformation. When we are looking for the enthusiasm, the focus, the motivation, the stimulation-- in other words, the emotional and mental dynamic energy, the fuel if you will, behind which change can be made, the energy behind it. That change can be made using the energy. That is, the elixir of love and compassion. Now we suddenly have a formula. It becomes the tools, the machination, the machinery, and it also becomes the fuel of that machinery that can affect transformation.
I would suggest to you that the transformation that we're talking about is both outer oriented, inner oriented, and simultaneously related to the interdependence between yes, you, me, and everybody else and every thing else that is taking place.
Michael Ortiz in a very-- let's say, essay sort of fashion delineates the four points that is about compassion. The dimensions, the four dimensions of compassion. That he really believes that these are the four steps of learning compassion. We have to break it down into how we stumble from crawling into running like a leopard with the ease of compassion that he breaks in down into four steps. Let me delineate them for you. Compassion for yourself being first. Compassion for the others seems to follow naturally, doesn't it? And then of course, an equalization or exchange of the compassion with self and other. Something which he has termed radical empathy. Thereafter he says, "then we live in what's called a living compassion. A state in which there's no sense of self or other, there's a sense of just compassion being with a capital C the very essence of the experience. Without it being referenced to self or other, but with it being in existence within its own essence-- the essence of compassion.
So let's go back to the first step, the step of having compassion towards yourself. The act of suffering, Michael Ortiz-Hill would say, is a movement toward having the capacity to sit and having to compassion with yourself. If you're in a state of suffering, which many listeners are, then to have compassion for the dilemma and circumstances, trials and complications that you were facing, and to fill yourself up with a sense of self-respect about how you need to walk the path of caring about yourself is what he would suggest would be the step one, the self compassion.
In a wonderful quote in the book that Michael Ortiz is about to publish he mentions how that the imperfections of the person's life, a person's qualities and personality, the imperfections are the cracks through which the light of compassion comes through. When I read that one very pithy statement, I realized to me that it is in the imperfect, in the flaw, in the suffering, in the yuck, in the grotesque. It is in the things that are troubling that provides a space for someone to look and perceive and experience the flood of compassion that would come through. If we live in perfection and think that we are perfect and others ought to be as well, it the seat of judgmentalness, the shoulds, the criticalness, the lack of compassion. And therefore, in believing that perfection is the paradigm with which one is going to approach life, doesn't allow for the crack. And the crack, the imperfection allows very clearly, for the experience of compassion.
We have someone calling in, I'm going to take them right now. Hello caller, this is Dr. Carol Francis. Welcome.
hello Dr. Carol Francis. It's Michael Ortiz.
so glad to hear you. How are you? I've been talking about your book and I'm glad you could join me.
are you this evening?
am quite well. I actually thought you were coming up to interview me, but I guess I misunderstood.
I would have loved to have traveled in your beautiful domain. No, actually we were going to do it the easy way and just do it online, and calling. I'm glad you got my message. You know, Michael, I've just been in the midst of talking about your very first point about self compassion. And I mentioned the wonderful quote about how the cracks allow the compassion come through. And where it has perfection and perfectionism doesn't allow any light to come through because it relies on judgmentalness. I was wondering if you can pick up from there as we move from step one and then eventually move in to step two. Can you talk to us about step one first?
one. Well, what can I possibly say? Now I know of course you're referring to the quote from Leonard Cohen, "forget about your perfect offering. There is a crack in everything. That is how about the light gets in." And I think everybody knows that. We've all experienced it. We know what it is to recognize our radical and profound imperfection. And you know, the way I look at step one, I speak of the deep stratum of self compassion, which is amor fati. That means to love one's fate in Latin. What is one's fate? I mean, my fate to be born who I was born to be born to such a family. What has been chosen for you rather than what you have chosen. I speak of course, of being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. What did it mean to embrace the spirit of MS and regard that as the context in which I would learn compassion?
was certainly a situation where everything was cracked, wasn't it? Everything was broken.
Nothing was working for you.
lord have mercy.
our listeners a bit about that moment.
you know, what can I possibly say? I was diagnosed six years ago with multiples sclerosis. Or rather, let me put it this way, I was diagnosed four years ago, but six years ago I started having peripheral neuropathy, which is to say from my waist down I was numb. And it was undiagnosable, I was told by a neurologist that most neuropathies are undiagnosable. And he basically said, it's not fatal, but we don't know what it is. So I lived with that and that was ordinary because I was a registered nurse. I had just come back from Africa with numb legs. Had just been going through ritual initiation in Zimbabwe and I immediately was floated as a nurse to the neuro floor. And I'm taking care of people who are dealing with the ordeals of their nervous system and here I have an undiagnosed, neurological symptom. And I lived with that for three or four years before I was diagnosed. So every time I approached a patient in the hospital, or every time I approached anybody, I could not-- the apartheid fantasy of here I am, the hale healthy one, and you are the poor wretch of a human being. I couldn't maintain that. I knew that I was not whole. Or my wholeness was not about my symptoms or however you put it. That was the crack. And it's the crack through which compassion comes. I literally stood on the same ground as my patients. It was a profound gift in that respect.
reminds me of the step three. I think you talk about that empathic-- was empathic compassion?
it is. Radical empathy. Was that a new experience for you or were you, as a nurse, already so well cultivated for caring, for compassion, for extending your gift to others?
it took it to a different level. It took it to a different level. You know, couple of years ago when I was coming out the other side of multiple sclerosis, I was meditating on the archetype of the wounded healer. And what I was writing about is what is the essential wound that connects me with wounded humanity? You know, that is the sacred wound. And I do not want to give that up. That illuminated it for me.
when you say you don't want to give it up, because?
that's how the light gets in. That's how the light gets in. There is a crack in everything.
therefore, in the state of being grateful or thankful for the crack, being in celebration so to speak for what the crack offers; how big it makes you able to resonate and care and fill the compassion. Is there also the other side of it where one becomes too identified with the crack, with the difficulty, and thereby too passive or accepting of the circumstances instead of embracing the dynamic of change or the intent to heal?
thank you for saying that because that is the seduction which anybody who's been seriously ill, and anybody who's taken care of folks who are seriously ill, there can be-- how do you say-- kind of a necessary, organic narcissism that is generated by one's illness. Baba Ram Dass talked about when he was stroked as he puts his having a stroke. When he was stroked he was going down, I mean physically going down. And he started thinking, the first thing that came to my mind is, oh no. I was going to have my own radio show and this and that. And you know, the narcissism that gathers, but then one has to pair away that I am not the only afflicted one. And of course, the gift of being a registered nurse when I was having this peripheral neuropathy, before I was diagnosed with MS, but it was clearly the beginning, was that I could only look at people who-- as I said, on the same ground as they. And the neuropathy, my numb feet, step by step by step was making me very aware of that.
you became-- I'm going to use the word, miraculously healed from MS and diagnosed as completely clean, not too terribly long ago Michael--
What a wonderful e-mail that was to receive from you. What was the transformation inside of you in terms of this compassion and in terms of this ability to identify because you're cracked, but now you are healed, what's the shift inside? What's your paradigm shift now as you've come to this other side of the river so to speak?
a very interesting question. And do I know the answer? That's also an interesting question. Will I know the answer? Oh, lord. The way I speak of it is every step I take I walk on the ground of miracle. I mean I was just walking our dog right before I called you and it was two years ago where that was not even plausible. My legs would not carry me. They simply wouldn't. And if anything else, it would be utterly exhausting and I certainly couldn't do without a cane. So you know, the paradigm shift is-- the way [UNINTELLIGIBLE], my twin brother in Africa puts it, he says, spirit wants to heal. God wants to heal. I am God's arms. I am God's legs. Spirit comes through me that I might heal. And of course, being the object of being healed he says, it's not human beings that heal other human beings, God is the healer. It's not human beings that initiate other human beings. Spirit, the ancestors are the agents. I mean, this is a complete paradigm shift.
I'm working with a woman with multiples sclerosis now and I'm having her gather together what she is grateful for. How has MS been a gift? And she has said what I've heard from other people with MS, that she's learned what the present moment is. She's brought to the present moment. And we both quite agreed that we've learned humility from MS. I was telling a friend today, you know when you're urinating on yourself, when you're beshitting yourself, you learn humility.
sent me one of the chapters from your book that's about to be published and you say, "the transformation of humiliation to humility was, like with so many, a passage through dis-ease. The catalyst of that transformation was gratitude. That is how the light of self-compassion gets in."
precisely it. And that is the first step. Yeah.
two, compassion for others. Of course, we've already kind of touched into that. I'm struck by a quote where you say George Washington Carver says, "how far you go in this life depends on you being tender with the young, compassionate with the aged, sympathetic with the striving, and tolerate of the weak and the strong because one day you will have been all of these." Nice. Nice quote. How do you want to elaborate step two?
you know, I did quote Carver for that reason. Again, the gift of the multiple sclerosis. The gift of illness, what I call sacred illness. That's the way I was initiated in Zimbabwe through sacred illness. And of course, multiple sclerosis was that also. When one is with, as Carver says, as a healer and a nurse, whoever I am with, whoever is afflicted, this could be my grandmother, my grandfather. This could be my childhood buddy. This could be myself. This could be my sister. Whatever that profound solidarity in fact, of the human condition, it's when I imagine that I am outside of that, outside of that primal and primordial community that the heart is closed. And I moved from that. In step two I work from the Buddhist teaching about compassion is that compassion is sympathetic joy, which is joy over another's joy. And sympathetic sorrow, which is sorrow over another's sorrow. And I've taught the craft of compassion to students at Crenshaw High in the inner city. And I did writing exercises. What is the joy of your joy with which you meet another's joy? And what is the sorrow of your sorrow in which you meet another's sorrow? Of course, the kids were astonishing. And they were telling the real stories of their life.
in their tragedies where they able to rise up into a sense of strength out of their tragedies?
There was one girl who, bless her courage, she was telling about a fire in the house that had taken a couple of family members. And speaking and weeping over the grief of that. And through that grief she could receive and hear other ones, other children who knew grief.
wow indeed. Incredible really.
state again, they are now not a burden-- meaning your sufferings-- but an opportunity for connection. And other people's sufferings are nit a burden, but connection which offers a kind of freedom. A naive individualism that infects the western world. Almost like a liberation from our individualism is our ability to connect.
our suffering becomes a tool, a mechanism. What do you think?
No, that's exactly right. I remember many years ago I was a student of Lama Sogyl and I was kvetching about this or that. You know, I was complaining about how my sitting practice was going, et cetera. And he said, wonderful. That is great [UNINTELLIGIBLE]. And he was [UNINTELLIGIBLE] very basic Buddhist teaching. The first noble truth is suffering. That is not that Buddhism thinks suffering is altogether a great thing, but if you don't look at how you generate suffering then you won't realize Buddha Dharma and you won't realize compassion. And suffering is ubiquitous.
There is a story of the Buddha where a woman came and she was out of her mind with grief. I don't know who she lost, but somebody died. And she wanted the Buddha to resurrect this-- whatever-- we'll call her grandmother. And the Buddha said, I will do so, but first you must bring a mustard seed, one mustard seed from a household anywhere where people have not lost anybody. And of course, the woman wandered around looking for a mustard seed and she couldn't find it.
was the beginning of her serious practice as a Dharma practitioner. And it was the recognizing that the suffering she was carrying was radically, fundamentally not individual. And therefore, it connected her with others who suffer, and others who know loss.
strikes me that a moment ago you mentioned that the seduction or the narcissistic seduction of adhering to your suffering. But you are suggesting that there's also a narcissistic seduction at adhering to the avoidance of suffering as if we would skip out of the experience.
I will not curse. It is such nonsense and it generates such suffering. Anybody who thinks they're going to make it through this life without facing-- and I want to say the mystery of suffering is insisting on being a child. But of course, children are not so naive. Children know it. They suffer it; everybody does.
know, you have a absolutely beautiful way about you. I've been in your presence a number of times and now having the opportunity to read so much of your writing, and in the most recent material you sent me about the crane, the paper crane--
read it. I sent it out to all my friends. It has so many examples.
you shared your moment of being able to just capture the experience of someone else's situation and convert it into an opportunity for them to experience concussion, a self compassion given my you. I don't know if you could share a number of those stories from that chapter about the paper crane.
think you're going to have to remind me. I wrote that chapter a couple of years ago.
you did? You just send it out to me. Well, let me remind you of one. You talked about Armando.
you. Oh, Armando [UNINTELLIGIBLE]. Well I had come to work on the tenth floor at UCLA Medical Center which is cancer or it was different, now we have a different hospital. And it was very busy and I was doing a double shift, like 16 hours. I was just rushing around as nurses do. And there was this boy, Armando, who was maybe 15 years old. And he looked like the kind of tough Pachucos who made my childhood perfectly miserable.
And he's weeping in the hallway outside the patient's door. There's no way I can tend to him. At any rate, there's a few hours into the shift I'm hearing people chattering-- the secretary and other nurses chattering at the nurses' station. And they've called security. Armando apparently had plugged up the toilet or the sink or something in the public bathroom, and flooded it. You know, plugged it up with paper towels and flooded it. They called the security to scare him. I knew I had to act and act fast. And I went to his room, his mother was dying. In fact, that night-- she had liver cancer, and the family was gathered around the bed. It was a profound teaching about courage because of course, I was initially quite frightened of this kid. And he was in fact, a broken child. He was a child, and he was watching his mother die.
yet, just to interlude here, he was the type of child that broke you in your childhood.
what a way to save-- OK, so here he is a broken child.
As were the kids who tormented me, no doubt, a long time ago. I mean I'm 52 years old. I'm not a teenager. I'm not a 13 year old anymore. I mean one has to grow up sooner or later.
dear, the cycle of life. Go ahead.
I'm initiated in Africa of course, and I called on the Chapungu who is the warrior spirit who protects those who cannot protect themselves. And I called on Chapungu to follow me into the room because I was, in fact, frightened and I had no idea what I was going to say. And I talked to the family in Spanish and I said, Armando, you plugged up the sink and flooded the bathroom, didn't you? And he was very sheepish. He looked to the side, nodded his head and I said, you're carrying so many feelings. It's very hard, isn't it, with your mother as she is? I said, my father died when I was a couple of years older than you, and I can remember what that was. And I looked out at the family and I said, take care of him. His heart his breaking. They called security to come up, and I will send them away. And as I left the room security was at the door. And I explained to them what was going on and I said, the kid's losing his mother. He's just heartbroken. And they left, and that was that. I said, he's OK.
I said to Armando, you're not a bad person, are you? And you're not going to do this again? And he assured me that that was true. And that's the whole story, but it was-- the thing about Armando that was so, for me, profound is the way of compassion-- well again, it's like Carver, George Washington Carver that you meet yourselves in meeting the other. And I certainly met Armando. I met the young boy that lost his father and I certainly met the pachuco that made my life so damn miserable when I was a kid. It was actually altogether wonderful that I could reconcile with pachuco
just ironic, isn't it? It's just so ironic.
almost like converting sweet revenge into sweet compassion and getting a much grander result.
that is precisely it. How do you say-- in Greek tragedy the Oresteia. The Furies are transformed into the Eumenides Which means the kindly ones. And that is exactly what happened with Armando. The turgid stuff of fear and confusion were transformed by way of compassion and gentleness into the kindly ones.
the beginning of this program I was reading from your paper to the listeners about Aura Glaser-- am I saying that right? The Call to Compassion. When she says, "since love and compassion are understood in this tradition to be both the engine and the elixir of transformation." Enormous emphasis was placed on their cultivation. You embodied with Armando, utilizing passion to transform you, him, the nursing staff, the death of his mother, the security guards all to face that this is a moment for compassion--
all made gentle, understandable, not less painful in terms of the suffering, but more doable.
Thank you. You said that very clearly. That was exactly what happened. And it was a gift for me. And that's the thing about compassion that is so profound. It heals the one who is the practitioner of compassion. But it [UNINTELLIGIBLE] of course the one who's the receiver of compassion.
It's so potent, isn't it? It is the magical elixir, isn't it?
I must remind you of your paper crane essay because this individual evidently was folding all these paper cranes and you were to usher them, and at one point you had a poem in a certain language [UNINTELLIGIBLE]. I mean, the story goes on and on and on about how these cranes began to be-- explain it, Michael, I can't say it. It's just a very moving essay.
I finally met the woman. You know, I don't know if I sent you that. But I think that's going to be the little epigraph at the very beginning of the book. [UNINTELLIGIBLE] started going blind in the early 90s. And she made 10,000 origami cranes on Braille paper, praying that her sight would be returned; it's a traditional Japanese offering. And of course, her sight didn't come back. And she continued to make them for other people who are afflicted. They would be left by the chaplaincy or whoever in the chapel. At UCLA medical center, there'd been a couple of dozen and I would go and meditate there before my shift. And I would take a few of them to bring to patients. Some patients that I knew and some that were other people's patients. And I would write a poem. I would get a flower often, and I would write a poem saying if I had but three loaves of bread I would sell one and buy hyacinths for they would feed my soul.
I'm told this comes from the Koran I've never been able to locate it in the Koran And I wouldn't write the Koran on the poem because you know, God help us, Muslims scare people given the times, right? And I'd often come to other nurses or care partners, nursing aides, to translate the poem. I talk about Mrs. Codrescu who was a Romanian woman. Her daughter-- how do you say-- I admitted to her, she didn't speak any English. She had senile dementia. And her daughter brought her to the hospital and left her in my care. I was floated from the floor. You know, I met her and an hour later they sent me in another floor, but I had my cranes and I came back with the poem. I had a friend write it in Romanian for her. And this woman, the nurses aid, she said, is this woman a Muslim? I can tell you there are no Muslims in Romania. You know, whatever, she wrote it. She gave me the poem and I came back to the room and the woman was gone.
know, she was just gone. I went to nurses' station. I said, I got this gift here, but I don't know where to take it. Do you of a real crazy woman somewhere around that I could leave this with? And she sends me down the hall and says, yeah, there's a Mexican woman down the hall and she's crazier than hell. So I walked down the hall feeling like a little bit of an idiot myself and I, with my flower and my poem and my crane, and the Mexican woman in fact was Mrs. Codrescu, not a Mexican woman at all. And it was 5:00 in the morning and I tiptoed in and she was not crazy. She was smiling; I gave her the poem and the crane, but that's what I would do. And it was one of the pleasures of-- you know, I did this for several years. And you know, again, often with people who I never met before but who were just wanting, just needing a little kindness and beauty.
opportunity becoming, every situation becoming an opportunity for being able to extend compassion.
moment. Every moment, that would be that number two.
you got it. Yeah.
move on to radical empathy. You say from John Howard Griffin's book, "equalizing and exchanging self and others." You've listed that phrase out of his book.
sorry. That's lifted out of Gloucester's book.
is a dreadful translation of bdag-gzhan mnyam-brje which is the Tibetan-- usually translated as equalize and exchanging self and other. I was speaking of John Howard Griffin's book, Black Like Me as a metaphor of somebody who played that out utterly during the Civil Rights Movement. He's a white man. He was taking some sort of chemical-- I don't even remember what-- the made him into a black man, and he traveled over land through the deep south to see the deep south through a black man's eyes. At that particular moment in American history, which was as we know, not very difficult. I'm using him as a metaphor of what it means to equalize and exchange self and other to look through another's eyes. I translated radical empathy and I speak of the Cherokee proverb, "you can only understand another if you've walked three moons in their moccasins." So anyway, forgive me for contradicting you.
I love it. Correct me, please. There's a crack for the compassion [UNINTELLIGIBLE]. I don't care at all. I mentioned to the listener at the beginning that you really tried to delineate these steps as a way of growing the capacity for compassion. And this is the third step. It strikes me that they're all cyclical. In any given moment you can have self compassion, compassion from someone else, and now this ability to have this radical empathy. Do you think that when you move into a position of radical empathy that there is a transformation in your consciousness of self and other? Is it a movement from the Westernized initialization to--
you embody that for us more?
it? Bless you.
terms of [UNINTELLIGIBLE].
I will. I will become you Carol.
that's kind of what radical empathy is, isn't it?
it actually is. You know, I speak of two layers of it. I mean one is the training of the soul. And for myself, my education, oh God, I lived in Saskatoon with my girlfriend, [UNINTELLIGIBLE]. I was 16 years old and how do you say? I was a housewife, a budding housewife. I was an illegal alien up there. She worked in a pizza parlor; I would cook the meals and keep the house together and I threw myself into feminist literature at 16 reading Kate Millet and Sisterhood is Powerful and Germaine Greer, et cetera. And being a bright-eyed and bushy-tailed teenage feminist. I wanted to see the world through female eyes. That was my education.
And then, I moved from Canada back to United States. I was homeless for three years. And I wanted to know what poverty was. These again, are educations of the soul. Then my daughter was born when I was 20, and because I had been a homeless high school dropout, I stayed at home with my daughter and again was a housewife. You know, taking care of my daughter. And wanting to get a feel for a woman's point of view. And then, anyway, the story goes on and on and on. Ultimately again, I was trained as an African medicine man. I did work on my book for 10 years on black people's dreams about white people. But there was a necessity of the crumbling of in fact, the white male identity in order to really do justice to these dreams.
So this is the spiritual practice of [UNINTELLIGIBLE]. What do you have to go to to radically empathize with the perspective of another? On a more mundane level I tell the story of a nurse that I worked with who had a patient. She was in Amnesty International in a Latin American country and was arrested, and tortured, and spent-- I don't know how many-- two or three years in prison, was multiply raped. It was horrendous. She had done a hunger strike in prison. She wanted to die. And she was told a little bit of this on the report before she took this patient.
The moment she met her the woman was refusing to eat, she was, as we say, not compliant. And my friend immediately slipped behind her eyes and was looking at the prison. I mean, forgive me, the hospital as a prison which this woman was seeing it as. She had tried to starve herself at home. Her neighbors or her friends had brought her to the hospital. They certainly didn't want her to starve herself to death. And my friend basically, and she said, how do I soften this time in the hospital so this woman doesn't see it as a prison? And that was how she approached the situation. The woman did say that there was a moment when the people who imprisoned her brought her husband and son in, and effectively drugged her and manipulated her hands so that she pulled the trigger that killed both her husband and her son.
she merely wanted to die. And my friend, how could she argue with such? It was a long and complex story, but those are the-- how do you say? The skeleton of it. The point being, my friend was not privileging her point of view. This was equalizing and exchanging. She looked at the situation, she looked at the hospital through this woman's eyes, and the history she brought to it. That's what one does. That is radical empathy. And there's a slippage between step-- how do you say? One, two, three, and four. One and two one can personalize compassion. If you can say, I am the compassionate one. When you go into step three and four you start recognizing compassion is not a personal quality. Compassion is a spirit you get out of the way, so compassion can come through. That is the transformation of the soul. That is the way compassion illuminates oneself.
move in then to step four. Just to reiterate something you powerfully said a moment ago. Just want to say it as a statement that people can hold onto. One's own story is not privileged over another's.
so not privileged. over another. And then you go on to say, with radical empathy, one is prepared to cross over to the [? mysterium ?] in living compassion. Now living compassion is your fourth statement, your fourth step.
thank you. That is so hard to describe and when you're in it it is so radically simple. It is in fact, simplicity itself. I do tell the story about Lewis. I had come back from Africa and God knows-- I had not even recovered from jet lag, much less the pace in Los Angeles. When I take people to Africa I tell them, it is a different time here. People move in a different space of time. And if you move from the place of fast American urban time among tribal Africans, they will either see you as aggressive or perhaps, a little crazy. But then there is coming back. There's coming back from Africa, and here I will-- God help me. I am again, the floating nurse. I'm floated to the fifth floor, med surge floor. It's crazy busy. Everybody's running around like a chicken with their head cut off. And I'm--
reality and I'm trying-- and I don't know how to move out of African time. And I must have had eight or nine cups of coffee. I figure if I drink enough coffee I'll be speedy enough, but that's not working at all.
trying to move into a compassion empathy with this incredibly accelerated environment.
it's 3:00 or 4:00 in the morning and I'm feeling, oh, I'm finally getting into it. Things are kind of cohering sort of. And of course, the charge nurse tells me I have an admit from the ER. And I'm thinking, oh, dear God. So I do what I do, crossing the threshold is very important. Very important when you're practicing compassion. And as a nurse, or any situation, the threshold is a doorway here. I might kiss the Mezuzah if I was a Jew, but there's no Mezuzah there. Crossing the threshold saying, dear God, make use of me. Here I am. I go in the door; the patient is a 52 year old man with Down syndrome. Didn't even know they lived so long. Extreme hydrocephalus. His head is shaped like a melon, and his right foot has got an abscess, which is why his mother brought him in, for antibiotic therapy and such. And I'm admitting him and talking to him and he's speaking very slowly. And he tells me his father just died a few months ago and it's hard to describe the ambience of this dialogue, but it was so exquisitely slow.
a gift to you.
completely. And a light was upon us. This is being compassion. Compassion came as a spirit. I could not speak of it as in him or in me, it was between us and it was illuminating the two of us. And I was stunned by his complete lack of self pity. You know, the fact is after his elderly mother died he'd probably be institutionalized. And they could say, well he's an imbecile, what does he know? You know, I could dismiss him, but that would be far too easy. And I told him, you're a remarkable man. And thank you. And again, I don't know if he understood me at all, but who knows? Whatever. I could not dismiss him as an imbecile. I left the room complete. I was made whole by it. That is being compassion. And there's no focus of me, the compassionate one, you the poor wreck of a human being who is lavished with my compassion, nothing of the sort.
almost as if you were transported into a sanctuary or a domain that was energized by pervasive compassion so that it was the experience of--
you got it.
both of you together.
precisely it. That's precisely it. And such as, it is redemption. It's the essence of redemption.
then to walk out of that domain and become self-conscious once again in recognizing, oh, my goodness. I've worn the garment of that domain and stepped back into being human almost.
in your-- I'm sorry?
in Buddhism they say, after meditation become a child of illusion. And every meditation practitioner knows this. You meditate, you meditate for an hour a day, a few months, whatever. But then you come back into the so-called world and you have to be a child of illusion. And you have to negotiate that world. I mean, I come out from being with Lewis and then those last two hours of the shift, which of course are the most chaotic ones.
you feel the remnant of the experience follow you like an aura, like the radiance of a perfume?
the truth is, I still do.
I'm not exaggerating. Yes, of course.
was a great honor.
your essay with a quote from Shakespeare. You say, "the quality of mercy is not strained. It's drops as the gentle rain from heaven upon the place beneath. It is twice blest: if blesseth him that gives and him that takes.
not strained, is it Michael? In that domain it's not strained.
not. Yeah, it is the putting down of burden.
we have spent almost 60 minutes on this, and it's felt like five seconds. It's been [UNINTELLIGIBLE].
that too, dear.
mean we're going to finish up aren't we, damn it.
we are. What would you like to say in the culmination of this as we jettison others back in to the illusion of their everyday life and actually, a society that is so burdened with opportunities to be compassionate. Does that makes sense? We are now living it. We're living it. These are the cracks, we're living in the cracks. What do you want to say to us?
I want to say, go to my website.
it. Please. Please, tell us.
not a little self advertising? God, how honestly embarrassing.
actually have that on the description of our presentation.
I'm so glad. I have a new website even, but if you go to the gatheringin you can connect with my new tarot website. I do tarot readings on the phone and in person for anybody who might be interested.
gatheringin I have probably, I think, six or so chapters from the book, The Craft of Compassion. I will be teaching The Craft of Compassion in Santa Fe-- oh, soul of Santa Fe, it's whenever it is. It is November. The third week of November. Looks like something like the 20, 21, 22 of November in Santa Fe. I'm going to teach you with Kirsten [UNINTELLIGIBLE], M.D, who was my student when I taught The Craft of Compassion up north in Mt. Madonna. And we're going to go through the four steps. And there are going to be 19 continuing education credits. We're trying to get continuing education credits for MDs as well. So anyway, that's the station identification moment.
how do you want people to contact you? How do you want people to know where your books are.
do you want people to contact you and know how to read your books?
can go to my website. There's a book section. Including my books on sacred illness. Chat books, little essays, 40, 50 page essays. They posted in entirety; you can read them online.
This book, The Craft of Compassion hopefully will go to the publisher in a few weeks. It is not published at the moment, but the chapters, including the one "Smuggling Beauty". I do believe "Smuggling Beauty" is posted. Maybe. It should be, let me put it that way.
you know, you are accessible. People can get to you and even though we're not currently streaming live, people who are listening to this now having been recorded, they will know how to contact you.
"Smuggling Beauty" is on my home page. Yes, the one about the-- I want to say the swans-- the little origami cranes. A great chapter.
Michael, thank you so much for sharing yourself.
thank you also. You are such a [UNINTELLIGIBLE] friend.
new friend, a very new friend. So if you need someone to video your class, you just call me and I'll come right out to Sante Fe. I own a home you know. That's where I'm from.
from Santa Fe?
Los Alamos in Mexico.
that's right. You're from the-- I remember that now. Of course. Los Alamos.
do be well.
have a wonderful night. Thank you for sharing.
wait a minute, Carol. If you wanted to see Carol's interview on my website--
Oh, you got it on.
as initiation, a YouTube video. It's on my website. So there we are.
And then I know I have four others streamed on the YouTube too. And I have that listed as well. Michael, I'm going to call you up to do this again, and again, and again. Thank you so much.
do so. OK.
good. Thank you.
very good care. Bye bye.
you. Bye bye.
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It's good to talk.