Rev. Catharine Is Currently
On Medical Leave

Stumbling Compassion

Stumbling Compassion

I pray, “May all be well.” I pray that I be well. I pray that those I love and those I cannot stand be well.

These prayers, however, are disingenuous if I do not also pray that I be changed, that I be an agent of wellness in myself, others, and the culture around me. And that’s hard. I don’t often know how to go about it, and I stumble around in my attempts.

I do try to accomplish changes through the lens of embodied spirituality. I have/am with/am only one body, one physical embodiment. I am white, fat, femme, woman, socialized female, lesbian, disabled, queer… These are pieces of the intersections of my physical identities. These are parts of what I carry and embody in the world.

Through The Way of the River, I hope to hear and learn from other people with various disabilities. I hope to hear from those in/with/who are brown bodies. I hope to hear from trans* people, as well as from men socialized as male. I want to hear and learn from people who share many of my intersecting identities. I want to hear and learn from people whose embodiments in culture are very different from mine.

So what is it like to have compassion for ourselves as bodies in culture? How do the cultures in which we live expand or squish, oppress or privilege our bodies in the world?

Self-compassion takes many forms.

If that self-compassion does not eventually reach out in some desire for understanding others, I wonder whether it’s really compassion at all. After all, compassion means, in its roots, “to suffer with.” Not just to feel, but to suffer. To learn and understand and empathize with the suffering of others. Others. Sometimes we experience our own self as Other, and we need care and gentleness from ourselves and those who support us. And often we are moved by suffering with Earth, with the world, with cultures or communities, or with individual people.

To respond to suffering is to offer healing. Whether at a distance, in gentle care right up close, in political solidarity, in self-work, in spiritual practice, offering healing is part of the work. I know, though, that I have to be wary of my own offerings—I don’t know the lives of others, even when I suffer with them. I need to listen with friendly inquiry, and offer with open, gentle hands, knowing my offerings may not be the right thing at the right time, though they are what I have to give.

May we grow gentle. May we grow compassionate. May we grow generous.

May peace and love come with our every breath.

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