Day Eleven: Receiving and Radiating Compassion

by | Sep 21, 2013 | Contemplations for Compassion


“God has no body now on earth but yours
no hands but yours, no feet but yours.
Yours are the eyes through which he pours out,
compassion in the world, compassion in the world.
His are the hands, blessing me now.
All praise to the One.
Ring the bells that can still ring,
Forget your perfect offering,
There is a crack in everything,
That’s how the light gets in.”
Anthem, by Leonard Cohen

Through this week’s series of Contemplations for Compassion for All Beings, we have learned that compassion is a natural response to the sufferings in our lives and world – an active response that engages the wish to alleviate that suffering.  We have explored how, for our compassion to be effective and not create more problems, it must be guided by wisdom. And we have realized that for our wisdom to deepen, courage is required – courage to keep looking ever more deeply into the web of complex, subtle, and meaningful interrelationships that weave the fabric of our lives and world – to realize that there truly is no separation between us. We have also come to appreciate that for compassion to flourish and be sustained, it must be fueled by our heartfelt commitment, dedication, or devotion.

This Compassion Contemplation for the 11th and final day of the 2013 Compassion Games brings together many of the most essential elements we’ve introduced, and gives you a practice you can do with each breath throughout the day as you receive and radiate compassion for yourself and all beings.


the-prayer-sewardAs you begin, reach up, touch your heart, and smile with a tender sense of deep connection and deep reflection.  Give thanks forthe blessings and the opportunities of your life and dedicate yourself to living ever more deeply in the compassionate spirit you know is most essential to your true being. Allow your mindful awareness to blend with the natural rhythms of your breathing and settle into this state of connection and flow.

As you sit here now, envision yourself sitting at the center of your universe, surrounded by all living beings. Holding this image in mind, pause for a moment to remember, invite, or sense the presence of those who have most deeply inspired you with their examples of compassion in action.  These may be people you know, teachers, mentors, or family members, or people whom you have read about in scripture, books, or discovered on the web.


Reach out now from your heart, and with your hands, to these beings whose compassionate presence in your life is truly a blessing, a source of renewal, deep information and inspiration. Imagine that all of them are right here with you now, surrounding you and shining like a constellation of radiant compassionate suns. Or if you like, envision that these many sources of compassion merge into a single brighter star that shines a radiance of compassion and blessings into your life.

Imagine that with each breath you reach out to them and hold their hands, and that through your connection with them you can draw strength and inspiration to deepen in your compassion. In fact, the stronger and more sincere your own aspiration, the deeper and stronger the flow of inspiration becomes. Imagine that each of these inspiring people in turn reaches out to hold the hands of those whom they look to for guidance, strength, and compassion, and that they in turn reach out to those who have inspired them. Sense your teachers reaching out to their teachers who reach out to their teachers. Envision yourself balanced within and receiving from this endless cascade of wisdom and compassion as it flows to you and through you from countless inspired ancestors of the far and distant past.

Sense this inspiration flowing to you as the light of compassion, soaking into you and enlightening you. It energizes the parts of you where your life force is weak. It balances what needs to be balanced, and heals what needs healing within you. This light of compassion floods, cleanses, and opens the spaces and places within you that are clogged or congested, and nourishes the seeds of your deepest potentials to blossom in your compassion. Like sunlight filtering into a deep clear pool, sense these waves of inspiring grace flooding your body-mind-energy-spirit. Every dimension of your being is illuminated, blessed, and renewed with compassion. With each in-breath you are filled, saying silently to yourself “receiving.”

Now envision that you can radiate and expand this circle of compassion with each out-breath. Receiving with each inhalation, radiating this compassion with each exhalation. Breathing in, imagine the inspiration and blessings flowing into you, filling your heart. Breathing out, sense, imagine or feel that your heart is silently radiating like a bright, shining, compassionate star. Effortlessly offer the natural radiance of your compassion to all beings.  Allow it to shine through the darkness within or around you. Allow it to light up your inner and outer world effortlessly, immediately. Let this be the light of your love, the light of your peace, the light of your presence, the light of your goodwill and positive regard.

Now, having enhanced and expanded your radiance, begin to direct your attention and energy to the world around you. Reach out now to those who look to you as a source of compassion, inspiration, guidance, and loving support. Reach out to your children, to your students, to your patients, to your clients and customers, and to all those who look to you as they seek for balance and belonging in their lives. Receiving compassion, inspiration, wisdom, and strength from those you draw guidance from, reach out with your hands and from your heart, and let each exhalation radiate this compassion to those who, in turn, look to you.

Envision each person you reach out to taking the light of your compassion to heart, and feel that it deeply touches, strengthens, and inspires them. As your compassion reaches out to your children, envision them receiving and taking this light to heart and then passing it on to their children, who pass it on to their children, who pass it on to their children and to all whose lives they touch or ever will touch – directly or indirectly. Envision your students reaching out to their students who reach out to their students. Imagine that all those to whom you reach out to, take this light of compassion to heart, and pass it on to those who will pass it on in an endless cascade of inspiration and blessings that reaches out into the world to help affirm and presence the light of compassion for countless generations to come.

In this way, receiving and radiating, sense yourself balanced here in deep time, reaching out from this fleeting moment where all the experiences of the infinite past and all the potential for the boundless future converge. Viewed in this light, realize that your real life-work is to increase your capacity to reach out and realize your connectedness and wholeness, to increase your capacity to gather inspiration, wisdom and compassion, to take it to heart, and to then expand this circle of compassion to, as Einstein said, “embrace all living beings and the whole of nature in all of its beauty.”  With each breath, receiving, and radiating, expand the light of compassion for the benefit of all beings.

Now, out of compassion, as you breathe, gather the raw energy of any agitation or discomfort into your heart, like raking coal or wood into a furnace, and let it fuel the fire of transformation, giving you more light of compassion to radiate. With each breath, breathe in compost, and breathe out flowers and fruit. Breathe in fear, and let its energy be released into the radiance of confidence. Breathe in imbalance, and let it too fuel the radiance of your steadiness and resilience. Radiate the light of compassion out on the waves of your breath as a blessing of balance and peace in the lives of all those who share your world.

In this way, with practice, begin to understand that you can embrace any experience that comes to you as a vehicle to open your heart ever more widely and deeply to compassion. When you are faced with fear and suffering, let it fuel the radiance of your compassion for yourself and for others who “just like me” suffer in similar ways. Faced with beauty and the sweetness of life, let it intensify the radiance of your gratitude and joy. Imagine yourself as a light-bearer of compassion illuminating the world. Imagine the silent light of your innermost being blazing with radiant compassion. Holding your loved ones and friends in mind, radiate this light to them. Bring to heart and mind the leaders of the world, the children of the world, the beleaguered nations and species of the world, and radiate your heartfelt compassion and care to them.

In this way, receiving…. radiating… each breath affirms your deep relationship and compassion for the whole of creation, and with all beings in time past, present, and future. In this way, each blessed breath becomes a gesture of compassion for all beings.

Artist: Alex Grey,

Artist: Alex Grey


Twenty one thousand six hundred times a day, we breathe in, and we breathe out, we receive and we radiate.  For most people, most of the time, these breaths and moments flow by mindlessly, unnoticed, unlived, and irretrievable. But an alternative is available and we can learn, through practice, patience, and dedication to keep the light of our clear presence and great compassion aglow more moments of each day.

If we were to hold in one hand, all the moments when we are truly awake – when our wisdom eyes and compassionate presence is aglow in us –  and all the moments when we are mindlessly adrift, compelled by habit, and unaware, in the other hand, we would likely see that the balance is disappointingly skewed.  For most people, only 5 to 10 percent of the moments of their lives are mindfully lived, while the vast majority of moments are forever lost to mindless inattention.

Though such reflection may be humbling or even unsettling, it is heartening to realize how much room there is for improvement, and to realize that we can actually set our intention to improve the quality of our lives, to wake up, and presence the light of our compassion more fully and more often in our lives and world.

As we wake up to this limitless potential and engage in these practices, we can be assured of greater and greater success if we embrace this great work.  And as we do, each precious moment, each precious breath, can be an affirmation and dedication of our compassionate spirit, reminding us that in each moment we truly breathe with and for all beings.

As this cycle of contemplations comes to completion, may your cultivation of compassion continue to deepen, to expand, and to be a source of blessings and inspiration for all you meet along The Way.

“There is a light in this world, a healing spirit more powerful than any darkness we may encounter.  We sometimes lose sight of this force when there is suffering, too much pain.  Then suddenly, the spirit will emerge through the lives of ordinary people who hear a call and answer in extraordinary ways.”
— Mother Theresa

“When we seek for connection, we restore the world to wholeness.
Our seemingly separate lives become meaningful
as we discover how truly necessary we are to each other.”
–Margaret Wheatley

“The whole idea of compassion is based on the keen awareness of the interdependence of all these living beings
who are all part of one another and all involved in one another…
The whole purpose of life is to live by love.”
— Fr. Thomas Merton

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This series of daily Compassion Contemplations is offered by: Dr. Joel & Michelle Levey; pioneers in the emerging global Compassion Movement; Founders of Wisdom at Work; faculty, University of Minnesota Medical School Center for Spirituality and Healing; authors, Wisdom at Work, Living in Balance, and Luminous Mind.  Their work has inspired leaders in organizations and communities around the globe to thrive with greater wisdom, compassion, and resilience in these times of great danger and potential.