of Compassion: Meditations for Caring for the Self and the
WEEK 4: In Harmony with Your Rhythm of Compassion
by Gail Straub
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I live my life in growing orbits
that move out over the world.
perhaps I can never achieve the last,
but that will be my attempt.
I am circling around God, around the ancient tower,
and I have been circling for a thousand years,
and I still don’t know if I am a falcon, or a storm,
or a great song.
—Rainer Maria Rilke
These final meditations re-enforce the qualities that help you
sustain your rhythm of compassion over time: coming full circle
from the first meditations back to your spiritual practice; using
your awareness to navigate both the light and shadow the inner
life and the life of service; and learning to trust the natural
cycles of your rhythm. The last set of meditations reflect the
cycle where, as you live more and more in harmony with your rhythm,
the inner and the outer become indistinguishable. As inner and
outer unite as one your compassion comes into full blossom. Your
relationship to your own suffering comes into proper perspective
and you see how it fits within the larger web of life. Now you
understand that what you have compassion for inside yourself, you
can have compassion for out in the world. What you reject out in
the world is also what you reject inside yourself. The full circle
of compassion is alive within you, breathing in and breathing out.
Cultivating the Sustainers of Compassion: Spiritual Practice,
Awareness, and Trust
There is nobody on the planet, neither those whom
we see as the oppressed nor those whom we see as the oppressor,
who doesn’t have what it takes to wake up... The source of all
wakefulness, the source of all kindness and compassion, the source
of all wisdom, is in each second of time. —Pema Chodron
* Dedication to my chosen spiritual practice is the key to sustain
and deepen my compassion. My practice gives me the courage to open
my heart and face life’s suffering--my own, my family, my community,
and the earth. In the stillness of practice I hear my rhythm of
compassion breathe in and breathe out. I hear how to balance caring
for myself and caring for the world.
* Right now I stop, I breathe in, I reconnect with my spirit,
quiet my mind, and open my heart. Right now I am awake.
* I cultivate awareness through regular spiritual practice. My
awareness allows me to recognize both the light and shadow of the
inner life and the outer life of service.
Awareness isn’t a judgment, awareness is a compassionate witness.
* My awareness illuminates the positive nature of my in-breath
of self-care: time to reflect, clear out, dream, find compassion
for my own suffering and brokenness, and time to heal. And my awareness
illuminates the potential shadow of my inner life: the dead end
of narcissism and self-absorption, becoming addicted to my suffering,
or creating my entire identity from my wounds. Right now, what
is the light and shadow of my inner life?
* My awareness illuminates the positive nature of my out-breath
of service: a sense of purpose and fulfillment, a feeling of connection
to the greater whole, the blossoming of generosity and compassion,
and a fearless heart in the face of suffering. And my awareness
illuminates the potential shadow of my life of service: my need
to fix or control suffering; my unspoken desire for approval, status,
or power; or being motivated by compulsive do-goodism, perfectionism,
or looking better than others. Right now, what is the light and
shadow of my life of service?
* To sustain my rhythm of compassion I use my awareness to skillfully
navigate both the light and shadow of the inner and outer. When
I am in the shadow territory it’s a signal that I have lost the
harmony in my rhythm. Gently, awareness helps bring me back into
* I learn to trust the natural cycles of my rhythm of compassion.
Sometimes my cycle takes me inward towards self-healing; sometimes
I am completely outward serving the world; and other cycles find
me balancing both the in-breath and the out-breath. My rhythm is
inherent, already inside me, just waiting for me to listen and
*Trusting my cycles comes from the wisdom of a fully lived life:
facing my fears and challenges and then getting on with it; finding
what I love and doing it; and offering what I’ve learned to the
* I follow my rhythm by cultivating the sustainers of compassion--spiritual
practice, awareness, and trust. This trinity keeps me in balance,
breathing in and breathing out.
Uniting Inner and Outer
The labyrinth is thoroughly known. We have only to follow
the thread of the hero path, and where we had thought to find
an abomination, we shall find a god. And where we had thought
to slay another, we shall slay ourselves. Where we had thought
to travel outward, we will come to the center of our own existence.
And where we had thought to be alone, we will be with all the
world. —Joseph Campbell
* I know that my own health is inseparable from the health of
the world, and that I cannot truly heal one without healing the
other. In my quest for wholeness I balance my yearning for self-fulfillment
with service to others.
* My in-breath of self-care gives me the clear mind and open heart
that I need to face the complex challenges of the world. My in-breath
of self-care is essential to sustaining my engagement with the
world. The outer must have the inner.
* The gifts I receive from my out-breath of caring for the world
are precious contributions to own my development. I am healed in
profound and mysterious ways through serving others. My out-breath
of service is essential to my personal healing and wholeness. The
inner must have the outer.
* As my inner and outer unite as one, my compassion comes into
full blossom. My relationship to my own suffering comes into proper
perspective and I see how it fits within the larger web of life.
Now I see the true nature of suffering and I can respond skillfully
to it. Now I see that entering the heart of suffering causes momentary
pain, but gives me lasting fulfillment.
* As my inner and outer unify, I can get out of the way and do
less, so that a greater presence can flow through me and accomplish
more. Working in partnership with this divine presence gives me
the courage and support to respond to more of the world’s challenges.
I fortify this divine partnership through my spiritual practice.
* In the seamless unity of inner and outer I understand that what
I have compassion for inside myself, I can have compassion for
out in the world. What I reject out in the world is also what I
reject inside myself.
* In a moment of absolute stillness during spiritual practice,
I feel as if I am actively encountering the suffering of the world.
And in a moment of intense engaged caring for someone, I feel utterly
still as if I am praying. The boundaries between inner and outer
* Today I consider this teaching about the unity of inner and
outer from Liu I-Ming in Awakening to the Tao, “When the inward
and the outward are illumined, and all is clear, you are one with
the light of sun and moon. When developed to its ultimate state,
this is a round luminosity which nothing can deceive, the subtle
body of a unified spirit, pervading the whole universe.”
* I am in harmony with my rhythm of compassion. I am in tune with
a great universal cadence where a rich inner life is exquisitely
balanced with a passionate engagement with the world. I have come
home to myself. I am at home both in the small intimate house of
my own belonging, as well as belonging to the immensity of the
house of the world.
Gail Straub is the co-author of the best selling Empowerment:
The Art of Creating Your Life As You Want It, and the author
of the critically acclaimed The Rhythm of Compassion: Caring
For Self, Connecting With Society, as well as Circle
of Compassion a book of meditations. Considered a leading
authority on empowerment, she co-directs the Empowerment Institute
a school for transformative leadership. The Institute’s certified
graduates from cultures as diverse as Afghanistan, Africa, Russia,
and Asia are implementing the empowerment model in education,
business, health, hip-hop, and social change. Over the past thirty
years she has trained thousands of people worldwide in empowerment,
engaged spirituality, and the wisdom of the feminine. Her latest
book is the award winning feminist memoir, Returning to My Mother’s
House. Gail was raised Catholic and today considers herself a
Christian Buddhist as her spiritual practices include both meditation
as well as a passionate prayer life.
For Further Support
For more extended meditations and for the fullest understanding
of the ideas in this journey we recommend Gail Straub’s book
The Rhythm of Compassion: Caring for Self, Connecting with Society
available through amazon.com or
For further information on Gail Straub’s trainings and
Empowerment Training Programs
West Hurley, New York, 12491
Web Site: www.empowermenttraining.com