Today was the first day of our summer home school co-op. Our July mindfulness unit is compassion and we kicked off our studies with a discussion about what the word means. The girls did a great job naming examples. They said:
Feeling other people’s feelings
Comforting others when they are sad
A soft heart
After circle time, I read the story of Kuan Yin from The Lady of Ten Thousand Names: Goddess Stories from Many Cultures retold by Burleigh Muten. Kuan Yin is the goddess of compassion and her name means, "She Who Hears the Cries of the World."
In this telling of her story, Kuan Yin starts her life as a princess who wants nothing more than to spend her days praying for the sick and nursing underfed animals back to health. When she chooses a life in a nunnery over her father's wish for her to marry, her father burns the nunnery to the ground. When she escapes the fire, he orders her execution. The princess wakes from the sleep of death in the land of the gods where she earns her name, "She Who Hears the Cries of the World" by looking down to Earth and assisting those in trouble.
One day, she hears the cries of her own father and, despite his treatment of her, she goes to his rescue. Because her heart was full of nothing but pure love, she is able to heal the king of his malady by sacrificing herself. The Earth trembles, rainbow-colored clouds gather over the palace, the scent of lotus blossoms fill the air, and flowers rain down on Earth. Kuan Yin rises into the sky like the round golden moon, spreading her glowing light all over the Earth. From that day forward, the king shared his wealth with the kingdom, no one ever went hungry, and healers were always available for the sick.
The girls took picture notes while I read the story. We talked about practicing to have a heart that holds nothing but love and how letting go of anger softens our heart and brings peace into the world. Then they shared their pictures and answered a few listening comprehension questions.
Next it was time for a little movement. The girls declared themselves "love bugs of compassion" and proceeded to buzz around the house giggling. After a little silliness, it was time for some yoga. With gratitude for her life-giving energies, we giggled our way through a few rounds of sun salutations.
For the last part of our day, we put our compassion into action with a little community service project that I'm organizing through Children Creating Change. I'm connecting kids with nursing home pen pals at the local home where A. gives piano recitals twice per year. The girls know that they may never get a letter in return but they're sending pictures and notes to bring a little cheer into the lives of some special grandmas. If your child would like to adopt a grandma or grandpa, please post a comment below and I'll happily facilitate the connection.
The girls just finished eating fresh raspberries from our favorite local farm... and were convinced this one was a heart-shaped raspberry of compassion. Now they're back in the classroom giggling and coloring. Their little squeals remind me that compassion comes in many colors and is as essential as knowledge. The Dalai Lama once said, “Each of us in our own way can try to spread compassion into people’s hearts. Western civilizations these days place great importance on filling the human 'brain' with knowledge, but no one seems to care about filling the human 'heart' with compassion." I couldn't agree more and look forward to nurturing a little more compassion with these lovebugs this summer.