“The key to the Grail is compassion, ‘suffering with,’ feeling another’s sorrow as if it were your own. The one who finds the dynamo of compassion is the one who’s found the Grail.”
– Excerpt From: Campbell, Joseph. “A Joseph Campbell Companion: Reflections on the Art of Living.” Joseph Campbell Foundation, 2011-08-01
– Dr. Jaime G. Corvalan, MD, FACS
I wanted to share a little note on living out of compassion in our everyday lives; it’s easy to talk about it, but it’s not always clear how to do it.
Whenever we welcome a new staff member to my medical practice, I sit with him or her and have a short – but important – conversation on what the most important thing is that defines our practice: “We Don’t Do This Merely for Money.”
Our practice (which I call “Feeling Centered Medicine”) rests upon the foundation of building relationships with our patients out of a deep and abiding compassion for who they are, what they are experiencing and what they hope for in their lives. As the quote by the wonderful mythologist Joseph Campbell above explains, compassion is to feel another’s sorrow (or experience) as if it were your own.
We spend time with patients because they put their hopes and trust in us. To serve those in need, those who may be suffering or, at the very least, may be in anguish or distress, is to be given a rare opportunity to assist them in not only healing but attaining a measure of peace and contentment.
Attaining this is simply impossible if our aim was only to pad our bottom line.
I included the above quote to begin this post because Joseph Campbell has left an indelible mark upon my very soul; his gentleness, expertise and empathy have always distinguished his work and has always been inspirational to me. The Grail is essentially your own soul, your connection to something transcendent. The key to reconnecting with this elemental part of your being is to operate out of empathy, gratitude and compassion. I try to live this way every day – it is not only necessary but it is possible for all of us!
When people become self-centered and self-enclosed, their greed increases. The emptier a person’s heart is, the more he or she needs things to buy, own and consume. It becomes almost impossible to accept the limits imposed by reality. In this horizon, a genuine sense of the common good also disappears.”
– Pope Francis, Laudato si’ (#204)
– Dr. Jaime G. Corvalan, MD, FACS
The recent visit of Pope Francis to Cuba and the United States has brought into focus something beautiful that is happening not only within the Church but with the unfolding of transcendent consciousness itself. There is a growing recognition of the interconnection of all life, of a divinity not separate from creation but one that infuses all life, all nature, all of creation.
I am so pleased and inspired to see that the grievous error committed upon nature, the feminine and indeed all life reflected in more than a thousand years of orthodox doctrine has been addressed, corrected and transcended by this extraordinary Pope!Dating back to St. Augustine and his 5th Century AD work, “City of God Against the Pagans,” a document which codified the gulf between God and Man, the Divine and Nature, orthodox doctrine has held that, because of the idea of Original Sin, humanity is fallen and nature, and the feminine, were equally stained and corrupt. Nature was devoid of divinity (for the Divine was separate and beyond creation) and could therefore be subject to the dominion of man.
This mistaken philosophical idea has paved the way for terrible, destructive actions and attitudes toward our natural world, and each other, and allowed for an economic philosophy that sees nature, and all life, merely as resources to be exploited, devoid of divinity, compassion and consciousness.
In the May 24, 2015 Encyclical, “Laudato si, mi’ Signore” (“Praise be to you, my Lord”), Pope Francis lays out a radically different relationship with nature, each other and with the Divine (or, as I would call it, the transcendent energy consciousness). From the beginning of the document, the Pope reflects his humble nature, addressing the encyclical not to the hierarchy of the Church but instead to ALL PEOPLE; this humility and compassion seems to reflect the heart of Francis, and is what is needed for the continuing unfolding of consciousness.
The focus of this Encyclical is to enter into “new dialogue about how we are shaping the future of our planet. We need a conversation that includes everyone, since the environment challenge we are undergoing, and its human roots, concern and affect us all.” (Laudato si’, #14). With the heart of a poet, Francis goes on to say:
This sister now cries out to us because of the harm we have inflicted on her by our irresponsible use and abuse of the goods with which God has endowed her. We have come to see ourselves as her lords and masters, entitled to plunder her at will. The violence present in our hearts, wounded by sin, is also reflected in the symptoms of sickness evident in the soil, in the water, in the air and in all forms of life. This is why the earth herself, burdened and laid waste, is among the most abandoned and maltreated of our poor; she “groans in travail” (Rom 8:22). We have forgotten that we ourselves are dust of the earth (cf. Gen 2:7); our very bodies are made up of her elements, we breathe her air and we receive life and refreshment from her waters.
Nothing in this world is indifferent to us.”
Laudato si’ (#2)
While Pope Francis and the Church still see a doctrinal separation between God and Man, he recognizes that, in practice, such a schism can no longer be used to justify our treatment of nature and each other. As he states,
“we must forcefully reject the notion that our being created in God’s image and given dominion over the earth justifies absolute domination over other creatures . . . This implies a relationship of mutual responsibility between human beings and nature.”
Laudato si’ (#67)
Ultimately, the publishing of this Encyclical, and the recognition on the part of Pope Francis and, as a consequence, of the Church, of the need for a new relationship between humanity and nature is a reflection of a new, emerging relationship with transcendent consciousness. While Francis goes into great and noble detail about the destruction and exploitation we have and continue to visit upon nature, the act of publishing this work signifies something even greater at work: the gradual shift of human consciousness, from one focused upon power, control and domination to, instead, one that operates from the heart (the 4th Chakra).
Recognition of our obligation to “till and keep” nature begets recognition of the web of all life and creation. In the greater scheme of things, this will be seen as a small but firm step toward the recognition of the divinity in each of us, in all of life and in all of creation. We are the stuff of divinity, of transcendent energy consciousness, and it is heartening to me to see the growing awareness of this reflected in practical action by Pope Francis.
Wisdom consists in doing the next thing that you have to do, doing it with your whole heart and finding delight in doing it. From the delight is a sense of the sacred.” – Helen M. Luke
– Dr. Jaime G. Corvalan, MD, FACS
Helen Luke was a brilliant writer and Jungian psychologist, with a deep understanding of literature, mythology and the power of the symbolic to shape and guide our lives. It can be said of Helen that she was far more than an academic, she lived what she wrote.
After conducting a well respected analytical practice with the equally engaging Robert Johnson, she retired and, in 1962, founded the Apple Farm Community in rural Michigan whose mission was to be “a center for people seeking to discover and appropriate the transforming power of symbols in their lives.”
Helen was a story teller in the most transformative sense, urging us to live with a final vision of what is divine. She understood – and lived – the notion that to have a true death we must be certain to live a true life; we must live with a sense of the sacred. It has been said of Helen that “She was endowed with a deep grasp of archetypal forces and the ability to evoke them with luminous prose.”
In one of her most endearing works – “Old Age: Journey into Simplicity” – Helen employs her gift of story-telling and her deep understanding of the symbolic in some of the greatest literary works in history to show us that growing old is a conscious journey into simplicity. One can approach old age and the end of one’s life with honor and dignity, and an understanding that one is called now to let go of everything our Ego’s once deemed critically important; or one can fall or disintegrate into the aging process – we must make the choice.
In her memoir, “Such Stuff as Dreams are Made on,” she writes with the heart and soul of a poet, bringing together the symbolic from her own inner dream life with personal and historic experiences that provide us with the clues and direction for living an authentic and fulfilling life. Helen encourages us to live in the moment with high awareness and consciousness, to live our personal truths and to “know and accept and live the next thing with devotion.” This compendium is truly her master work and a great contribution to the unfolding of consciousness and love.
The Beatitudes are the teachings of Jesus shared from his Sermon on the Mount. The teachings are comprised of eight blessings (in the Gospel of Matthew), and form the core of Christian teachings: love, humility, mercy and compassion. The Beatitudes are:
Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven
Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted
Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth
Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled
Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy
Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God
Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God
Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven
The greatest achievement is selflessness.
The greatest worth is self-mastery.
The greatest quality is seeking to serve others.
The greatest precept is continual awareness.
The greatest medicine is the emptiness of everything.
The greatest action is not conforming with the worlds ways.
The greatest magic is transmuting the passions.
The greatest generosity is non-attachment.
The greatest goodness is a peaceful mind.
The greatest patience is humility.
The greatest effort is not concerned with results.
The greatest meditation is a mind that lets go.
The greatest wisdom is seeing through appearances.
To live means to suffer, because the human nature is not perfect and neither is the world we live in. During our lifetimes, we inevitably have to endure physical suffering such as pain, sickness, injury, tiredness, old age, and eventually death; and we have to endure psychological suffering like sadness, fear, frustration, disappointment, and depression.
Although there are different degrees of suffering and there are also positive experiences in life that we perceive as the opposite of suffering, such as ease, comfort and happiness.
Life in its totality is imperfect and incomplete, because our world is subject to impermanence. This means we are never able to keep permanently what we strive for, and just as happy moments pass by; we ourselves and our loved ones will pass away one day, too.
The origin of suffering is attachment to transient things and ignorance of the temporary nature of things. Transient things do not only include the physical objects that surround us, but also ideas, and, in a greater sense, all objects of our perception. Ignorance is the lack of understanding of how our mind is attached to impermanent things.
The reasons for suffering are desire, passion, ardor, pursuit of wealth and prestige, striving for fame and popularity, or in short: craving and clinging. Because the objects of our attachment are transient, their loss is inevitable, thus suffering will necessarily follow.
Objects of attachment also include the idea of a “self” which is a delusion, because there is no abiding self. What we call “self” is just an imagined entity, and we are merely a part of the ceaseless becoming of the universe.
“Nirodha” is a Sanskrit term meaning the unmaking of sensual craving and conceptual attachment – that is, the cessation of suffering and its causes. The third noble truth expresses the idea that suffering can end by attaining dispassion.
Nirodha extinguishes all forms of clinging and attachment. This means that suffering can be overcome through human activity, simply by removing the cause of suffering.
Attaining and perfecting dispassion is a process of many levels that ultimately results in the state of Nirvana. Nirvana means freedom from all worries, troubles, complexes, fabrications and ideas. Nirvana is not comprehensible for those who have not attained it.