Compassion begins with the soothing look, the disarming stare and the gaze of wonder.
I threw myself into one of the best stories ever told by contemplating its significance with my senses, feelings and easing of the body. The Story of the Good Samaritan gripped me once again as I imagined being the bruised and battered man on the road from Jerusalem to Jericho. Robbers did their job most effectively by emptying me of my pockets and they attempted to take away my dignity. The priest and priest’s assistant passed me by, but the Good Samaritan stopped, looked me in the eyes and was totally present to my painful condition. His eyes seemed to say it all and I felt redeemed, worthy and loved.
Outside of meditation, I remember the gaze of people as they compassionately held me in their hearts. I recall a lady from South Dublin on a pilgrimage to Croagh Patrick in early June. We got to know each other as part of a group and tuned into each other’s physical and spiritual needs. I felt cared for when I told her of my weak ankles and she checked in with me at another point along our two-day hike. Her eyes revealed a knowingness that made me feel calm and centred. I reciprocated by asking about her husband who wasn’t with her, and I trust that my eyes showed sincerity as she smiled and spoke of him.
Beyond looking people in the eyes, the Story of the Good Samaritan and my pilgrimage have taught me to be consistently connected to people and find consolation in caring for them, especially in the ugliness and messiness of life.
It felt so real when the Good Samaritan picked up my dirty body from the ground. He showed acts of great kindness by touching my puked flesh, lifting me onto his donkey, accompanying me to the inn and feeding me from my bedside. He stayed with me for as long as was needed, and when time came he paid for the innkeeper to take care of me. Perhaps the Good Samaritan’s deeds rubbed off the innkeeper by inspiring him to go above and beyond his job description. I imagine he would have visited me more often – keeping my wounds clean and supplying me with bandages. And I looked forward to seeing the Good Samaritan again.
Finally, I have recently returned from an artist residency in Sicily with six friends. It involved engaging with creative activities such as poetry, music and art while living in the capital city of Palermo. Personally, I relished letting go of the strict routine and rituals which I had built up over many years. I considered habits such as meditation first thing in the morning and unwinding for bed at 9pm to be essential. But taking part in group activities during these times was just as good. We had lots of fun and even meditated on a few occasions. All our needs were met when we truly listened and acted as one body.