Sunday, October 23, 2011

Chaos to Order

Fall is a gentle season. In Southern California there are subtle changes of cool nights, early-morning fog, falling leaves, and withering vines. Monarch butterflies continue to grace my garden but there are fewer now and the milkweed is no longer being consumed by their offspring. The earth seems to be drawing into herself, preparing to rest. She will continue to provide winter fruits and vegetables to nourish our bodies but there is a shift in the elements, even here in sunny California.

This is the time of year when I begin to prepare for my own wintering. My stack of non-fiction books is growing by my bedside ready to assist me in gathering new wisdom and insight about myself and the world I live in. I love this time of reflection and discernment through the written word.

Lately I've been reading Leadership and the New Science: Discovering Order in a Chaotic World by Margaret Wheatley. Margaret Wheatley writes, teaches, and speaks about radically new business practices and ideas for organizing in chaotic times using quantum science and nature for guidance. She works to create organizations of all types where people are known as the blessing, not the problem.

Leadership and the New Science was published in 1999 but the wisdom and insight Wheatley shares is even more relevant in today's chaotic world than it was a decade ago. Daily we observe chaos in government and the global economy. Unemployment plagues once-thriving countries and communities and depression is at an all-time high. There is a growing fear of disorder and chaos.

Yet chaos and disorder, and the falling apart of antiquated systems, is exctly what is required in order to move into the prophesied new era. Old systems that no longer serve must fall away and be replaced with sustainable systems that do not deplete the natural resources of our beautiful planet while supporting the growth of communities.

But where do we look for inspiration, hope, and wisdom? Where are the systems that can serve as a model for more sustainable systems? Nature. Nature is constantly changing from one cycle to another. Look at the cycle of a butterfly, the migration of birds, the seasonal transformation of deciduous forests, and the life cycle of all sentient beings.

Perhaps if each of us makes the commitment to reflect on our own inner nature and spend time each day meditating in the arms the natural world, especially wild places, order will begin to emerge within and without. Inspiration can replace fear and ideas for creating order from disorder can begin to emerge.

Nature is filled with cycles and rhythms of change, order and chaos. What plants thrive naturally in the wilderness habitats where you live? What seasonal changes can you observe around you? What natural systems are working together to create balance in your garden or neighborhood? What is not working and needs to be changed?

We live in evolutionary times, more globally intense than at any other time in recorded history. Human beings are amazingly adaptable but we have forgotten how to live together in balance and harmony. We have lost our interdependence with Mother Earth and are out of rhythm with her cycles. She is reminding us that the world within is reflected in Nature. None of us can live alone. We need each other and our communities to solve the daunting problems in our world.

During this season I encourage you to slow down and look within. Is there any chaos in your life that you wish to transform? Spend some time in nature and allow her to speak to your inner wildness. Reflect on what is working and what is not. Let the chaos within and without guide you to creative solutions as you bring order to your life and hope into the world. Be willing to let go of the things that no longer serve you and embrace the invitation to transform the internal and external chaos. Allow nature to be your compass.
"One is constantly reminded of the infinite lavishness and fertility of Nature -- inexhaustible abundance amid what seems enormous waste. And yet when we look into any of her operations that lie within reach of our minds, we learn that no particle of her material is wasted or worn out. It is eternally flowing from use to use, beauty to yet higher beauty; and we soon cease to lament waste and death, and rather rejoice and exult in the imperishable, unspendable wealth of the universe, and faithfully watch and wait the reappearance of everything that melts and fades and dies about us, feeling sure that its next appearance will be better and more beautiful than the last." ~ John Muir

Saturday, October 8, 2011


Compassion is defined as a deep awareness of the suffering of another coupled with the wish to relieve it. Wikipedia states that compassion is a virtue in which the emotional capacities of empathy and sympathy are regarded as a part of love itself, and a cornerstone of greater social interconnection and humanism.
Last week a dear friend forwarded a video of Tenzin Robert Thurman speaking at Chautauqua Institution in 2009. Robert Thurman is the first American to be ordained a Tibetan Monk by the Dalai Lama. He is a scholar, author and tireless proponent of peace.

In this video Robert Thurman asks that we develop compassion for all, including our enemies. He prescribes a seven-step meditation exercise to extend compassion beyond our inner circle, encouraging universal compassion and responsibility. Although he shares from the Buddhist perspective, his message is at the heart of all spiritual traditions.

I began reflecting on the meaning of compassion in my own life and my limitations in seeing beyond my inner circle. At my core I believe that all human beings carry both light and shadow but I recognize that I often experience judgement about others, especially leaders, who appear to be void of compassion for others. However I want to become a universally compassionate person who lives from an expansive heart space.  How do I become part of the change the world needs? How do I begin to expand my perspective of compassion to include all of humanity? How do I become peace?

These questions sent me on a Internet search for deeper insight and awareness about this principle of compassion with the intention to move from my head into my heart, for myself and the world.

I found that Buddah said, "Compassion is that which makes the heart of the good move at the pain of others. It crushes and destroys the pain of others; thus, it is called compassion. It is called compassion because it shelters and embraces the distressed." Christ challenged mankind to forsake their own desires and to act compassionately towards others, particularly those in need or distress. Through the ages Rabbis have spoken of the "thirteen attributes of compassion." The Biblical conception of compassion is the feeling of the parent for the child.

During my exploration I came across an organization called "Charter for Compassion." The original contributors of the Charter are a group of multi-faith, multi-national religious thinkers and leaders. The council of contributors has grown and includes many spiritual leaders as well as muscians and writers throughout the world. (

The Charter for Compassion states...
The principle of compassion lies at the heart of all religious, ethical and spiritual traditions, calling us always to treat all others as we wish to be treated ourselves. Compassion impels us to work tirelessly to alleviate the suffering of our fellow creatures, to dethrone ourselves from the center of our world and put another there, and to honor the inviolable sanctity of every single human being, treating everybody, without exception, with absolute justice, equity and respect.

It is also necessary in both public and private life to refrain consistently and empathically from inflicting pain. To act or speak violently out of spite, chauvinism, or self-interest, to impoverish, exploit or deny basic rights to anybody, and to incite hatred by denigrating others—even our enemies—is a denial of our common humanity. We acknowledge that we have failed to live compassionately and that some have even increased the sum of human misery in the name of religion.

We therefore call upon all men and women ~ to restore compassion to the center of morality and religion ~ to return to the ancient principle that any interpretation of scripture that breeds violence, hatred or disdain is illegitimate ~ to ensure that youth are given accurate and respectful information about other traditions, religions and cultures ~ to encourage a positive appreciation of cultural and religious diversity ~ to cultivate an informed empathy with the suffering of all human beings—even those regarded as enemies.

We urgently need to make compassion a clear, luminous and dynamic force in our polarized world. Rooted in a principled determination to transcend selfishness, compassion can break down political, dogmatic, ideological and religious boundaries. Born of our deep interdependence, compassion is essential to human relationships and to a fulfilled humanity. It is the path to enlightenment, and indispensable to the creation of a just economy and a peaceful global community.
I encourage everyone interested in world peace to explore this amazing website. There are inspirational resources and ideas for acting with compassion on a daily basis. By affirming your participation in this project you join thousands of others, worldwide, who have made the same agreement.

May we become the change we want to see. May we practice universal compassion, finding joy in living in kindness for our self and others. May we practice peace!

Blessings of PEACE, COMPASSION, and LIGHT ~ Gretchen