Using your chosen practice take about fifteen minutes to quiet your mind and open your heart. Find a peaceful place within yourself. For a few moments go back to a time in your personal story where you have already practiced this mature compassion that embraces contradictions – when you forgave your parents, confronted the wake-up call in your story, or healed your central image. Remember at those times your heart understood that there were no simplistic truths.

Imagine a societal situation where someone has different values than you do. Choose a situation that's real for you, something where it's very difficult for you to feel compassion. Now keeping your heart open feel your righteousness, your judgments, and your arrogance as you encounter this situation. Keep breathing, keep your heart open. Feel your rage and resentment, feel your despair. Feel the messy contradictions in your own life. Remember in order to find genuine compassion you have to pass through these feelings. And remember we're all a beautiful mess full of untidy paradoxes. Take time to reflect, draw, and journal.

Once again return to your practice for a few minutes quieting your mind, entering the stillness. Become aware of the infinite spaciousness of your quiet mind. Notice that in this spaciousness there is room for all points of view. This infinite stillness is soft, fluid, welcoming, without the tight boundaries of right and wrong. Now place the situation you are working with in this infinite spaciousness. Just hold it there next to your own point of view. You don't have to agree with it, just gently hold it here. Try holding your own truth and at the same time softly respecting the truth of the other person. Do this for a few minutes. If feelings of rage, righteousness, or judgment return, simply notice them and let them go. Take time to feel, reflect, draw, and describe your experience.

Visualize your quiet mind as a doorway into your open heart. Imagine your heart completely open, in full blossom. Place your hands on your heart in full blossom and listen to its gentle voice. Can you hear it whisper there are no simple truths, no tidy categories of "I am right and you are wrong." Can you hear your heart gently remind you that invisible threads connect all of us in our joy and our sorrow – no matter what values we hold? Now once again encounter the situation you are working with. Go to the place Rumi describes where your heart is in full blossom, where differences are forgotten, and "all hearts are in unison." In this place try offering compassion to your encounter. Do this in whatever way feels genuine to you. What do you feel as you offer compassion in this situation? Take time to feel, reflect, draw, and describe your experience.

This exercise is something you can practice for the rest of your life. In your relationships, family, work, and community you are constantly challenged to expand your caring to those who think and live differently than you do. This isn't easy. But remember it's in the heat of your discomfort where you grow, and where your heart comes into full blossom

Gail Straub in The Rhythm of Compassion