Using your chosen spiritual practice, take about fifteen minutes to empty and find a peaceful place within yourself. Now imagine the four qualities of mature compassion – a quiet mind and open heart, presence and radical simplicity – as a quartet of qualities within you. Each quality has a beautiful tone and resonance.

First, hear the voice of your quiet mind reminding you that stillness allows you to go deeper than the surface mind of the ego, and helps you loosen the ego’s tight boundaries of control and separation.

Now hear the gentle voice of your heart whisper: all suffering is the same, yours, mine, society’s, and the earth’s; there is no use trying to separate yourself.

And now the voice of your presence says there’s no need to worry about performance or "doing the right thing": just be yourself, listen deeply, and remember caring is a mutual relationship.

Finally, you hear the voice of radical simplicity saying, just do whatever is needed in the moment with a loving heart. Take a few moments to really listen to each voice in the quartet.

Imagine these four voices – a quiet mind, an open heart, presence, and radical simplicity – blending and singing as one. What do you hear? Now bring to mind a human or nonhuman who is suffering. Visualize yourself caring for them with all of these qualities working in unison. What do you experience? Can you feel your natural desire to care, so spontaneous and so joyful it simply overflows from you? Bring Tagore’s beautiful words into your heart, "I slept and dreamt that life was joy, I woke and found that life was service, I acted and behold service was joy." Take time to reflect, draw, and journal.

When you have finished this exercise make a commitment to spend time with the member of the human or earth family you have just focused on. Try to care for them with the four qualities of mature compassion working in unison. And remember compassion is a practice, it deepens with time and dedication.

Gail Straub in The Rhythm of Compassion