John and June Darling find meaning through a daily practice of compassion
How can we best respond to the rising tide of anger, hatred and violence plaguing our society and diminishing our communities? Responding in kind invariably makes matters worse. Fortunately, we can learn techniques to respond in ways that reduce those negative emotions. One person working to set a more constructive example is Dr. June Darling, a former educator and executive coach who has been studying and writing about compassion for more than a decade and sharing those thoughts with readers of The Good Life magazine.
The Darlings and a group of like-minded friends participate in a “circle of compassion” on a regular basis as members face everyday challenges. With a light-hearted spirit and humor, they work to become kinder human beings.
About a decade ago, June and her husband John, a retired dentist, came across the work of Frank Rogers, a professor at the Claremont School of Theology and author of the book, Practicing Compassion. Rogers’ book offers practical steps any person can choose to follow.
June recently started writing a regular blog, Journey to the Good Life: Following the Way of Compassion, as a way to encourage others to discover this peaceful and rewarding path. Ultimately, she wants to turn this work into a book. Her writing is uplifting as she shares her personal journey to become a more compassionate person. It’s an antidote to the flood of acrimony on social media and in the national press.
At the heart of this work is the desire for humans to flourish. The relentless pursuit of material possessions, wealth and fame won’t help us thrive, but research shows that mindfulness, compassion and meaningful human connections make a positive difference.
All of us are triggered by situations and interactions with other people and we get frustrated and angry and our typical reaction is to respond in kind. Perhaps slow drivers frustrate you, to take a simple example. Your blood pressure rises as you slowly motor down the highway, which is not healthy. Rogers teaches a simple process that includes noticing how you are reacting, calming your mind, and working to let go of your need to have other people be just like you or act in ways that are to your liking.
The path of compassion is a challenging practice, particularly when it comes to our interactions with other people. When someone is critical or unkind, we discipline ourselves not to take it personally and instead recognize that they may be having a bad day or have some old wound that may be contributing to their behavior. We can train ourselves to extend grace and assume they have good intentions.
This is not about giving up, being a doormat or letting people hurt others, Darling said. It’s about choosing a path that begins with a belief that they are fundamentally good people who may be acting in unskillful ways. If we want a more peaceful world, we have to start with ourselves by abandoning our desire for life to turn out just the way we want. Choosing how to respond skilfully is critical.
It’s vital that we have compassion towards others, but it’s even more important that we extend that grace to ourselves, Darling told me.
The compassion practice, she noted, is not about letting yourself or others get away with violence or cruelty. It’s about responding with a deeper sense of humanity and allowing for the potential for every person to be better.
Interaction by interaction, the Darlings are committed to the proposition that each of us can make our community a better place with these practices. I think this is one of the most important community-building efforts I’m aware of.
I highly recommend her blog, which can be found at journeytothegoodlife.net. If you read her work, your day will be brightened. Her insights are powerful, simple and authentic. I also recommend Rogers’ book, Practicing Compassion, which provides a path any one of us can follow.
Darling’s website has a resource page that talks about how one can start a circle of compassion. https://www.journeytothegoodlife.net/resources
Here’s a link to Frank Roger’s book:
Here’s a link to June’s blog: