One of the things that Naikan reveals for you (in very specific and personal ways) is the interdependent nature of your life. As you trace back the support you receive, day after day after day, it becomes vibrantly clear that you need and benefit from countless others, most of whom you do not know and cannot know. Though the threads connecting you may be invisible, they are essential to your wellbeing and even your survival, running like a vast network of life support, far and wide across the planet, throughout the country, around the town, within your job, and, last but not least, deep within your family. You are certainly not alone, even when you think you are. Even when you feel you are. The feeling of loneliness does not negate the ever-present support that keeps your life afloat.
Given that we are so intricately connected with each other, where shall we draw our circle of compassion and care? Who is in and who is left out? When we remember that we are inextricably bound together, it becomes hard to see ourselves as separate and distinct. If I am touched by another person, their presence changes my life in a very particular way, and changes me. They influence my way of thinking, inform my choices, and impact on my life in a very real sense. We mix it up with each other every day, whether we like it or not, and whether we know it or not.
We are one very big, very messy family, and most of us want the same basic things – to be included, to be appreciated, to do a good job with our chance at life. Fr. Gregory Boyle would say that we ALL want the same basic things, even those who have become destructive and dangerous and who, as a result, have been ostracized and demonized. Fr. Boyle has dedicated his life to widening the circle of our compassion to be more inclusive, so that “no one is standing outside of that circle”.
We’re all in this together, travel companions for the trip, bumbling and floundering along, dusting each other off, and shining a light when we can. Fr. Boyle’s light is bright, beautiful, and highly inclusive. Take a moment to enjoy its glow and to see what you might learn about your own circle of compassion. Where do you draw the line?
Linda Anderson Krech, LICSW, is Program Director of the ToDo Institute and has been a frequent contributor to Thirty Thousand Days. She is the author of Little Dreams: A Practical Guide to Spiritual Parenting and has been teaching Japanese Psychology for over 25 years.