Healing the Hearts and Souls of Our Institutions

Once you begin a practice of compassion in your journey of spiritual freedom, it becomes fairly easy to find compassion for yourself and those you love. The next level of compassionate work is with people you don’t know, and while it requires a little more intuitive connection, genuine care often arises fairly easily for others suffering or in need.

With practice and sincerity, you can get the feel for being compassionate with those that present themselves or who you have turned into an enemy. This typically takes more work, because in order to feel compassion, we must transcend our attachment to being right. We begin that process by compassionately holding our own wounds, particularly if those wounds were at the hands of our enemies, in order to then lovingly hold the wounds within others.

While finding compassion for our enemies may seem like the most daunting challenge of all, for many of us compassion for large institutions can prove to be the most foreign and difficult to access.

Isn’t it interesting how government, the press, churches and big business are easy to criticize and difficult to forgive as long as we don’t personally know anyone: 1) in public office, 2) reporting the news, 3) officiating at a church, or 4) running a large corporation? After all, institutions are just megalithic, power hungry organizations. They don’t have hearts and souls, do they?

You can live with the theory that large institutions don’t have hearts and souls until you meet someone that assumes significant responsibility within that institution. If you decided to have a heart-to-heart conversation with someone running a large institution, you would quickly find that they encounter the same kinds of dilemmas and challenges operating these large organizations, as you do in your own personal life. The difference is scale and the number of lives affected.

As a business consultant some years ago, I learned that businesses and organizations reflect the challenges of the people working within them. So do they have hearts and souls? In a sense, they do. They embody the myriad of hearts and souls, desires and challenges, of every person that participates inside them.

Have you ever been to a concert where everyone was singing a favorite song with the band? The room seems to have a vibe of its own. The collective feelings of everyone there seem to merge into one, big energetic pulse.

Families have their own rhythms too. We have certain habits we form together, ways in which we do or do not express our love. We even create our own internal language, patterned from things we used to say as kids or typical parental forms of encouragement or admonishment.

That’s what happens in institutions. Whether you do or do not want to ascribe a single heart and soul to a concert, a family or an organization, when we gather together we do seem to create something greater than ourselves. That greater expression is a reflection of all of its parts—namely, all of its participants.

So who are we criticizing when we complain about an institution? We are railing against all of it is members. We are complaining about other people. We are closing our eyes to their struggles and holding ourselves above them.

Institutions, like people, need compassion when the people within those organizations are feeling the weight of their challenges.

Have you ever experienced someone compassionately listening or being present to you when you are struggling with a significant decision you need to make? Isn’t it wonderful to be able to express your frustrations until things finally quiet down inside? Isn’t it remarkable how clarity usually follows on the heels of your inner stillness. The right and best choice seems to be suddenly clear. Their compassion helps you find clarity.

Imagine yourself holding in compassion some institution that drives you crazy. Imagine all those people inside the institution trying to get clear about what to do next. Imagine how much easier it would be for the people operating those institutions to make clearer and better choices if they felt less criticized, and particularly if they felt compassion.

During the next few years in and around 2012, I expect we are going to see many large institutions struggle, as we enter into this age of truth. In the same way that many of us as individuals and within our families have been facing our deeper truths together, institutions are also going to be held accountable for the truths and lies upon which they built their foundations.

In as much as compassion has helped you and your loved ones discover and express your deeper truths, the same is now true for our large institutions. The gift of compassion in helping us safely recognize, own, and reveal our deepest truths is meaningful whether we are talking about individuals or organizations. True freedom from the bonds of our self-made challenges, for us as individuals or within institutions, emerges within the arms of compassion.