Over time, I’ve been wondering where all this compassion originates, how it is that I am able to be so attentive and loving towards strangers [at hospice]. I marvel at the words and gestures that come from inside of me as if from a deep well that’s being revealed as I witness the suffering of others. A well which I’d assumed either didn’t exist or, at best, was hidden in the muddy waters of childhood trauma and deep-seated scepticism about intimacy. Yet here it is, revealing itself first to others (who comment on it) and, slowly, slowly, to my awareness and acceptance. Will wonders never cease?
On this Sunday morning, after a storm knocked over lavender in pots waiting to be planted and garden tools leaning against the side of the house, I awake once more, amazed.
Think, dear Sir [writes the poet a hundred years ago], of the world you carry inside you, and call this thinking whatever you want to: a remembering of your own childhood or a yearning towards a future of your own–only be attentive to what is arising in you, and place that above everything you perceive around you. What is happening in your innermost self is worthy of your entire love; somehow you must find a way to work at it, and not loose too much time or too much courage in clarifying your attitude towards people.
source: Rilke, R.M. (1875-1926). (1984). Letters to a young poet. Translated by S. Mitchell. New York: Vintage, p. 56.