1. Armstrong writes, "When we cling to our certainties, likes, and dislikes, deeming them essential to our sense of self, we alienate ourselves from the 'great transformation' of the Way, because the reality is that we are all in continual flux, moving from one state to another. An unenlightened person, [Chinese philosopher and mystic] Zhuangzi explained, is like a frog in a well who mistakes the tiny patch of sky he can see for the whole; but once he has seen the sky's immensity, his perspective is changed forever" (p. 122). How do you interpret this lesson? How might you put it into practice?
2. Discuss what Socrates meant when he said, "The unexamined life is not worth living" (p. 129).
3. Discuss the concept of the mystery of life that was underscored in this chapter. How does acknowledging and honoring the mystery of life and of each other contribute to our capacity for compassion?
4. Do the exercise on page 129, "conducting a debate in which everybody argues for a position that is the opposite of what he or she believes. Then discuss your experience."
1. Follow the three steps Armstrong lays out on pages 128-130.
"First, think about those experiences that touch you deeply and lift you momentarily beyond yourself so that you seem to inhabit your humanity more fully than usual" (p. 128).2. Added by Bonnie from page 130): "Make a serious attempt to pin down precisely what it is that you love about your partner or a close friend. List that person's qualities: Is that why you love him? Or is there something about her that you cannot describe?During your mindfulness practice, look around your immediate circle: your family, colleagues, and friends. What do you really know about each and every one of them? What are their deepest fears and hopes? What are their most intimate dreams and fantasies? And how well do you think they really know you?"
"Second, stand back and listen to the aggressive certainty that characterizes so much of our discourse these days" (p. 128).
"Third, spend some time trying to define exactly what distinguishes you from everybody else" (p. 129).
Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life ~ by Karen Armstrong, 2010