Rochester, Minn., will be declared a "City of Compassion" by its mayor, Ardell Brede, and city council on September 18, 2017. This action is part of a worldwide movement created by Karen Armstrong, launched in 2009, and encouraged by the Dalai Lama and others.

Coming out of my own healing from addiction, beginning in 1984, and a Buddhist practice of almost 25 years, my intention to work with the mayor was set nearly six years ago. I have taken Buddhist trainings, attended yearly retreats, and have taught Buddhism for more than 11 years at a prison.

It was a recent two-year training in nurturing and awakening a deeper compassion towards aging, illness and dying that gave me courage to openly step into this work. I collaborate with a wonderful group of sincere individuals who have embraced the declaration of compassion as a value in our community.

Our action has come out of the sustaining question: "From where within us is compassion awakened and cultivated?"

What occurs when compassion is declared as a guiding principle of a city? What happens when we are encouraged to develop this in all areas of our lives - in our workplaces, our schools, churches, the public square, as a community?

How do we, as individuals, transform and know that we can repeatedly turn towards the connection to all, to relate to our own and others' suffering, and to do our best work to relieve that suffering?

A community follows certain guidelines for becoming a compassionate city, but it is up to the needs we identify in our own community that give us a focus.

We have chosen three areas for the stewardship of the universal values of kindness, love and compassion:
• Honoring and supporting compassionate thought and action already existing in our community;
• Growing a culture of compassion as a binding force in our community;
• Creating opportunities for meaningful multigenerational participation in compassionate actions.

As we discover what our Compassionate City will become, the ideas enliven us and foster a unifying and caring connection to all beings.

Catherine Ashton, was a guide to China and Tibet for 30 years, is a Buddhist practitioner and facilitator.


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