Constellations of Compassion 2 – Finding Meaning

June 22, 2013

By: Monica Worline, Jane Dutton

Orignially posted on Compassion at Work Blog

This is the second of a series of three articles co-created by the CompassionLab and Soaringwords for children and adults grappling with serious illness.

Looking for meaning

When you gaze into the night sky, you can take strength discovering that the possibility of giving and receiving compassion is as boundless as the stars.

People grappling with serious illness tend to be downtrodden. If you glance around the waiting room or hospital lounge you may notice many people with slumped shoulders or patients and family members looking down. Often times, people do not make eye contact. Try something totally different today to change this pattern.

Laura King, a positive psychologist, writes about meaning in life. Specifically, she’s empirically tested the theory of object coherence, known as pattern detection. Her research shows that when people encounter a pattern, this recognition boosts well-being and gives them a sense of control. We invite you to look for patterns of kindness and love. By finding these kind of patterns we hope you will experience more well-being. For example, by using constellations as your guide, you can become a constellation of compassion for others, radiating light and kindness. Naturally, you can also “spot” someone being a compassionate beacon for you.

Here are some examples of giving and receiving compassion using constellation metaphors.  Sean’s mother and father needed to keep hope alive as time was running out for their three-year-old son to get a heart transplant.  They kept moving forward in the midst of serious challenges and multiple hospitalizations knowing that he needed to get a new heart in order to live. One night, in the middle of a blizzard, they got the phone call that a heart donation match was found.  They needed to get to the hospital immediately.  Even though it was one in the morning, their neighbors shoveled out the car and drove them twenty miles to the hospital embodying the horsepower of Auriga, the charioteer.

While waiting in the hospital, Sean’s mom sat in a rocking chair singing to her child. She noticed a blinking red light and heard an ambulance far off in the distance. Looking out of the hospital window through the pounding snow, she detected an ambulance speeding over the George Washington Bridge.  Just as explorers would look to the North Star for clarity and guidance, in that moment she had a knowingness that the heart that was going to be transplanted into her son was in the ambulance racing towards the hospital.  The team of doctors began surgery immediately. The heart was a good match.  Sixteen years later, Sean graduated from high school.

If you are bombarded by many medical procedures you can look to Aquila, the Eagle constellation, to inspire you to rise above fear and anxiety to find clarity and calm.  Perhaps there is someone in your life that always has the ability to see the big picture, rather than getting mired down in despair. This person can be your Aquila inspiration.

Simple gestures mean so much when people are ill.  At times your kind actions can mirror Aquarius, the water carrier as you fill the water pitcher for your family member’s roommate at the same time you are refilling your relative’s water pitcher. Other times a stranger or hospital volunteer may offer you a cool glass of water, quenching your thirst and being a compassionate constellation for you.

Constellations of meaning are all around you. Once you start looking for meaning we are confident that you’ll find it just as simply as seeing the first star in the night sky.


Soaringwords founder Lisa Buksbaum with Jane Dutton of CompassionLab

One of the CompassionLab’s community partners is Soaringwords. Soaringwords is a non-profit organization whose mission is to lessen the impact of serious illness by connecting ill children and their families to a community of compassionate volunteers who inspire them to “Never give up!” Soaringwords embraces ill children and families by providing fun, creative and educational activities both in person and online which cultivate joy, hope, laughter and healing.