Cooking Up Compassion Event Series

Sophomores Shailee Shah ‘20, Shana Fletcher ‘20, and Mira Schueler ‘20 have hosted two of their three “Cooking Up Compassion” events with great success! The complex topic of compassion is investigated with peers over a delicious meal. The thoughtful event coordinators frame each event around a guest speaker who specializes in compassion. It can be challenging to dive into such an expansive realm, especially with folks you don’t (yet) know. Next Monday, Zen Buddhist Priest Catherine Anraku Hondorp will facilitate conversation.

Event creators Shana Fletcher, Shailee Shah, and Mira Schueler are all in the class of 2020

The first Cooking Up Compassion event was led by Smith Alum Peggie Gillespie, who encouraged attendees to consider how they give and receive compassion. She led students in an introspective meditation, followed by a discussion about the role of compassion in our contemporary political context. Peggie referenced influential spiritual leader Ram Dass, who keeps a photo of Donald Trump on his altar in an effort to extend compassion to all human beings. Peggie invoked the concept that hatred is a punishment we inflict upon ourselves. Peggie shared her time and message with students; pouring our energy into kindness and compassion enhances our human experience.

At the second event, compassion coach and former therapist Shana Hiranandani led discussion. Shana’s experience as a therapist provided her with an array of mindful tools, which she shared with the group. One exercise, which she calls “The Big Mistake,” asks participants to address a mistake they may still dwell on. It is emotionally draining to always return to a place of guilt or regret; Shana worked with students to reshape their experience into one of growth! Shana asked students what they may have learned from “The Big Mistake” in their past, and how that lesson has bettered their future. Sometimes the lesson was clear. Other times, it took conversation and honest reflection to draw out the silver lining. This exercise was one of compassion turned inwards. Cooking Up Compassion is just as much about sharing compassion with yourself as with your peers!

A group with full hearts and bellies after Cooking Up Compassion

Together, students focused not on their suffering, but on what it has taught them. One recurring theme was feeling that academic responsibilities limited folks from “being in the moment.” Miranda Catsambas ’19 reflected on how she’s reshaped her experience of “not being in the moment” to recognizing that when her mind is drifting elsewhere, it’s okay not to rein it back in. Being in the moment for Miranda means being present in your thoughts and emotions, not necessarily in the physical space you’re sharing with others. Students in agreement noted that we tend to punish ourselves for being wrapped up in other thought patterns, when it can be healthier and more rewarding to follow those internal narratives and see where they take us. Maybe we’ll learn something about ourselves.

Please join Shailee, Shana, Mira, Zen Buddhist Priest Catherine Anraku Hondorp, and guests for the last Cooking Up Compassion event. It will be Monday, March 5th in CC204 from 6-7pm.

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