Yoga Journal: Based on your work, what does “radical compassion” mean to you today?
Joanna Macy: Compassion is not something you have, like a virtue or cultivated quality. It is rather an expression of your larger being and can be understood as integral to your belonging or interbeing in the sacred living body of Earth.
Compassion boils down to not being afraid of the suffering of your world or of your self. It involves being open to what you’re feeling about that suffering (grief, fear, rage, overwhelm) and brave enough to experience it. It helps to know that we are all going to die. And you have this precious moment to get close to the suffering and see what it has to tell you. You can’t heal something you’re afraid to get near. Compassion is what impels you to act for the sake of the larger whole—or put more accurately, it is the whole acting through you.