Friday, August 24, 2012

What the World Needs Now

I was going to write about all the crazy mental places my mind goes during a long or difficult (or both) run today, but in light of yet another mass shooting in America, this time in my very own city, I've been thinking about other things.

The song, obviously, says we need love - and that's always true.  We can also use compassion.  Compassion for those whose views differ from ours (never more needed than in an election year in the age of the Internet, god help us), compassion for those less fortunate, and compassion for each and every person who's been affected in Aurora, Milwaukee - to say nothing of the victims of violence around the world.

I'd like to share a really lovely Compassion Meditation today.  I've seen it in many different places - from Sharon Salzberg, to Oprah.com to my KKY Teen Teacher Training Intensive.  It can vary a bit depending on where you see it, but I'll offer a pretty simple distillation of the various versions.

Come to a comfortable seat, either on the floor, up against the wall, or in a char.  You can also come to lay down on your back - any position that allows you to be comfortable with your spine straight.

This meditation is in three parts.  To begin, bring your attention to your breath to help quiet and focus your mind.  Begin to repeat the following phrase to yourself:

May I be happy and peaceful
May I be safe and protected
May I live with ease and joy

After repeating the phrase a few times to yourself, come to mind someone in your life that you love very much.  Attributing the phrases now to them, begin to repeat:

May you be happy and peaceful
May you be safe and protected
May you live with ease and joy

Finally, begin to think of someone you struggle with.  It doesn't have to be a person who has severely wronged or abused you if you don't think you're ready to wish them well, it can just be someone who perhaps gets on your nerves or with whom you occasionally argue.  Once again, now attributing the phrases to this difficult person.

May you be happy and peaceful
May you be safe and protected
May you live with ease and joy

To close, bring your attention back to your breath for a few moments before slowly blinking the eyes open.


As I said, there are many variations of this meditation.  You can also include a round where you think of someone you don't know very well but who you maybe see often - a familiar face on the subway, a clerk at the grocery store.  You can leave one out or you can slightly change the wording of the repeated phrase.  Any google search of "Compassion Meditation," "Loving Kindness Meditation," or "Metta Meditation" will yield some interesting results.

The world needs a lot more concrete action than just love and compassion to keep tragedies like this from occurring, but we should never, ever underestimate the power of giving and receiving love.

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