Even though the heat continues, the summer season is drawing to an end. Before we know it, our friends and family will be rushing off to the store for school supplies, new lunch boxes and backpacks and the chaos of fall will begin.
For many, summer is a time to take a break from all the running around. There are no after-school programs or sports practices. It’s a chance for the family to hop in the car or on a plane off to some new adventure. The church pews often look a little barren during these months of “time off.” As we move from one busy time to another, I want to take a moment of stillness to talk about the care we should be offering ourselves and each other.
In my own congregation this month we will be talking about unity and diversity. We may not always share the same political beliefs or opinions but we all want Sheridan to be a great place to live. Though Sheridan may not always seem very culturally diverse, we work as a community to be respectful and kind to one another.
Within Buddhism there is a meditation practice called a Metta meditation. The word Metta means benevolence, loving-kindness, friendliness, amity, good will and an active interest in others. This form of meditation is called a “loving kindness” meditation. There are many different versions of this meditation; I am presenting one possible choice.
The idea of this practice is to begin with yourself. We cannot offer loving kindness to others if we do not first love ourselves. Begin by finding a quiet place. You can sit or lie down, whatever is most comfortable for you. Start by just breathing. Focus on nothing else but the feeling of a deep breath in, and a slow smooth breath out. Take a few minutes out of your busy day and just breathe.
When your mind has begun to slow down, repeat this simple set of phrases to yourself. “May I be happy. May I be well. May I be safe. May I be peaceful and at ease.”
As you breathe, keep repeating these words to yourself. If at any time your mind becomes too busy with other thoughts and worries, return your focus to your breathing. The idea of meditation isn’t to be perfect, no one is, but instead to feel an ease of tension in your mind and body.
When you are comfortable, expand this practice to include others. Start by thinking about a friend or loved one. Bring their image to your mind. Offer them the same care you have been cultivating in yourself. Repeat these words, “May you be happy. May you be well. May you be safe. May you be peaceful and at ease.”
Next expand the circle of who is offered this loving kindness. Think about a person in your life that you struggle with. Say these words to them, “May you be happy. May you be well. May you be safe. May you be peaceful and at ease.”
Finally, think about the greater community you live in and the world around you, expanding to all human beings. Picture yourself surrounded by the entire human race: all colors, races, genders, ages, abilities, sizes and sexualities. Repeat these words, “May we be happy, may we be well, may we be safe, may we be peaceful and at ease.”
I share this practice as a way to take a step back, a moment of stillness. It’s not easy to find pause in our busy everyday lives and be kind to ourselves and to one another. It matters that we care for ourselves and our community.
I hope that you will find the same joy and comfort that I have experienced in trying this meditation.
May you be happy. May you be well. May you be safe. May you be peaceful and at ease.
Rev. Kali DeHart is a board certified chaplain and member of Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Sheridan.