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My small seed of peace

Saturday, December 15, 2012 by Marianne Elliott

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This morning, before I did my morning meditation practice, I checked Facebook on my phone while I was waiting for the kettle to boil. I read about a school shooting in the US.

I’m going to tell you what happened inside me when I read that. If you think reading my reaction will trigger strong emotions in you, please feel free to skip ahead to the practice I’m sharing today. If you skim this post you’ll see a link – click on that link and ignore the rest of the post and you’ll get the best part.

For those of you who think knowing how my brain reacts to tragedy might make you feel less alone, here’s what happened to me.

Instead of exposing myself to the terrible sadness that was inevitable if I allowed myself to be open to the suffering of the people directly affected by this attack, I went into intellectual mode. This is one of my strongest defense mechanisms against suffering.

Instead started to think about all the people in Afghanistan who have been killed by American soldiers, the women who I met and interviewed whose children were killed in a US airstrike on their village. And I thought ‘How can a country that has been at war for more than ten years be shocked when this happens at home?’

I talked myself out of feeling what was going on in that school, by deflecting my attention to a situation that no longer makes me deeply sad, and instead makes me angry. Because the anger feels less helpless than the sadness. And I spent so long feeling lost in the sadness that my reactive self now prefers the anger.

I’m telling you this because this is what happens to all of us, in different ways, when we are confronted by situations with emotions that feel too big for us. We revert to our own preferred protection – mine is intellectualisation + righteous anger. Yours might be denial or avoidance.

My meditation practice gives me another choice.

So this morning when my tea was ready I took it out onto the steps and I sat in silence for a moment and found a little bit of my heart that was soft enough to access – the part that wishes well-being to my own nieces and nephews – and I began a metta meditation practice.

Interested in joining me? Here’s one I recorded for you:

I wished health, safety, peace and happiness to all the men, women in children living in fear of airstrikes and drones in Afghan villages.

I wished health, safety, peace and happiness to all the soldiers in Afghanistan, including the Taleban soldiers.

I wished health, safety, peace and happiness to everyone in Israel and Gaza.

I wished health, safety, peace and an eventual return to happiness to the children, teachers and families at the school in Sandy Hook.

And I wished health, safety, peace and an eventual return to happiness to everyone who is feeling sad, scared and angry today.

I wished health (mental and physical), safety, peace and happiness to everyone with a gun in their possession today.

And I wished health, safety, peace, happiness and wisdom to all the men and women who wield the power to decide to go to war, to end war, to design, produce and sell new weapons, and to pass laws to protect us all from those weapons.

I cried, and I felt the fear and the sadness and the helplessness. And I also felt the tiny seed of love that I was planting in the world by offering my heartfelt wishes for peace.

And I wished that my tiny seed would grow.

May you be safe. May you be well. May you abide in peace. May you be happy.




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10 Responses to "My small seed of peace"

  1. Brigitte says:

    I had a very similar reaction around 9/11. My first response to the media coverage and the pain and sadness around me was anger at the arrogance of my country for thinking violence on a large scale could never reach us. That we were somehow untouchable, despite the daily atrocities people in other places endured.

    In many ways, I still feel this way. Does the US somehow deserve retribution? No, I don’t think that. I also know that weighing your personal grief against another’s is a losing game for everyone. But I can’t help but wish that our graduate schools prioritized peace over US interest.

    This time, I’m finding my anger deflected in a different way — at the way social media is allowing rumors and misinformation to spread like wildfire. I’m a believer that verified information trumps fast information. I get angry when I look at my Twitter feed and see so much conjecture. And yet, I know now, that these emotions are the hard shell on the horror I feel at this violence.

    Thanks for opening this conversation, Marianne. It’s an important one.

  2. Tina Tierson says:

    All I can say right now is that I love you, Marianne. I have no other words because my heart hurts.

  3. Christen says:

    THank you for this. I really appreciate your sharing your process on this.

  4. Thank you, Marianne. This comforted and nourished me deeply.

  5. Marcela says:

    I was playing with my 4 year olds when I heard the news and all I could do was hug them tighter and then my eyes filled with tears. I was unable to stop the sadness, it felt too close to home.

  6. […] first way in to the news was through Marianne Elliott’s post My small seed of peace. Then I went to the New York Times and read the front page article from yesterday. I didn’t look […]

  7. Kate Bacon says:

    Hi Marianne

    I found your post through Jasmine Lamb at All Is Listening.

    I would like to share something that we can do (if I may). Through love and sadness at the suffering of all those involved in this tragedy (and the countless others in the world) we can develop compassion. The mind of compassion is not helpless, it is strong, it is fuelled by positive energy. Anger only destroys us, compassion makes us fearless and nourishes our heart.

    My teacher has made the book Modern Buddhism available as a free download to everyone:

    I wish you much love

    Kate x

  8. Becky says:

    I love it that you wrote this process down. My coping is a “fog” which pretty much extracts me from the current moment. Yesterday,I chose to not look further than just needing to know WHAT TIME. Finally, after about 6 hours I was ready to sing. In the singing for healing and peace, I could feel that my voice was adding to thousands of songs of love. I felt the power of being part of a unified response to all pain and suffering. Love.

  9. Sherry says:

    Thank you for this piece and for the practice. It is a true gift right now.

  10. asiyah says:

    I’ve been feeling weighed down by the events of the world, the children in Newtown, the little girls in Afghanistan, all the suffering children and people of the world. And I did the metta meditation and for the first time, feel like I am lifting out of the mental fog and ready to learn about concrete next steps I can take.

    Thank you. You bring so much light in this world.

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