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: http://bit.ly/MettaMeditation
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.