Monday, March 16, 2009

Cultivating Compassion

I have just finished reading about Rwandan women. It was a hopeful article, celebrating the resilience of lives rebuilt. Still, I find myself shaken. I am particularly touched tonight by a widow, now mothering seven traumatized children~~three born to her and four adopted ones, little beings orphaned by hate.

Perhaps it’s the weariness born of a long day, but this family’s story hits me hard. Tears do not melt the heaviness I feel. Rwanda’s tragic past has seeped into my heart. What to do?

Loving-kindness meditation is a practice designed to cultivate compassion. Just what I need to lighten my spirit while perhaps sending something soothing into the world.

I walk to my room, sit, take a few breaths. In this method of meditation, various key phrases can be used to encourage the opening of the heart. Tonight, words arrive spontaneously.

As the form instructs, I begin with myself.

“May I be healthy. May I be whole. May I be at peace.”

I silently repeat each phrase in sync with my breath until my heart softens and words drop away. I wrap myself, fill myself, with love.

After several minutes, I shift my focus to a dear friend.

“May you be healthy. May you be whole. May you be at peace.”

Again, one phrase flows into another until love moves of its own volition, and we are both bathed in its light.

Warmth now fills my chest, vanquishing the gloom that held me earlier. I am ready to do what I realize I arrived at this moment to do. I visualize the Rwandan mother from the article, seven children gathered ‘round her.

“May you be healthy. May you be whole. May you be at peace.”

The repeating words and the tenderness behind them envelop this constellation of living souls, stroking, nurturing, whispering encouragement as they rise from the rubble of war.

But after several minutes, I remember there is something else required of me, something I must steady myself to do. For in loving~kindness meditation, one also offers goodwill to those perceived as harmful. I resist this, recoil from the very idea of wishing well those who have murdered this woman’s husband, these children’s parents. I can stop short of wishing them harm, but can I wish them well? I can, and I must.

I envision these murderers, likely men consumed with fear or hatred from perceived wrongs done them. And I know again that healthy and whole humans at peace do not commit atrocities. I know they, instead, make amends for wrongs they have committed.

“May you be healthy. May you be whole. May you be at peace.”

Something shifts as these words reverberate. I remember that I, too, might erupt in similar ways, given certain circumstances. I also recognize my link to those who watched from afar and did nothing to stop the genocide. Hard kernels of anger and self~righteousness rise up and melt away. Love flows into the spaces thus freed.

My focus expands now to include all of Rwanda.

"May you be healthy. May you be whole. May you be at peace."

This rippling continues, crossing continents and oceans until I gently and lovingly hold our brilliant planet and all its inhabitants in my awareness.

“May you be healthy. May you be whole. May you be at peace.”

My meditation is now complete. My heart is warm, open, healed.

My meditation was not ‘perfect’. My focus wavered often. However, each time my thoughts or emotions strayed, I returned. In defiance of despair, loving~kindness bloomed, again and again. And again.

In this and every week, may you be healthy. May you be whole. May you be at peace.


Loanne Marie


Jay said...

You did it again Loanne. You picked up on something which I've been ruminating on, that is, who cares about the pain of the terrorists? Who cares to try to understand what they suffered to bring them to such a place? Shouldn't we all?

Thank you for a humble and human reminder, and for feeling my vibe, yet again.

I love you!

Loanne Marie said...

I struggled with this one, as I said. I can't say why some of us take steps to deliberately harm others. Unfortunately, as in the case of the behavior of some Wall Street types these day, I suspect it may come, not coming from a place of pain, but from selfishness and greed, also capacities of the human heart.

However, I do know it does not come from a place of wholeness, and this is how I find I can offer good wishes to them, while I try to avoid judging their motivations.

You would likely love the Bill Moyers Journal that aired last week. It is on Karen Armstrong's Charter for Compassion. and shares some insightful ideas on this issue. You can find it at:

And you can find Armstrong's website at:

Thanks again for writing!

Jay said...

Thanks for the recommend Lo, and you're right, I think about the capacity for greed and selfishness. And I agree that it does not come from wholeness. 

Have a great week!

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