While Metta Earth may be physically far removed from violence that has been happening around the United States and the world, we feel it deeply. In particular, we are hurt by racial injustice in the US over the past few weeks. This week, we want to offer two simple practices for grounding, centering, and healing in the face of great pain and turmoil. These ancient practices from the ancient traditions of Yoga and Buddhism have timeless power, and although they cannot replace action for social justice, they can support us in that action.
First, at Metta Earth, one of our favorite mantras to chant is
Lokah Samastah Sukhino Bhavantu
This Sanskrit mantra, which comes from the Yogic traditions of India, means “May all beings everywhere be happy and free, and may the thoughts, words, and actions of my own life contribute in some way to that happiness and to that freedom for all.” This is a mantra we often chant during daily work and as a blessing.
Another practice is the recitation of Metta Sutta, or Teaching on lovingkindness, one of the oldest Buddhist scriptures. This short text is worth memorizing so that it can be recited during difficult moments.
In gladness and in safety,
May all beings be at ease.
Whatever living beings there may be;
Whether they are weak or strong, omitting none,
The great or the mighty, medium, short or small,
The seen and the unseen,
Those living near and far away,
Those born and to-be-born —
May all beings be at ease!
Let none deceive another,
Or despise any being in any state.
Let none through anger or ill-will
Wish harm upon another.
Even as a mother protects with her life
Her child, her only child,
So with a boundless heart
Should one cherish all living beings;
Radiating kindness over the entire world.
Author and activist Joanna Macy, whose teachings have guided and inspired us here at Metta Earth, asks us to understand that the pain we feel when confronted with violence, bigotry, and destruction of the natural world, even if only in the news, is a reflection of our interconnected state. Rather than seeing our pain for the world as a sign of being too attached or a lack of spiritual development, she asks us to see it as the core of our spiritual practice:
[Y]ou are capable of suffering with your world. That capacity to suffer-with is the literal meaning of compassion, a central virtue in every spiritual tradition. [. . .] So don’t you apologize for those tears you shed or the rage you feel about what’s happening in our living world. They are just the other face of your belonging.
Coming Back to Life: The Updated Guide to the Work That Reconnects (New Society Publishers, 2014), p. 107
In feeling the pain of the world, it is easy to become paralyzed with despair. Prayers, chants, and blessings are powerful practices, not because they get rid of the pain, but because they help us honor it and move through it.