Violence is a complicated result of conflicts in human nature; it exists in every culture and circumstance. For some regions of the world, it is a daily occurrence. Intellectually, we know beings around the world are suffering but naturally we notice it more when the violence hits close to home. There have been several reasons for our hearts to be touched with tragedies recently in Newtown, Boston, and West Texas. Any time spent reading the world news points out countless stories and situations where our intentions can be sent for love, peace, and healing. It can feel like we are helpless with distance or that we have limited resources to affect change.
The power of intention is a tool we all can use, and our mats can be the space where we begin this practice of focusing the mind, heart, and breath to an object of our focus. A meditation practice called maitri or loving-kindness meditation, which I learned from the Tibetan Buddhist tradition, is one way to send intentions to individuals and groups of people, even from a distance.
The practice asks us to sit on our mats or cushions and identify or visualize the object of our intentions. Really “see” them or an image/symbol of them in your mind’s eye. We might select ourselves, someone we love, a friend, a pet, someone we do not know, or even someone who has wronged us. Anyone who can receive our intentions can be the object of our practice. Once we select an object, we send them four messages of loving-kindness:
May you be happy.
May you be healthy.
May you be safe.
May you be at ease.
Notice how the experience shifts based on who is receiving the intentions from you. What happens when you send these thoughts to someone you love? What happens when you send them to someone who was affected by tragedy? What happens when you send them to the people responsible for causing harm?
The point of this difficult practice is to notice these shifts, without layering a judgment, and to send all beings who are suffering in some way a dose of loving-kindness. If you can find a place in your heart to send those intentions to someone who has caused harm or hatred, you might also find a depth in your capacity for compassion that you did know existed.
Trust that this difficult practice has powerful results. At the very minimum, it connects us to one another and puts us directly into the action of healing that is required to bring humans into peace with themselves and one another.