Most of these summer days, the sky tips our faces upward and it feels good to remember just how small we stand amongst all this wonder.Read More
Violence and suffering saturate our world on a daily basis, yet certain tragedies like those in Boston, Texas, and Newtown tend to draw this reality into a harsher light. Hearing about conflict that exists far away from us can become just another piece of news, glossed over, even when we recognize the horror of the situation. What can we do to help those in Syria, for example? How can we solve the problems that underlie these terrible crises?
We would like to believe that human beings are inherently good, yet it seems that violence between individuals and larger groups is inevitable in our world as it exists today. While we would hope to never again hear of a shooting or civil war, perhaps the incidents that hit closer to home benefit us at least in the sense that they trigger something sharper within us, something that drives us to act and work against such unnecessary aggression. Considering the vastness of the universe, we could consider ourselves to be lowly individuals, but as human beings we possess immense powers to promote peace in our world. We can indeed look after each other, as well as the world that swaddles us, through small actions as much as larger ones.
In his book One City, author and Buddhist teacher Ethan Nichtern suggests that we live from a place of 'thinking globally [and] acting locally'. I find this mantra inspiring in its recognition of the bigger pictures of our world and simultaneous direction to take action closer to home. What we learn from outside sources - newspapers, television, social media, even word of mouth - contributes to our worldview which, in turn, affects our behavior. Taking the time to stay informed seems to be a first step towards Ethan's suggestion; making the time to read and listen becomes requisite to taking that time.
As members of the 21st century, most of us live unbelievably busy lives that often leave little time for personal downtime. Rushing from obligation to obligation, it can become difficult to see further than what lies directly in our sight line. This disappearance into our own lives can lead us further from active engagement with our community. It becomes important then to remember, as Ethan also notes, that the world comes from each of us, not just at us. The way that we treat the man who works next door at the bodega will affect the way he treats his next customer, which will affect the way that person interacts with the next person he or she comes into contact with, and so it will continue, on and on.
In her most recent On the Mat post, TaraMarie spoke to the power of intention. She particularly offered the practice of maitri, or loving-kindness meditation, whereby you send intentions of happiness, health, safety, and ease to those near and far (http://mindbodybrew.wordpress.com/2013/04/25/on-the-mat-a-difficult-practice/). During a workshop with Ethan, he mentioned he attempts to pick up and dispose of one piece of litter each day. This physical manifestation of his attempts at looking after the world, which most certainly includes our natural environment, reminds us that contributing to goodness can be as easy as bending over and standing back up.
Our actions, our choices are directly related to the state of our world. Perhaps it is idealistic, even naive to think that a slight shift in each of our own life moments could result in a calmer, cleaner, more peaceful world. But if each of us made a conscious choice - to smile at the next person we meet on the street rather than look away, to pick up that piece of litter, or to pay for the next person in line's coffee just because - I believe we could birth seismic shifts that would benefit those who walk this earth today, as well as all those to come.
- Liz Beres
* To read up on some easy ways to stay green and look after our Earth, visit http://www.thedailygreen.com/environmental-news/latest/green-new-years-resolutions-10109?src=soc_fcbks#slide-1
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.