Metta or Maitri practice - staying open and tender in the face of tragedy

Hi friends,

It has been admittedly hard to drum up the courage to even look at the news these last days since Hurricane Sandy hit our shores.  I think I join many when I say I have felt fear, helplessness, relief at the safety of my loved ones, heartbreak upon witnessing the loss others are enduring, guilt, compassion, and honestly numbness.

I thought I would share a practice that I think is essential and helpful to all who have the ability to sit for a few minutes.  It simultaneously opens your heart and connects you to all those who are suffering or in need.  There are many variations on the phrases presented below, but the intention is always the same: extend loving-kindness and compassion to ourselves, to our loved ones, to strangers, to difficult people, and to all beings.  

These four simple phrases can be used.

“May you/I be safe”

“May you/I be happy" 

"May you/I be healthy”

“May you/I live at ease in this world”

Traditionally you start at home, with yourself.  Find a comfortable seat and start by watching the breath.  Notice its texture and feel.  Note that your seat supports a tall spine and easeful breath.  After a few moments of settling in, you may start with the inner contemplation (or you may say out loud if that feels more appropriate).  Start at the beginning and move through the phrases giving yourself time to really see yourself in your mind.  "May I be safe"…  Pause and reflect upon what that means.  "May I be happy"….  and so on.  

You then may extend this out to a loved one, a friend, a neutral person, a difficult person, and then all beings (or maybe it’s easier to start with everyone in New York, or the East Coast because that feels more immediate)..  I think it’s important to stay with that for a while, to work with all the tragedy we have seen and allow that to sink in and open our hearts to the tenderness we all share.  

You may do this for any amount of time.  You may go back and start from the beginning and repeat.  If you do have the ability to take time from your day to do this, it may help you feel that you are more connected, less numb, more able to be present with yourself and everyone around you, and perhaps more settled in the reality of what has happened and is happening all around us.

May you all be safe, happy, health and at ease in this world.