I began meditating nearly a decade ago. Similar to now, my meditation practice was mindfulness of breath as taught by the Vietnamese Zen Buddhist Master Thich Nhat Hanh. Soon after I had started my meditation practice, I had a very valuable friendship fall apart. At the time, it was quite devastating. Looking back, it was a pivotal growth moment in my practice. I didn’t know a lot about meditation or Buddhism at the time, but I did know that the only way I was going to get through that period of time, those moments, was to find a way to BE with what was happening in a balanced way – to not run away from it, but to also not live out the storyline of what was happening over and over again, replaying it in my mind. To hold that person and friendship in love with no ill feelings, but also to completely let them go.
Just sitting with my breathing at times was too painful and overwhelming, so taking the lead from Thich Nhat Hanh who uses “gathas” or verses, I wrote one for myself to use with my breathing.
The verse was:
(breathing in – saying silently in my mind)
May I have the capacity of heart to hold the entire world and all of life
(breathing out – saying silently in my mind)
And the wisdom of mind to let go
I would sit with this verse and for quite some time it was my only practice. I would sit for 10 mins, 20 mins or a half hour, breathing in and out, repeating this verse. I would picture the friend, as I thought the first part while breathing in, and then picture them fading off into the horizon as I thought the second half while breathing out. I wasn’t immediately relieved, but within time, I grew more and more at ease, the burden was lifted and I felt some peace.
Though the anchor of my practice is still simply sitting and breathing, at times when life feels overwhelming, I will come back to this verse and use it. I have in recent years changed the “I” to “we” understanding that we are all in this together, sharing in suffering, sharing in joy, interdependent as a community.
We seem to be living in a time that is quite chaotic and can feel overwhelming. I would like to offer this verse to you for practice. If it’s too wordy, a simple version could be:
(breathing in – saying silently in your mind)
May I hold all of life in love
(breathing out – saying silently in your mind)
And in love, let it go
My gut says we are in for a long haul, my friends. We need sane people doing good work to counter that which is harmful. We need bearers of light and healers in love. We need bodhisattvas. Even as the world spins around you, hold to center, maintain your balance, maintain your sanity.
May all be at ease and free from suffering.