September 11, 2012
A Buddhist Reflection from Sharon Salzberg
Eleven years ago the United States was shook to its core by a terrorist attack of unprecedented scale. At the time, in response to the tragic events, Tricycle released in its next issue a special section—"September 11, Practices and Perspectives"—that shared Buddhist teachings on how to face the nation's acute suffering with patience and compassion. You can read "September 11, Practices and Perspectives," here.
Today the Huffington Post has refurbished its slideshow from last year's tenth anniversary of the tragedy, "Prayers For 9/11," with reflections and prayers from Christian, Hindu, Buddhist, Baha'i, Jewish, Muslim, and Sikh leaders. Sharon Salzberg contributed the Buddhist reflection, along with instructions for metta meditation.
Willa, my godchild, was three, and lived 2 blocks away from the WTC on Sept 11, 2001. She was 7 years old at the time of the London metro bombing. On being told about the London terrorism, her eyes ﬁlled with tears and she said, "Mom, we should say a prayer." Willa began with, "May the bad people remember the love in their hearts." I think of Willa and her prayer—when I have been hurt or harmed, when I myself make a mistake, when I feel the need to try to start over, however difﬁcult that may feel. Whatever has happened or is happening in our lives, may we all remember the love in our hearts.
You can sit comfortably, or lie down if that seems preferable. Close your eyes, or leave them slightly open. This practice is done through the silent repetition of certain phrases. You need not try to force an emotion or a certain sentiment. The power of the practice comes from gathering all our attention around one phrase at a time. If your attention slips, gently let go of the distraction, and simply begin again repeating the phrases. Remember to repeat them with enough space and enough silence that the rhythm is pleasing to you. This is the song of your heart.
We begin with directing the phrases towards ourselves, as though offering ourselves a gift. You can experiment with the wording, but it can be as simple as, "May I remember, and abide in the love in my heart."
After a few minutes think of someone who has helped you—a benefactor or a friend. You can repeat the same phrase as an offering to them, "May you remember, and abide in the love in your heart."
When you feel ready, move on to someone you hardly know, a near stranger. Perhaps the checkout person at the grocery store you shop at, or a friend of a friend of a friend. "May you remember, and abide in the love in your heart."
Then someone you are annoyed at, or have some difﬁculty with. "May you remember, and abide in the love in your heart."
And ﬁnally, an immense expanse of lovingkindness. "May all beings remember, and abide in the love in our hearts."
When you are ready, you can end the meditation, and see if you can bring some of this consciousness into your day.
Image: From Central Coast News.