I discovered mediation many years ago, and I have found it an invaluable part of my recovery. I love the word “refuge” and that is often talked about in meditation practice. I was someone who desperately needed, and yet could not find “refuge’ anywhere, and it was only when I started to understand meditation practice that I found that elusive place of safety. For many people the idea of meditation conjures up Eastern mysticism or a particular religious practice. While it is true that there are philosophies that have meditation practice at their heart, it is also true that taking any religious connotations out of meditation practice, it has still been proven to have very real benefits, especially within the brain.Research has been extensive on seasoned meditators and the results are very positive. Mindfullness is so worthwhile to cultivate, and regular practice will establish new brain patterns.
This simple meditation has been devised especially for us at Survivors Voice, by Richard, an established and experienced meditation teacher who has taught me a lot. This comes as a gift from him, to Survivors Voice and to all suffering beings, and I for one will practice this daily.
With Love, Sue.
SURVIVORS VOICE MEDITATION
CONTEMPLATION TO RELIEVE SUFFERING BEINGS – IN OTHER WORDS, ALL OF US !
First, settle your body in a comfortable, but balanced and upright sitting position.
Take a few deep, calming breaths.
You may have as one of your reasons for undertaking this meditation practice the calming of your mind. It is, however, quite difficult to calm the mind by just using that mind. It can be a bit like trying to pull yourself up by your own bootstraps. Rather, use your body to help calm your mind – if your body is in a good, settled posture, your mind and feelings will follow. To put it another way, if your body slumps, your mind and emotions will too !
Quietly resolve, therefore, to adopt a gentle and reverential attitude towards the meditation practice which follows. Be respectful of the practice, careful in its execution, and unhurried. You should probably spend about twenty minutes on this practice, and do it regularly, though there are no hard and fast rules. The main thing is not to rush.
Once you are settled, inwardly review your actions over the last twenty four hours. Be aware of those many occasions when you have been helped by others over this period. In what ways have the actions of others supported your existence? For example, silently thank the people who produced, transported and sold your food so that it arrived on your table. You may never meet them, but, however indirectly, they have supported you through their kind actions nonetheless.
Some of these beneficial actions might have been on a large scale, for example, the love freely given to you by a family member or close friend; others might have been much ‘smaller’ or more casual, undertaken by perfect strangers, the man who smiled at you as he held a door open for you, or the old lady who wished you a cheery ‘good morning’ as she passed you in the street. Every little bit helps !
While it is undeniable that we have all been the victims of negative behaviour, of varying degrees of severity and frequency, during our lives, it is salutary to note the positive regard we have been held in by others even over as brief a period as twenty four hours. Try to be precise and detailed in your recollections.
Then, reflect in a similar manner upon ways in which you, too, have been helpful to others during that same twenty four hour period. This may be relatively easy to accomplish if you have a job which is somehow bound up with assisting others in some way, and many jobs are. Even if you haven’t got a job like this, you may still be pleasantly surprised to learn how much your existence is helpful to others ! You may have offered a word of encouragement, cooked someone a meal, given a loving hug, dried the eyes of a crying child, written ‘ on the spur of the moment’ to someone with whom you had lost touch. If you are in a group whose members have undergone similar experiences, and who offer each other mutual support, remembering how you have helped others may be particularly easy for you ! Anyway, even a casual audit of your helpful actions will empower you to do even more for others over the NEXT twenty four hours ! Remember that the accumulation of small kindnesses, and their effect in terms of diminishing the world’s woes, is as important as the grand charitable gesture !
So, try to think of ways in which you could have done a little more for the welfare other sentient beings in this ‘recent past’ that we are contemplating. Having undertaken the first two parts of this exercise, you may have been left with the impression that what others have done for you outweighs what you have done for others. If we’re honest, perhaps we shouldn’t have been short-tempered with that shop assistant, even though he did give us the wrong change. Perhaps we could have made the time to chat to the Big Issue seller, instead of scurrying past without buying. To do this part of the practice is not to wallow in guilt, not to ‘beat ourselves up’, but simply to recognise that as human beings we are ALL imperfect ( and likely to remain so, however hard we try !), and that a healthy measure of contemplation is the gate through which we pass on the way to making the world a better place. There are simply no exceptions to this imperfection, however ‘religious’ a person may be, however elevated their position in some ecclesiastical hierarchy ,whether prince or pauper. The practice gives us an insight into our own shared fallibility as human beings, and is enlightening because it puts in the spotlight how we need others and others need us. We grow in wisdom, and come to understand what kind of flawed creatures human beings are, ourselves included.
Hopefully, we are still sitting in our balanced meditation posture, and have not slumped !
Now let us use our awareness of our imperfection not to make us ‘guilty’ but to make us kind !
Let us in this final section orientate ourselves towards loving kindness ! What our minds are like is a result of what we think about. If we let our minds dwell upon greed and violence, we will become greedy and violent; if, however, we let our minds dwell upon love, we will become more loving .
So bring to mind loving kindness, imagine it streaming into your open heart.
If you have a religious faith, or if you have had the benefit of a secure and nurturing background, you may find it quite easy to locate the source of this love as somewhere outside yourself.
On the other hand, if you have suffered chronic or acute trauma,it may be that you feel ‘blocked off’ from such a source, and feel that your capacity to love and be loved has been cruelly and deeply compromised. This is why the section at the very beginning of this contemplation is so important – it should have made you aware of even the smallest kindnesses performed by others towards yourself and yourself towards others, and show you how you can ‘build on’ these. Over the last twenty four hours, we have all received , at the very least, air to breathe and some food and drink – otherwise we wouldn’t still be alive ! The fact that we have survived to the age we are now is testament to the power of love ! It may be neither possible or desirable for you to ignore the fact that you have experienced truly terrible things, but think on the implications of your survival – you don’t need to worry about whether you can open your heart to loving kindness after all you have been through, loving kindness itself does the opening for you. If you are not comfortable with a ‘spiritual’ vocabulary, that is absolutely fine – just feel the sun’s warmth, take in the oxygen breathed out by all those green trees, let the rain run down your face. What are these but the world’s love feeding you and entering the pores of your skin, making its sure-footed way to your heart
Sit strongly and confidently, visualising this loving kindness entering your heart, and infusing your whole being with its warmth.
Remain with this for several minutes. Enjoy the glow. If your mind wanders, gently bring it back to rest on this sense of love and goodwill. Tears may flow – if they do, don’t panic ! Appreciate the salt taste as they flow down your cheeks and into your mouth. You are strong enough, because love is holding you in the palm of its hand. To keep your resolution firm you can repeat silently to yourself, ‘May all beings be well and happy and safe’.
Once you are confident about letting loving kindness flow into you and support you, you realise that you don’thave to hold onto it, but can let it go back out again,into the world, for the benefit of all suffering beings. Dedicate the merit of your loving kindness to all beings everywhere.
Surely, this is what meditation, or contemplation, or prayer, or whatever you want to call it,is – simply allowing love to flow through you. When you feel protected by the practice, it is a simple matter to send your love back outwards, to protect others.
Take refuge in your contemplation, and be well and happy and safe always !
Beautifully written, Richard, thank you. Love R