For me, it happened in June. Amidst the circus of a particularly divisive election season, an act of terror. And then another. And another. And finally, what I'd feared for years might happen to me, did. I read the news, shrugged, and thought "what else is new?", and went on about my day. No tears. No moment of silence or reflection. No tremor in my chest. Nothing. Reflecting at the end of that day, I knew it was time for an intervention. My heart was in trouble, and needed my help.
I decided to make the month of July a nearly technology/social media/news-free month. While I'd still need to answer phone and email for work and participate in my online classes, I would not log on to any social media sites. I would only read the news for one hour or less per week at a designated time on Sunday, and would follow that news hour with something nourishing like a walk outside or meditation or time with a friend. The goal was to take control over my information intake while I re-filled the well and re-connected with my heart.
I read books, so many books! Twelve, to be exact. I wrote, took evening walks, visited yoga classes I'd been wanting to check out, started going to the gym again. And while I maintained my regular meditation schedule, I made a crucial change in my practice. Instead of working primarily with insight practices as I normally do, I spent the month of July in a Metta Meditation Immersion. Metta is often translated as lovingkindess, but might more appropriately be described as friendliness. In Metta Meditation, we cultivate this quality and practice extending it to ourselves and to others. Assuming a traditional schedule followed by one of my meditation teachers, I spent four weeks working primarily with this heart-opening, kindness-enhancing practice, a little every day. While I've always appreciated the practice of Metta Meditation, it had never been presented to me as medicine, a balm if you will, that can be used when mind and body are in need of replenishment, when (for one reason or another) the deeper delving of insight practice feels depleting. I'd also never before worked with Metta at such length, in such a continuous way. And what a difference this made!
Through immersion in this one practice for a month, I found a deep replenishment of energy, a return of curiosity, and a deeper rooting of my ability to hold a vast calm amidst uncertainty and discord. After practicing this way for a month, I found myself able to return to that state during daily life, within seconds or moments of encountering conflict or discord. I found my heart more able to stay open and steady, come what comes.
Why does any of this matter? Why am I sharing this with you? Because I see a general erosion of civility, kindness and respectful interaction in our world at large, and in the conversations and interactions I engage with and observe in my own sphere. And it deeply concerns me. I see us tolerating and celebrating terrible behavior from our leaders, from those who have claimed their own stages in the theater of our gaping attention, and also from one another. And I know that this can only take us nowhere worth going. And I believe that underneath a lot of this is fatigue and depletion. Hearts become hardened when they're tired and overwhelmed, and then we're no longer able to really see and hear one another, we're ever less able to speak with clarity and kindness.
Will it solve all our problems? No, not directly, anyway. But taking good care of our hearts and minds is undoubtedly the foundation we'll need in order to work together to create solutions to the problems we face as a globally connected humanity. I've decided to spend another month soaking in the nourishing practice of Metta Meditation. Who knows, I may continue with this throughout election season! If this speaks to you and you'd like to experience this immersion for yourself, I'd love to have you join me for A Month of Metta. In any case, take good care of your heart and mind, friends. Notice what feeds you and what drains you, and give yourself permission to change the plot and habits of your days if you're feeling hardened, ragged, or often fearful. Peace is never far away.
Dana Wyss Healing Arts
Breathe deeply, practice often, be well.