Watching For Grace

Bringing Compassion to these Anxious Times

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In these times of global pandemic, it is very easy to become driven by our anxieties and lose sight of the need for compassion for others and ourselves. The social distancing and isolation which has been prescribed for us can and will make us feel disconnected and fearful. Our relationship to ourselves, each other, and the Spirit of Love must be strengthened and maintained so that we do not lose the confidence that comes with a sense of belonging.

Heightened awareness keeps us safe and informed, but instead of helping us to be safe, an overwhelming level of fear can drive us to make poor choices and harmful actions.

Several times throughout the Gospels we hear the message, “do not be afraid.”  This message is shared by angels to both Mary and Joseph [Luke 1:30, Matthew 1:20].

Jesus encourages the disciples;

“Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid.” Mark 6:50

“Do not be afraid, little flock, for it is [God’s] good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” Luke 12:32

“It is I; do not be afraid.” John 6:20

How then, can we keep our fear and worry at an appropriate level? Are there actions we can take to move back into right relationship with our anxiety?

One such practice is Metta meditation. The word Metta comes from the language, Pali, used to record the Buddha’s teachings some 400 years after his death. This practice has been used for thousands of years to develop good-will for one’s self and others. Within the English language, metta has been translated into loving-kindness and this type of meditation is used widely in mindfulness circles.

When done regularly, loving-kindness meditation can be a corrective to fear, allowing what is causing anxiety to be held in awareness.  The suffering caused by fear and fretfulness is reduced by focusing on the gentle rhythm of the breath. The simple repetition of loving-kindness phrases  supports centering on the present moment instead of mindlessly worrying about the future or lamenting the past.

At the foundation of metta meditation is the belief that every living being wants to live in peace and happiness. At the same time we know that the human condition includes periods of suffering. Bringing our attention to the desire for wellbeing works with our deepest motivation to be in balance with the Spirit of Love at the source of who we are. The intention is not to deny those things which cause us to pain, but to strengthen our connection to the loving presence which can help us heal our relationship to our anxieties.  If we can stay present in the reality of the moment, we will be better prepared to face obstacles in our path.

Loving Kindness Meditation

Using the breath as a resting place for the attention, simple phrases of well-being are offered for ourselves, our loved ones, our community, and all living creatures.

May [I, we, all living beings] be safe.

May [I, we, all living beings] be happy and content.

May [I, we, all living beings] be healthy and strong.

May [I, we, all living beings] be peaceful and live with ease.[1]

A 17+ minute guided Loving Kindness meditation.


[1] McCulley, Susan, Sharon Salzberg Blog, https://www.sharonsalzberg.com/metta-for-me/, March 16, 2020

Author: Christi Humphrey

I am a spiritual director, retreat facilitator, and a colleague at the Bethany House of Prayer in Arlington, MA. I have an MDiv from Episcopal Divinity School and hold a Certificate in Spiritual Direction from the Center for Religious Development. For twenty years, I have accompanied others on their spiritual journey through various projects -- spiritual formation groups, pilgrimages, mission trips, and as a Minister of Spiritual Care.

3 thoughts on “Bringing Compassion to these Anxious Times

  1. Excellent. Thanks, Christi

    Like

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