Monday, July 23, 2012

Aurora Theater Tragedy Lovingkindness and Compassion Meditation

by Charles Day (See end of meditation for comments about tragedies)

May I be well, happy, safe, and harmonious.
May I be free of suffering and the causes of suffering.
May I experience lovingkindness, compassion, joy, and peace.

May my family and friends be well, happy, safe, and harmonious.
May they be free of suffering and the causes of suffering.
May they experience lovingkindness, compassion, joy, and peace.

May those I barely know be well, happy, safe, and harmonious.
May they be free of suffering and the causes of suffering.
May they experience lovingkindness, compassion, joy, and peace.

May the victims of the Aurora Movie Tragedy be well, happy, safe, and harmonious.
May the wounded be healed and all who were present become free of suffering and the causes of suffering.
May they experience lovingkindness, compassion, joy, and peace.

May the family and friends of the victims be well, happy, safe, and harmonious. 
May they overcome their grief and become free of suffering and the causes of suffering.
May they experience lovingkindness, compassion, joy, and peace.

May the parents, family, and friends of James Holmes be well, happy, safe, and harmonious.
May they become free of suffering and the causes of suffering.
May they experience lovingkindness, compassion, joy, and peace.

May James Holmes be well, happy, safe, and harmonious. 

May he overcome the suffering that caused and will result from his actions.
May he become free of suffering and the causes of suffering.
May he experience lovingkindness, compassion, joy, and peace.

May all who suffer and cause suffering to themselves and others be well, happy, safe, and harmonious. 
May they become free of suffering and the causes of suffering, from loneliness and sorrow; anger and fear; poverty, injustice, and oppression; physical and mental illness; and ignorance.
May they experience lovingkindness, compassion, joy, and peace.

May all beings be well, happy, safe, and harmonious.

May all beings be free of suffering and the causes of suffering.
May all beings experience lovingkindness, compassion, joy, and peace.
________________

Some comments about the tragedy and the meditation practice:






It is natural for us to react to the theater tragedy in Aurora, CO, as we've done before to the tragedies in Oklahoma City, Columbine, on 9/11, and in Norway - by experiencing the full range of emotions:

Sadness and compassion for the victims and their families; disgust, anger, and a desire to punish the perpetrators; and surprise, fear, and a sense of helplessness that comes from the realization that such horrific crimes do happen, are unpredictable, and could happen to us.

In the immediate aftermath of any tragedy, compassion and lovingkindness are readily felt for the victims but rarely experienced for the perpetrators.

This is particularly so when they show little or no remorse and their victims are children who symbolize our innocence, purity, and hope. Understanding and forgiveness usually come much later, if at all.

We simply find it extraordinarily difficult to open our hearts to understanding how ignorance, suffering, and anger can sometimes lead to the extreme acting-out of instinctual and learned aggressive tendencies.

James Holmes acted out his suffering and anger by playing the role of a caricatured villain, the Joker, and indiscriminately shooting children, adults, and families in a movie theater, resentful perhaps of their ability to simply enjoy the company and love shared by family and friends.

Such understanding, of course, is not justification.

And we act-out our aggressive tendencies by wanting him punished, perhaps even executed.  We may acknowledge that his actions were probably related to mental illness and that what he needed before the tragedy and needs now is treatment.

Still, for many of us, there remains an underlying sense that crime deserves punishment, rationalized by the biblical "eye for an eye" injunction and the belief that punishment is what deters others from committing crimes.

Certainly, if Holmes cannot be successfully rehabilitated, continued confinement in a prison or psychiatric facility will be required, not only to protect society but to protect him from the consequences of further harmful actions. 

As for our innate and learned aggressive tendencies, there is abundant psychological and social research that shows that compassion, lovingkindness, and forgiveness are the antidotes to suffering and to fear, anger, and the desire to punish, retaliate, and seek revenge.

And they can be cultivated and strengthened through education, prayer, and meditation practices. This is so for dangerous criminals, as well as for those of us prone to acting-out our anger and suffering in less tragic ways. 

To repeat, we need to protect society against dangerous criminals by incarcerating them until they can be successfully treated and rehabilitated and by continuing to confine those who can't.

But all this should be done compassionately with the understanding that suffering is experienced by perpetrators, as well as victims, and can have tragic consequences if not identified and alleviated.

I'm using the above Lovingkindness and Compassion Meditation as part of my regular sitting meditations, will share it with the Des Moines Meditation and Mindfulness Group at our Tuesday meeting, and am putting it on our website for anyone who might also want to use it personally or with a group. 

As with any lovingkindness and compassion meditation, feel free to modify it and use any other words or phrases you prefer. And remember, the primary purpose of these meditations is not to change others but to strengthen our own innate capacity to experience lovingkindness and compassion for ourselves and for everyone else, including our enemies and those we fear and distrust.

No comments: