How we are in the world

Dear President Trump,

Over about the last six weeks I’ve changed the final line of the loving-kindness prayer I say every morning at least four times. The other three lines, the ones sending out wishes/hopes/intentions for safety, happiness, and health/strength have stayed consistent except for occasionally focusing on how much I want the person, typically you, to behave safely in addition to being safe. When it comes to the basics of a solid life – safety, happiness, health and strength – I’m clear, but when it comes to that last line, which is about how each ones’ life will unfold or interact with the rest of the world, it’s much, much harder.

Even in these letters to you, by the time I get to putting down the day’s LKM message, I generally can’t type fast enough to get my thoughts for the first three lines out, but I almost always stall out at the fourth line. Nearly every time, I end up re-reading and editing the letter a couple of times before I settle on what generally feels like a pretty lame last line. How can I send out messages about peace and acceptance when things are so off the hook not ok for so many of us? How can I not without adding to the angry hot coals I’m already holding way too many of? It’s a mess.

I know that it probably seems to you like worrying about this is a stupid waste of time – that I could intone Satanic chants and it would make as much difference as reciting LKM prayers, as in none. Well, maybe. But even though I don’t believe in Satan or Hell (or Heaven or God), the visceral response my body just had to the notion of intentionally, repeatedly damning anyone – even you – tells me that it wouldn’t be a healthy move for me to flip things around like that. Similarly, the idea of just dropping the whole LKM thing and not having a set practice feels like I’d be setting myself up for increased reactivity, and not in a good way. If I could trust myself to be spontaneously kind and generous, it would be one thing, but I know myself and without a strong, intentionally positive practice, I’d quickly devolve into a much less nice person.

Ok – whether you buy the importance of this practice or not, I want to get back to the issue of the last line. In the last six weeks it’s shifted in the following ways:

May our lives unfold, open, and intersect peacefully.
May our lives unfold, open, and intersect non-violently.
May our lives unfold, open, and intersect non-violently and sustainably.
May our lives unfold, open, and intersect peaceably and sustainably.
May our lives unfold, open, and intersect honorably, peaceably, and sustainably.

I’ve been using the last iteration for about four days now and I like how the final syllables of the last three main words are the same and I really like having “honorably” in there – you might, maybe can guess why that way of being in the world is important to me right now – or at least you should be able to.

Clearly the basic idea of being a positive force in the world is at the heart of this last line and no matter which exact words I happen to land on, the feeling will come through so I probably shouldn’t fret about the details. It does, though, feel important to get as close to “right” about this as I can even if it’s only my own personal guide through the wilderness of now.

The Buddha taught his monks to practice LKM when they were afraid to meditate in the dark forest because the path was uncertain and fraught with dangers. The idea was that if they cultivated compassion for themselves and all others, including those who trouble and frighten them, they would stay calm and able to respond effectively. Fancy that.

May we be safe in an all around sort of way.
May we be happy and content, also in an all around sort of way.
Ditto for health and strength – may we all have it abundantly.
And may our lives unfold, open, and intersect honorably, peaceably, and sustainably.

Tracy Simpson

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