Years ago I met Professor Jack Miller of the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education at U of T in Toronto. Jack was a man I had heard a lot about and who over the years I have come to appreciate. His lifework as an educator of educators has been about the promotion of holistic education practices and the integration of such practices within schools and educational institutions. He is also a strong proponent of spiritual education, which is close to my heart. He continues to teach and write and to inspire others who feel called to the teaching profession as a way of promoting the whole child and as a means of participating in the ongoing repair of the world.
One of the practices that Jack incorporates in his teaching is the practice of loving-kindness. Based in Buddhism, loving-kindness meditation involves connecting our hearts with the needs of others and the needs of the world. A simple example of this practice would be the following recitation:
May I be well, happy, and peaceful.
May all beings in this room be well, happy, and peaceful.
May all beings in this building be well, happy, and peaceful.
May all beings in this neighbourhood be well, happy, and peaceful.
May all beings in this town or city be well, happy, and peaceful.
May all beings in this region be well, happy, and peaceful.
May all beings on this continent be well, happy, and peaceful.
May all beings in this hemisphere be well, happy, and peaceful.
May all beings in this planet be well, happy, and peaceful.
May all beings everywhere be well, happy, and peaceful.
(Jack Miller, Educating for Wisdom and Compassion, p. 62)
This is a simple meditation, one that allows a person to send love and kindness from one’s heart to the hearts of others and to the entire world.
I am often reminded of this Buddhist meditation of loving-kindness. Most recently I received in the mail the gift of a rosary from an anonymous donor. I already have several rosaries, one inherited from my mother and several others that have come to me as I’ve journeyed through life. I really don’t need another one, but I found the timing of this gift to be providential and so I received it with in gratefulness.
There are so many places in our world where kindness and compassion are needed. There are so many situations of injustice that call out for action. There are so many people who are wounded or who are lost in the complexities of our time. There are so many places where our earth is crying out for our attention and for healing. These needs are local and they are global as well. Moreover, in our age of instant communication we are inundated with situations, often human created, that call out for human action and collective responses. They also call out for kindness, compassion, mercy and love.
In light of these situations I find the rosary a great aid and during times of great need or turmoil I turn to the rosary to help center my meditation. The repetitive nature of the rosary helps me to calm my mind and focus my heart so that I am then better able to hold the needs of others with love and compassion.
When practiced as a meditation, the rosary can work in the same way as the Buddhist practice of loving-kindness. It can connect the heart of the practitioner with the needs of others and the needs of the entire planet. So when I am unable, due to lack of time or lack of resources or lack of context, to take concrete action on an issue or to intervene in a situation calling out for justice and peace, I find it helpful to meditate with the rosary. When I do I do not ask to see verifiable proof of the benefit of my meditation. No, I simply offer my heart and send my loving intentions for the other or for those parts of the world in need of active love.
The Buddhist practice of loving-kindness and the Christian practice of rosary meditation are certainly not the only ways to be engaged with and for others. They are simply parts of the way. These practices can help connect the inner life of a person with the outer life of action. I continue to give thanks for Jack Miller and his leadership in educating for meditation within education. May his work continue to inspire. I also give thanks for the gift of the rosary as a meditative practice and to the one who sent me this gift this week.