Background: In mourning the loss of the lovely Thich Nhat Hanh, I came across the following facebook post: “As Elizabeth rests in peace, I become a man of Peace. As Thay rests in Peace, I become a man of Peace. As Desmond Tutu rests in Peace, I become a man of Peace. As Jesus is the Prince of Peace, I become in Christ, a man of Peace. Let Peace walk before me. Let Peace come behind me, on the right and on the left, above and below, let there be Peace on Earth this night, and let it begin with me.”
The writer of those words is Bob Holmes. The Elizabeth mentioned at the beginning is the beloved wife who died one year ago. He also goes by the identifier “Contemplative Monk” on social media I was deeply moved by his way of expressing these ideas. It suggests to me that we might borrow some of the peace that our loved ones are resting in, that we might draw from it. I also connect with the idea that one of the ways are loved ones live on is through the ways their lives and deaths shape and challenge us.
In the process of asking Bob for his permission to use this as a template for a spiritual practice, I’ve got to know him a little better. I’ve always really enjoyed his content. It was exciting to know that there’s a good man behind the great thoughts. You ought to check it out here.
This practice will ask you to generate a mental (or physical) list of people who have died that impacted you. It might be someone you know. It might be someone famous. It could be ancestor, a historical or religious figure. Please show healthy discretion around engaging this practice. Faithing death is an important task that most of us recieve very little preperation for. I encourage you to challenge yourself, some, but beware of being too ambitious with trying to contend with deaths that are too new and raw in this way.
Release your concenrns and worries for this time.
Take three deep inhalations and exhalations.
Spend some time bringing to mind the people close to you that have died. If you’re likely to forget names after thinking about them, it might be wise to right some down. Don’t rush this process.
With your next inhale think, “As ____________ rests in peace….”
exhale and think “I become a person of peace.”
Repeat steps 4 through 7 either with the same person or the next person on your list.
Sit with whatever feelings or sensations are with you right now. It might be feelings that considering the death of these people brings up. It might be feelings about death. It might be feelings of peace. It might be something else. It might be nothing at all. Consider releasing these feelings with your exhalations. Or discussing them with God. Or simply naming them and holding them close to your heart.
Here is an audio file presentation of this meditation:
Background: One of the most powerful statements about the strange and unpredictable nature of the world can be found in The Hebrew Scriptures. This collection of the extremes that life can throw at us is thousands of years old. I find it reassuring that the more things change, the more they stay the same.
Here is a thing worth exploring: How much of the empty space should you spend continuing to reflect on your sacred words, and for how much of it should you simply inhabit the silence?
This is particularly true when the sacred words are comprised of a list that you are cycling through. As the sacred words change, they invite a different sort of reflection than repetetion.
The list I am suggesting today comes from Ecclesiastes 3. Unfortunately for most of is, it can be challening to meditate on these truths with out bringing to mind the old song.
1. Find your center: place your feet on the floor and relax.
2. Inhale. Say to yourself “There is a time to be born.”
4. Inhale. Say to yourself “There is a time to die.”
6. Inhale. Say to yourself, “There is a time to plant.”
8. Inhale. Say to yourself “There is a time to kill.”
10. Inhale. Say to yourself, “There is a time to heal.”
12. Inhale. Say to yourself, “There is a time to tear down.”
14. Inhale. Say to yourself, “There is a time to build.”
16. Inhale. Say to yourself “There is a time to weep.”
18. Inhale. Say to yourself “There is a time to laugh.”
20. Inhale. Say to yourself, “There is a time to mourn.”
22. Inhale. Say to yourself, “There is a time to dance.”
24. Inhale. Say to yourself, “There is a time to scatter stones.”
26. Inhale. Say to yourself, “There is a time to gather stones.”
28. Inhale. Say to yourself, “There is a time to embrace.”
30. Inhale. Say to yourself, “There is a time to refrain from embracing.”
32. Inhale. Say to yourself, “There is a time to search.”
34. Inhale. Say to yourself, “There is a time to give up.”
36. Inhale. Say to yourself, “There is a time to keep.”
38. Inhale. Say to yourself, “There is a time to throw away.”
40. Inhale. Say to yourself “There is a time to tear.”
42. Inhale. Say to yourself, “There is a time to mend.”
44. Inhale. Say to yourself “There is a time to be silent.”
46. Inhale. Say to yourself, “There is a time to speak.”
48. Inhale. Say to yourself, “There is a time to love.”
50. Inhale. Say to yourself, “There is a time to hate.”
52. Inhale. Say to yourself “There is a time for war.”
54. Inhale. Say to yourself “There is a time for peace.”
55. As you release the individual words, look back on how you felt about each of these. Are there any that you struggle with? Any that come easy?
You might, as you go about your day, assign the various joys and challenges of your life a part from this poem. When entering into a conflict, you could think, for example “This is a time for war.” When tempted to say something unwise, you might tell yourself, “This is a time for silence.”
Background to exercise 4C: In the exercise that follows, explore the difference between the in-breath and the out-breath. Some authors describe these breath parts as “Breathing up” and “Breathing Down.” or “Breathing in” and “Breathing out.” Try each of these on for size.
If you tried exercise 4A, I recomend sticking with whatever mantra you used, so that you can isolate and therefore experience a single difference: Repeating your sacred words on the inhale, rather than the exhale.
1. Sit as straight as you comfortably can. Breathe for a few minutes and give yourself permission to relax.
2. With your next inhalation, think, “God is Love.”
3. Breathe out your thoughts, words and emotions. Use your out-breath to cleanse yourself of everything but the silence.
4. With your next inhalation, again, think “God is Love.”
5. As you breathe out, release even your reflections on those 3 words. Exhale your thoughts about this sacred phrase.
6. Continue this pattern for the majority of the time you have given to your spiritual practice today.
7. As you approach the end of the time, release your sacred phrase. Use this time to enjoy wordless communion. Or discuss with God what you learned today. Or simply have a conversation with God about where you are and how things are going.
Background: There are many words which we might want to fully embrace. Repeating these can be a powerful thing. One of the most powerful ways to do this is to split the phrase in half, and assign each half to a part of the breath.
There might be a phrase you wish to substitute with the one in the exercise below. Please feel free to do this.
Place your feet flat on the floor.
Breathe a few breaths. Relax.
With your in-breath, place your hand on your abdomen. Bring your attention to really filling your lungs all the way, starting at the bottom and feeling the movement of your belly.
Exhale. Say to yourself, “Yes. Yes. Yes.”
Inhale. Say to yourself “Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.”
Continue this pattern for most of your practice today.
Release these words. Continue your calm and slow breaths. Enjoy a time of union.
When you can, today, return to this breath practice. “Yes. Yes. Yes.” “Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.”